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Cycling club arrives in Spain for charity ride... hit with £7,000 bike customs charge

Welsh group Tap It Out paid the fee but now faces having to "fold the club" and feels like the group has been "held for ransom"...

A Welsh cycling club says it may be forced to close for good after being stung by a surprise £7,330 tariff by Spanish border officials when they collected their bikes ahead of a charity ride.

The group — from Tap It Out cycling club running out of a pub in Pyle, Bridgend — flew to Santander, in Cantabria on Spain's north coast while their bikes arrived by ferry ahead of the 600-mile ride raising money for Prostate Cymru, a charity close to the club's heart as some of its members have been affected by prostate cancer.

However, when they went to collect their bikes the group was told to pay an €8,500 (£7,330) tariff, something they appealed — on the grounds of it being a charity event — but were unsuccessful.

Faced with the dilemma of cancelling the ride or paying the fee, the team paid the fee out of the club's accounts but now faces having to "fold the club — shut it down."

Head of the group Nicky Morgan told the BBC organising the trip had been "really stressful" without the added inconvenience and had been rescheduled twice due to Covid.

"We were doing a charity event. It never entered our minds that we were going to sell bikes or be accused of selling bikes. My jaw just dropped," he said.

Another of the riders, Rhys Lloyd, said he was representing his dad who usually rides with the club but is too ill to participate in this one.

Mr Lloyd feels like the group has been "held for ransom" and paying the tariff will "bleed a big hole into the club". Another rider, who lost his mum and colleagues to cancer, said he just wanted to "raise funds and awareness".

Welsh politician Huw Irranca-Davies and MP Chris Elmore wrote a joint letter to the Spanish customs authority, arguing the fee: "Negated the very purpose of the charity bike ride — to raise funds for Prostate Cymru which is a cause dear to so many people — but also has left a very sour feeling in relations."

The pair asked for a "full and immediate response explaining why these charges have been made", and speaking to BBC Wales Mr Irranca-Davies explained he had a long-running support of Prostate Cancer and there was "no good reason" for the fee.

He suggested it could be a result of post-Brexit import fees being wrongly applied to the riders.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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61 comments

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fionajparnell@g... | 1 year ago
0 likes

I really feel for the bike club. I really wish them well with their fundraising to collect funds for the tariff.  I work for Business West Chamber of Commerce and the £7000 charge is indeed the duty payable on the bikes that were transported separately by ferry. If they had travelled with their bikes as personal items there would have been no charge. A Business West carnet (www.businesswest.co.uk/carnets) could have solved this problem and we provide a 15% discount for registered charities.  

Have the club investigated the possibility of claiming back their duty? Presumably, they received a duty-paid receipt?

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cycling science... | 1 year ago
1 like

The whole sad story was raised in Parliament yesterday, Thursday. The new Minister, Penny Mordaunt, promised help....

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greatselbybikerider | 1 year ago
2 likes

The problem has nothing to do with Brexit. What the club should have done is obtained an ATA carnet from either a local Chamber of Commerce or other competent authority and this would have allowed the temporary import and export of the cycles without having to pay import duty. It even extends to situations such as car crashes on holidays abroad where a car is a total write-off. Customs will charge duty if the wreck is not exported. Likewise if whisky held in bond is stolen in the UK, excise duty will be charged by HMRC as the owner cannot prove that it has not been consumed in the UK.

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IanMSpencer replied to greatselbybikerider | 1 year ago
8 likes

Yet this paperwork was not an issue before Brexit, so how is it nothing to do with it?

I don't recall getting an email or letter from the Government warning me of the changes and paperwork required. You have to know you might need paperwork to even explore what that paperwork might be.

What relationship might a cycling club have with the local Chamber of Commerce? Does the cycling club even know such a thing exists?

Cycling clubs are typically from a variety of walks of life. It is not a given that there is anyone in the club with any awareness of import and export regulations and before Brexit, the public were blissfully unaware of the joys of Intrastat and tax rules. After all, I bet most people don't really understand their own tax calculations.

I think that the starting point for anything where the public is involved is an assumption of complete ignorance, and any process that depends on the public having an awareness needs to have either training or communication to back it up.

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Hirsute replied to greatselbybikerider | 1 year ago
7 likes

"It usually costs £180 plus VAT for members of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and £300 plus VAT for non-members. You’ll also need to pay a security deposit."

Before Brexit it cost nothing for this and journalists have complained about the extra costs.

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John Hayes | 1 year ago
8 likes

A similar thing happened to me. I tried to send two bikes via SendBike (acting as an agent for DHL) and they got stuck in customs in Spain. It was a nightmare made worse by the fact that no-one could really explain why it happened. Eventually I was advised that a temporary customs duty was payable potentially refundable when I bought the bikes home. Despite paying the duty the bikes remained stuck in customs (they were there for nearly two weeks). Because I was with a group and we were all on a schedule, DHL advised me to give up on my bikes, hire bikes in Spain, and after some persuasion, they agreed to send my bikes home free of charge. The cost of hiring two bikes for the three week trip was just over a 1000 euros.

The truth is, post Brexit, things are a mess.
If you send anything as an individual by courier or post into Europe you do it at enormous risk. Bizarrely if you take your bike with you on the plane it's regarded as luggage and the risk, for the time being at least, doesn't apply.

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Mungecrundle replied to John Hayes | 1 year ago
6 likes

Shipping small non commercial samples and prototypes into Ireland is an absolute horror story at the moment to the point that it makes more sense to send stuff to an employee in the North who then smuggles them over the border on their daily commute.

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wycombewheeler replied to John Hayes | 1 year ago
4 likes

John Hayes wrote:

. Bizarrely if you take your bike with you on the plane it's regarded as luggage and the risk, for the time being at least, doesn't apply.

In the same way you can take a suitcase full of clothes, but if you took a van full of clothes more questions would be asked and paperwork required.

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joshhowe97 | 1 year ago
5 likes

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jason-bishop-1?utm_term=AAj9ZPBnp
 

We are raising money to cover the customs charge, any donations will be appreciated 

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fenix | 1 year ago
0 likes

Why would they need to close the club down ? 7 grand is a lot but shared among a club it's a lot more manageable.

And why can't I find any links to the club online ? Nothing on British Cycling.

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schlepcycling replied to fenix | 1 year ago
0 likes
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hawkinspeter replied to fenix | 1 year ago
2 likes

fenix wrote:

Why would they need to close the club down ? 7 grand is a lot but shared among a club it's a lot more manageable. And why can't I find any links to the club online ? Nothing on British Cycling.

Close it down and go for bankruptcy so the 7 grand doesn't have to be paid

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wycombewheeler replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
4 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

Close it down and go for bankruptcy so the 7 grand doesn't have to be paid

I'd be pretty annoyed if my club was closed down because 10-20 members had gone to Spain for a bike ride, messed up the administration and incurred a large cost.

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festina | 1 year ago
2 likes

This would have been because they didn't travel with their bikes. Otherwise i could have 100 bikes sent over in a container and then just say i was picking them up for a club.
I imagine there are ways around this but as rules have changed we need to learn (from others mistakes) how they work.

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fenix replied to festina | 1 year ago
1 like

I preferred to send my bike ahead to ironman races. Much easier traveling without and having all your heavy kit waiting for you.

I wonder if those services are still able to operate?

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Glov Zaroff | 1 year ago
6 likes

But they got to use the blue passports they voted for. 

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IanMSpencer replied to Glov Zaroff | 1 year ago
3 likes

Even that is arguable 

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pockstone replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
3 likes

Midnight blue...with a blindfold on, with the curtains shut, with the luminous alarm clock in a black bag.

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Bigfoz replied to Glov Zaroff | 1 year ago
4 likes

Their blue passports made in...France. 

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Rome73 | 1 year ago
9 likes

Welsh politician Huw Irranca-Davies and MP Chris Elmore wrote a joint letter to the Spanish customs authority, arguing the fee: "Negated the very purpose of the charity bike ride — to raise funds for Prostate Cymru which is a cause dear to so many people — but also has left a very sour feeling in relations."
 

they still don't get it. It's always someone else's fault - (Spanish customs authority in this case) It's what you voted for. Did you not listen to the advice? 

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wycombewheeler replied to Rome73 | 1 year ago
1 like

BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP wrote:

Welsh politician Huw Irranca-Davies and MP Chris Elmore wrote a joint letter to the Spanish customs authority, arguing the fee: "Negated the very purpose of the charity bike ride — to raise funds for Prostate Cymru which is a cause dear to so many people — but also has left a very sour feeling in relations."
 

they still don't get it. It's always someone else's fault - (Spanish customs authority in this case) It's what you voted for. Did you not listen to the advice? 

Is it though? they were not selling bikes to Spain, they were taking their bikes there on Holiday, and bringing them home again afterwards.

Do people get slapped with a massive customs bill for taking their car into the EU on holiday? Why should bikes be treated differently.

Worst case there should have been a deposit, refundable when the bikes were taken home again.

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mrmo replied to wycombewheeler | 1 year ago
5 likes

The rules are really simple and at the end of the day Customs gets the final decision. If you take an unaccompanied car, think track day then you need a Carnet as well. Don't like it, well tough, get used to the new reality, this is the Brexit people voted for. No upsides just hassle and cost. 

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lonpfrb | 1 year ago
3 likes

ATA Carnet process is very feasible and no good reason not to do that for any group tour, global freight standard operating procedure. Have done this multiple times with multiple HGVs full of bikes.

Sorry to say that this just seems like failing to plan correctly.

As already mentioned, a temporary export/import round trip should only incur the administration costs, not Duty...

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David W replied to lonpfrb | 1 year ago
9 likes

It's the additional cost of an ATA carnet; £360 (plus a security deposit) and some paperwork that might have put them off. Agree that it would in hindsight be a cheaper option than the £7,000 they've paid now, but I assume that they just didnt't think there would be an issue after decades of free movement. It's still a shame that they have either additional expense on a club/charity ride. 

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brooksby replied to David W | 1 year ago
3 likes

That's the thing - they thought they were simply shipping their bikes ahead for them to ride, and didn't appreciate that the law says that is exactly the same as shipping them ahead for commercial purposes...

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pockstone | 1 year ago
5 likes

I often travel to Northern Ireland with a bike in the car, is this going to be another expensive addition to the many 'Brexit opportunities'.

What with the desire never to use P&O Ferries, I may have to bite the bullet, buy a bike and keep it there, with the likely downside of more flying. 

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mattw replied to pockstone | 1 year ago
1 like

The conversation afaics says that taking a personal bike in your car is not a goods' import.

Why would this be different for UK<>NI?

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pockstone replied to mattw | 1 year ago
5 likes

Let's hope so. Boris and Frost wrote and signed the agreement, and they didn't understand it...what hope for the rest of us!

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gbayf2308 replied to pockstone | 1 year ago
1 like

Why would there be a problem traveling to Northern Ireland? Wouldn't it be between NI and Ireland that you might have an issue? I thought NI was part of the UK.

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IanMSpencer replied to gbayf2308 | 1 year ago
10 likes

gbayf2308 wrote:

Why would there be a problem traveling to Northern Ireland? Wouldn't it be between NI and Ireland that you might have an issue? I thought NI was part of the UK.

You've really not been keeping up over the last few years, have you?

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