Woman who fled Ukraine was shocked after receiving a £100 tax bill on arrival in the UK
Teacher Carolyn Ross, 41, grew up in Swansea but worked as an arts teacher in Kyiv and described the £100 tax bill as a “kick in the face”.
(Image: Carolyn Ross)
A teacher who fled Ukraine was left in shock after being slapped with a £100 tax bill after arriving in the UK.
Carolyn Ross, 41, grew up in Swansea but worked as an art teacher in Kyiv.
The day before the Russian invasion in February, she had to resign from the British International School and return home.
She brought only a single suitcase full of belongings and left some of her other belongings behind.
Since returning to the UK, Carolyn has been living with her family in Swansea while a friend’s husband has the rest of her belongings sent by Parcelforce.
Two of the three suitcases were delivered from Ukraine – another was held until she paid £104.21 to HMRC, despite having already paid the £400 postage.
“They were labeled as commercial goods even though they were clearly personal,” she said Wales Online. “It’s used underwear, tights, work clothes, blazers for work. It is obvious that these things were worn.
“I’ve lost my home, my normality, my students, my colleagues, my friends – the whole situation is so heartbreaking and I’m being charged £104 after already paying £400 to get my stuff back. It’s just a kick your teeth. Are you kidding me? Haven’t I been through enough?”
For two and a half years prior to the invasion, Carolyn had lived in a “great apartment” in Kyiv, a city she had come to love.
“When it all started, I went from Kyiv to Lviv,” she added, “so that if something went seriously wrong, I would be right at the border.
“I spent about two weeks in Lviv, we taught online because of Covid, but then the UK government website basically said you should go out that day, so I overheard a fight at 6.30pm and was that evening at home in Wales. The next day the bombs fell and flights were grounded.”
The teacher had to leave her cat Drako at a cat hotel in Lviv, but about a week later she spent about 18 hours on a train to reach the Polish border and be picked up by hotel staff.
She also volunteered to retrieve four other animals from the border – a German cat, which she reunited with her owner, and two kittens and a puppy, which she made a new home.
Carolyn had to spend a month in Germany while waiting for a pet passport for Drako. She was fired from her job at the international school and after such a stressful time all she wanted was her belongings back – but she was shocked to be hit by the HMRC bill.
“I went to Parcelforce and to be fair, they were amazing,” she said. “They said they could not release the third suitcase because they would be fined.
“I was told the value exceeded £500 even though the items were worn. I am confused as my suitcase was worth much more with all my shoes but it was delivered.
“A friend of mine in a similar situation was charged £13.50 for a pack of 10 books and was told the value exceeded £10. I don’t understand where they get these fees from.”
Carolyn was warned that if she didn’t pay within 20 days, the suitcase would be returned to sender.
“I went to the HMRC website and filled out a form to contest the charges with a photocopy of the invoice and a letter explaining the situation,” she said. “I had nothing in return. There was no way I could call them, it was just an automated service asking you to pay.
“I paid yesterday because I knew that once the 20 days went by I would never see the stuff again. These are things I will need for school. I’m starting a new job as a teacher Doha, Qatar at the end of August and I can’t afford a new wardrobe. HMRC ignored my letter and happily took my money.”
She said it was “heartbreaking” to see the impact of the war on people close to her in Ukraine, including a woman who lost her 28-year-old son.
Carolyn added: “I remember one of my students telling me he couldn’t turn in his artwork because he spent the whole night in a bomb shelter. I feel guilty because I was only there for two and a half years compared to Ukrainian colleagues who are at risk of losing their country.
“I spent the first month of my return to Wales indoors with my cat because I just couldn’t believe what had happened.
“If you decide to leave your home and job, it is on your terms. They say goodbye.
“I will never see those kids again and tell them they did well in their exams. I have so many friends there, people are nice and gentle. It just absolutely sucks. I’d go back in a heartbeat, but right now it’s a little too scary.”
A HMRC spokesman told WalesOnline: “HMRC has been made aware of this situation and we are working with the courier to find a solution.”
The Mirror has contacted HMRC separately for comment.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/woman-who-fled-ukraine-shocked-27329613 Woman who fled Ukraine was shocked after receiving a £100 tax bill on arrival in the UK