Category Archives: bureaucracy

A European’s experience in [NOT] buying a MacBook Pro in US

I’m visiting NYC this week. I’ve come to US thinking hard whether or not I want to buy a MacBook Pro. I decided that yes, I do. Now I changed my mind. Why?

I wanted to do a couple of things. Use employee discount, pay with my Irish card, and I absolutely required a European-style keyboard layout. This last thing is the ultimate reason why I decided to skip it.

Apple is excellent if you are an average customer. Walk into one of the stores (there’s one 5 minutes of walk from me), pick up what you want, walk out happy. I could have done that. I can still do that. I don’t want to.

First, I want my discount. It saves me a non-insignificant an interesting amount of money. I doubt I can apply the discount from within the store. [UPDATE: Americans love to apply sales tax AFTER quoting you the price. So my total savings are a bit less than expected. Still, they exist. And my estimates include Irish VAT, because I’m nice like that. Smugglers would really save a lot.]

Second, I want a European-style keyboard (British at the very least). I have a US layout wireless keyboard, and if I switch to Croatian layout in software, I cannot type < and > on it.

Turns out that Apple does not stock laptops with different layouts in their stores. Turns out that I need to wait 1-3 business days for them to build the custom laptop (!!!) and then another 1-3 business days for them to expedite-ship it. Oh you want standard shipping? 3-5 days. You dared to desire to pick it up at the store (which should actually be easier for them)? Well, feelin’ bad for you buddy — it’s as if you picked standard shipping.

Maybe you wanted to pay with your Irish card? No go — they want your billing address phone number to be a US number, and your billing address zip code to be a US zip code and a US address.

Especially if you include the fact I’d need to deal with Irish customs people as well, that’s enough divine signs telling me I should skip this purchase. Maybe I change my mind, but I doubt it.

What kind of bullshit is not stocking some British-layout MBPs somewhere in NYC? What kind of bullshit is “it takes 1-3 days to replace a keyboard”? With minimum training, it could be done in-store, even if you couldn’t stock 2 variants in each store. They don’t sell often enough? Don’t keep 50 of them, but do keep 2 of them.

And I was so looking forward to a Mac with a decent GPU.

Importing laptop into Ireland from outside EU

I am not a lawyer nor an accountant. This is not legal advice. I may be wrong.

Bureaucracy == exercise in exploration!

First, you want to read the general information for individuals, including PN 1878a – Customs and Excise Information for Travellers Arriving in Ireland from Countries Outside the European Union.

In PN 1878a there is an odd reference to digital cameras being 0% duty, and VAT 23%. Where does that come from?

In the section intended for businesses we can find the document A Guide to Customs Import Procedures (PDF) which mentions a system called TARIC. What is TARIC?

Apparently TARIC is an EU-wide system for determining duty on imports. Customs Directorate of Croatia (or whatever the name in English is) apparently also maintains their own TARIC query system with matching data.

Now we need the appropriate code. What is the code for laptops?

It’s 8471410000. If you enter this code and then drill down into ‘for use in civil aircraft’ and ‘other’, you’ll see that in both cases the duty is 0%, in most countries. (In Croatian mirror site, pick ‘Section XVI’ and ‘Chapter 84’. I find it curious that the Croatian system’s UI seems cleaner than the official EU system. More outdated, but nonetheless cleaner.)

Since USA is not on the list, I would presume it fits under the ‘Erga Omnes’ list.

Alright, what about VAT? There is a list of tax rates maintained by the Irish Tax and Customs. Laptops seem to fit under Computer Hardware – Supply, which has a Standard VAT rate. As of 1 January 2014, this rate is 23%.

My conclusion is that the duty is 0%, and that only VAT of 23% is paid.

Considering top-of-the-line 15″ Macbook Pro Retina costs $2.599 = 1877.21 EUR * 1.23 = approx 2309 EUR – versus 2649.00 EUR – we get the difference of 339 EUR that are still saved by buying the laptop from the US.

Fun. 🙂

For the record, no, I did not choose to buy a laptop (nor this laptop in particular) — but exploring my options is good.