Flying to US to get an iPhone X is cheaper than buying in Europe. It's also illegal

Yet HMRC’s rules are clear: you must pay VAT on your £390-plus US purchases when you fly home, which makes those big savings a lot less appealing

The price of the new iPhone X is so high in Europe that it’s led thousands to eye-up transatlantic flights to see if it’s cheaper to fly across the pond to buy it. And it is, even with the cost of the flight, but there’s a catch: you would become an international electronics smuggler in doing so.

In the UK, the 256GB iPhone X costs £1,149; across the Eurozone it’s even more, €1,319 (£1,186). In the US, meanwhile, it costs just $1,149 (£869.33) – a saving of almost £280. With Iceland’s WOWair offering return flights from London Gatwick to Newark for £278, it looks like you can pay for the cost of travel to New York with the savings on the iPhone.

buying iPhone X in europe? why not add a free weekend trip to NYC

— juan (@juanbuis) September 13, 2017

There are some catches: while British and European prices are quoted inclusive of VAT, American prices don’t include sales taxes, which are no higher than 11% but vary by state.

In New York, the tax-included price of the iPhone is actually $1,249, thanks to the state’s 8.75% sales tax, though a canny customer could cut the cost back to $1,149 by taking a $40 six-hour return bus trip down to Wilmington, Delaware, one of four states with a 0% sales tax.

So if you want to take a budget airline flight to New York with a one-hour layover in Reykjavik, then hop on a coach for six hours, you can experience the joys of a trip almost paid for by the savings made on the most expensive iPhone Apple produces. If you’re in the market for a new MacBook Pro meanwhile, such as the 13in model with 512GB of storage, you could save enough from the difference – almost £400 – to pay for your accommodation and meals too.

The downside is doing so is illegal, and doing it the legal way eats up all the savings you make – and then some.

HMRC is fairly explicit about what you can and can’t bring into the country from outside the EU. Each passenger has a personal allowance of £390, and any goods worth more than that are landed with applicable import duties and taxes, for the cost of the whole amount. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no exception for personal use, which means that an iPhone bought overseas is legally due a 20% import VAT, pushing the savings to just £40. At least phones and computers are not subject to any import duty.

You might not be stopped at the border by customs, but that doesn’t mean what you’re doing is legal; it just means you’re an effective smuggler.

There are some cross-border gimmicks that do work. People from the Republic of Ireland save if they head to the UK to buy their phones, and don’t have to pay duty when they bring them back. A similar thing applies for those near the Danish/German border, or, thanks to its low sales tax, any country bordering Luxembourg. If you live in Mexico, the difference in prices from the US is so stark that it’s actually still worth bringing one down south even after you declare the phone at the border and pay import taxes.

But for Brits and Europeans hoping for a “free” holiday to the US, you’re out of luck if you want to stay on the right side of the law.


Alex Hern

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
iOS 12: how to install Apple’s latest iPhone software right now
Apple’s new faster update with anti-smartphone addiction features is now available to test for the iPhone 5S or newer

Samuel Gibbs

26, Jun, 2018 @10:50 AM

Article image
iPhone X: most expensive Apple smartphone sells out in minutes
Demand for new flagship iPhone causes month-long shipping delays, contrasting with muted iPhone 8 sales and reportedly causing Apple concern about supply

Alex Hern

28, Oct, 2017 @3:57 PM

Article image
New iPhones: why is Apple's pricing the same in pounds and dollars?
New products have same price in both currencies, suggesting Apple is taking advantage of British customers’ acceptance of price hikes since the EU Referendum

Alex Hern

13, Sep, 2017 @8:36 AM

Article image
iPhone X: new Apple smartphone dumps home button for all-screen design
New model with 3 November release date promises better cameras, facial recognition, animated emojis, longer battery life and wireless charging

Samuel Gibbs

12, Sep, 2017 @6:57 PM

Article image
iPhone X: how to sell your old device in preparation for Apple's new release
Apple’s hotly anticipated smartphone is coming in November and selling your existing iPhone is one way of paying for it. But timing is everything

Alex Hern

17, Oct, 2017 @10:25 AM

Article image
iPhone X: thousands queue as Apple proves it still has the X factor
Demand for the £999 ‘future’ of the iPhone bucks the trend of recent years, with large crowds and some fans queuing for days to get their hands on one

Samuel Gibbs

03, Nov, 2017 @11:30 AM

Article image
iPhone X: Apple’s latest iPhone name leaks ahead of official release
iPhone X is rumored to be priced at close to $1,000 and set to be launched on Tuesday at the company’s multibillion-dollar new headquarters

Edward Helmore and agencies

11, Sep, 2017 @2:15 AM

Article image
What's the cheapest way of buying an iPhone 8?
Don’t be suckered in: navigating the multitude offers reveals buying an iPhone 8 outright and signing up to a cheap sim-only deal is the most cost-effective option

Alex Hern

15, Sep, 2017 @12:04 PM

Article image
Apple under fire over reports students worked illegal overtime to build iPhone X
Manufacturing partner Foxconn had student interns working 11-hour days to make most expensive iPhone ever

Alex Hern

21, Nov, 2017 @5:01 PM

Article image
iPhone owners have less than two weeks to replace battery for £25
Cost of out-of-warranty battery replacements is due to jump to as much as £65

Samuel Gibbs

20, Dec, 2018 @11:30 AM