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EBay said the 'complexity of our global market' meant that it was sometimes difficult to ensure that the correct rate of VAT is applied to antique and collectable items.

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Having just purchased an item, via eBay, from France described as ‘Boîte à Bijoux, Priser, Tabatiere ancienne sculpté décor Profil, XVIIIéme’ I calculated I was due a refund of €11-56 (the difference between 5 and 20%).

I made contact by requesting eBay phone me, and after speaking to two helpful assistants I was told that the item had been listed as ‘Collectable’ and not as ‘Antique’ which I was unable to confirm.

So the only way I could receive my refund was for the transaction to be cancelled and the seller to relist under the antique category – I thought this exercise not worth the refund. Clearly, if what I am being told is correct, there is an onus on the seller to ensure that an item over 100 years old is listed under the antique category to avoid the extra 15% VAT.

Apparently many sellers are already aware of this as a quick look at some of my regular antique searches list a great many items of a modern, fake or reproduction nature being offered spuriously and presumably defrauding HMRC!

Charles Simpson

An eBay spokesperson told ATG: “Our tax calculation system has been set up to ensure that the correct rate of VAT should be applied to antique and collectable items as permitted by the UK legislation.

“However, the complexity of our global market and the wide variety of categories in which antiques may be sold means that in rare instances this is not always possible. If this happens, we encourage users to contact us and we will review and, where appropriate, refund the difference.

“If your reader reaches out to our customer services team, we will be pleased to investigate and support. We also encourage users to report to us any items listed in an incorrect category so that they can be reviewed.

“If your readers have specific examples of this occurring, we would encourage them to send them to us and we will investigate.”