EU Shipping: An exciting update!!
It's not much more than a week since I published guidance on how EU customers would be charged, and how shipping would be handled.
...and it's already out of date! In the best possible way.
We are now able to pay VAT when a package enters the EU. This means packages being sent to EU customers will NOT be held by customs, will NOT be subject to handling fees and you will NOT be charged anything extra.
In other words, your package will just go direct from me to you, just like the old days!
There is still one catch though - the limitations of our e-commerce platform still mean that while you're browsing you'll see UK prices (20% VAT). There's no way for me to show you prices inclusive of your local rate of VAT, which is probably different to the UK rate, until you're at Checkout and have entered your address.
When you enter your address prices will adjust by a small amount to reflect your local VAT rate (e.g. German VAT is 19% while Swedish VAT is 25%). This means that when buying in Germany prices will drop slightly at Checkout (except for books- in the UK there is 0% VAT on books, while in Germany the rate is 7%). In Sweden they will rise slightly.
This isn't ideal either, but Bigcommerce is an American company, and over that side of the pond normal retail practice is to show prices exclusive of "Sales Tax" (their equivalent of VAT), and to add it at Checkout.
So we have the choice of showing everyone pre-VAT prices (which everyone but Americans finds annoying) or everyone post-VAT prices, but they have to be UK prices...
There is no way to show EU recipients prices inclusive of their LOCAL rate of VAT.
Why the hell not Bigcommerce?!
The simple answer is that this feature relies on technology Bigcommerce doesn't provide as standard. Technically it's possible for our server to read the IP address of the visitor (YOU!) and feed that information to the system.
I hope this might change in the future, but as American companies don't usually need to be very EU facing, I doubt they're going to change in the long run. 95% of their customer base are in the US, where the pre-tax displaying system is completely acceptable and normal, so there's no real incentive to provide functionality that only a tiny proportion of their customer base need.
So move to Shopify then!
I looked really carefully at Shopify vs Bigcommerce when I set the site up, on January 1st 2019. Bigcommerce provided a number of advantages. Shopify has very little functionality as standard- they have lots of additional "apps" which all charge a monthly fee, and so Shopify worked out as more than twice as expensive to get the same functionality as Bigcommerce provides for free.
Additionally, Shopify soft-lock you in to their own payment system, and it turns out to be quite expensive if you want to allow your customers to pay by Paypal, for example.
Lastly, Shopify DO offer the functionality I describe... for the princely sum of $350 a year. In total, the store setup I have now, plus that additional functionality would push our yearly website costs up by x4. No thank you!
Anyway, another long tax ramble- I hope you EU folks found it reassuring... maybe even interesting?! I have no idea :D.