Sevilla and the Tax Man

5 02 2010

I thought my shipping would take ages, maybe 2-3 months by sea, then we found a reasonable service by air that was quicker, but I was still really surprised when DHL Spain rang in January to say my things had arrived. They just asked that I put together a fax to customs explaining why I was bringing my things to Spain and what was in each book. I sent that off, and DHL called me back to say that the boss of customs had not accepted the letter and I was going to be charged €300 taxes on my things to be paid before they were released to me. I had been warned that although we are technically allowed to bring in personal things for free, on occasion they will charge you 16% tax, calculated off the value that you’re ensured the good for. But even by this measure, the quote was 4 times greater than normal. The only other option was to go down to the customs office and argue my case personally.

Firstly, I went to go get me empatronated (my word – can’t think of an English version), in an attempt to look more permanent here. That’s when you inform the local government that you live in the area. Then the next day Marina and I caught the train to Seville, bus to the airport and went to visit customs. When we met the director, he was really pleasant, listened for 3 or so minutes and looked at the paperwork before stamping it with his seal – no taxes required. Then we wandered off to the DHL office. When we got there, they said that they required different paperwork, but rather than sending us to go find it, the customs director came down with his stamp and they went hunting for all my boxes to mark. The company was going to give us the boxes there and then, but we pointed out it might be a little difficult getting them home on the train – all 8 boxes! 

The highlight for me was waiting in the DHL office where there was a huge weighing scale built into the floor. Marina and I took turns jumping on and off what turned pout to be a wildly inaccurate measure. Marina appeared to have lost and gained 6 kilos in three minutes! 

The next afternoon, all 8 boxes arrived. I got a call from the workman saying he’d arrived and would leave them downstairs. Marina got on the phone and gave the guy a serving for suggesting that he leave it on the ground floor and pointing out that we’d paid for a door to door service. The little guys had a trolley at least but he did not look happy after lugging them all up the two flights of stairs.

A generous host, an affable customs offer, door to door service… I’m so thankful that God pulled it all together!



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