Customs takes reporter's equipment

A journalist had his recording equipment seized by HM Revenue & Customs after sending it from the US to London, and has called the situation a transatlantic "money-making exercise".

Iain Thomson was reporting from a US IT conference for technology website vnunet.com, creating bulletins using a recorder and microphone belonging to his employer.

Thomson told Press Gazette: "I sent it via UPS, ticking the customs box on the form. I did everything by the book.

I’m annoyed at the assumption that I’m trying to dodge paying VAT on a new purchase — it’s not true: the equipment belongs to work."

Vnunet.com, which is the online magazine of VNU Business Publications, had to prove ownership of the equipment.

If it had been bought in the US, the items would be subject to VAT.

When the items were finally returned, the company had to pay charges of £25.

"Personally speaking," said Thomson, "this strikes me as a money-making exercise. I’d like to know if other journalists have experienced similar problems.

"You know what it’s like at Heathrow," he continued, "Christmas shopping in the US is big business. There must be lots of people who’ve flown the salty puddle and not declared a new iPod in their luggage. I play by the rules and get my equipment impounded. It’s galling."

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