VAT & Customs Duty
And what if the item is used & was bought through a private party, like on craigslist or gumtree.com while I am in the country? Does the seller have to charge VAT, or does it need to be declared in customs when I bring in into the US?
VAT is generally only charged on goods sold commercially. Europe, being a more enlightened continent, includes the tax in all advertised prices, so it's largely invisible in the purchase, just a note at the bottom of your receipt. Private sales are far too onerous to administer and monitor, so in most countries buying on Craigslist etc, you won't see any tax (this is where I'm a bit iffy, not being an Ireland expert, but I did buy some second hand stuff there, and I don't think tax was an issue). "Goods transported by the traveller for the equipping, fuelling and provisioning of pleasure boats, private aircraft or other means of transport for private use" are specifically excluded from the list of goods eligible for a refund, so I'm not sure if that's an issue. Though I suppose plenty of people discount the bicycle as a mode of transport, so maybe that'll work in your favour.
The Irish process for getting a refund if you are eligible appears to require going through a private agent, who will charge you a fee for the service, so you won't get the full 23% back. http://www.revenue.ie/en/tax/vat/leafle ... urist.html
Looks like you're supposed to line up the agent before making the purchase, and they'll buy the bike for you, then sell it to you sans VAT. Lots of tourist-focused stores in Ireland are also VAT agents, and advertise 0% VAT in their windows...I'm just not sure about bike shops. You do have to be leaving within 3 months, and have some documentation to prove it.
You should always declare the value of anything you've purchased overseas and are importing into your home country. Used or new, doesn't matter. I know nothing about US duty law, but Duty Calculator indicates bicycles are taxed at 11% on import. Most countries allow individuals to bring a certain amount of goods into the country duty-free, looks like for the US it's $800, which is easily more than a used bike and a few souvenirs.
I do know some goods are zero taxed like furniture (circa post 1900) - a few years ago I filled up a container in France to send back to the States - what a blast that was! - and zero VAT or US duty tax!
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