Road Freight Customs in Europe | Freight Customs Charges

Cargo customs clearance procedures and required documents

Road freight crossing international trade borders, whether commercial or non-commercial, must go through customs clearance before delivery. Even though there are usually no customs charges to pay for road freight being transported within the European Union, there may be certain exceptions. Read our guide about freight customs charges and cargo clearance, the required shipping documentation and how the declared value of goods is calculated.
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Customs clearance for freight shipping in the EU

The EU is a customs-free zone. Goods produced in member states of the European Union, or any other country with specific contracts for free circulation of goods, will not be subject to customs duty payment. However, VAT charges may apply. If there is a trade agreement in place, goods will still need to be inspected by customs.

Duty exemptions in the European Union

Goods entering the European Union from non-EU countries may be subject to additional freight customs duties. There are some cases in which cargo may be exempt from duties for international freight shipping:

  • Commercial goods up to a certain value are exempt from customs duty but tax still needs to be paid.
  • There is also a possibility of exemption from customs duty on international cargo if you are transporting items subject to zero duty rate.
Please note that while there may be some duty exemptions, these should not be understood as tax exemptions.

How much duty is paid for shipping freight outside the EU?

Freight customs charges and VAT must be paid on international shipments for goods leaving the EU. Generally speaking, export customs clearance is paid by the shipper in EU, while the receiver abroad pays VAT and import duties.

Regulations vary by country, so we recommend checking in detail what will be required by the importing and exporting countries in your case.


  • You may need to pay tax and customs duty even when shipping personal belongings abroad.
  • It is especially important to check the specific rules on restricted items even if shipping them for personal use. For example, there are certain items, such as tobacco and alcohol, where excise duty is charged.
  • Gifts sent to you by a private individual are exempt from customs duties if their value does not exceed a certain amount. This amount depends on the destination country.


  • Goods originating in countries which have concluded free trade agreements with the EU are subject to lower (preferential) rates of customs duty at import.
  • A preferential rate of customs duty may be requested for certain goods if their value does not exceed a certain amount. This amount depends on the destination country.
  • In cases in which the zero rate of customs duty applies at import, other prescribed taxes must still be paid.
Please note that the information above may vary based on agreed Incoterms.

How declared value is calculated for customs when shipping freight

The declared value of goods is essential for international freight shipping and is included in the export documents and invoices. Although it may vary by country, the declared value for customs is normally calculated based on the following:

  • The actual price of the cargo
  • Identical goods produced in the importing country
  • Similar goods produced in the importing country
  • The production cost of the goods

We advise checking the regulations in detail with the importing and exporting countries. Some costs may be added or deducted from the customs value of the product, which depends on each case.

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Cargo customs clearance – declared value for carriage

The declared value for carriage is calculated from the value of the cargo. It serves as a basis for imposing freight charges, which is generally lower than the declared value for customs.
Read more about exporting outside of the EU

Van delivery from the EU to the UK after Brexit

When booking Van Delivery on our platform, you need to provide us with the following information depending on whether it is a private or business shipment:


  • Copy of your ID;
  • Proof of residence, proving that you have resided in Europe (or country of origin) for a minimum period of 6 months;
  • Proof that you have a visa to reside in the UK (except for UK citizens);
  • Detailed list of each item being transported: what the goods are, what they are made of, their origin, their purpose, HS code, and their value, etc;
  • You need to send us the ToR (Application for transfer of residence relief) number.


  • Proforma or commercial invoice (full details including VAT and EORI number)
  • Packing list

It is important to note that the packing list should contain the information about the sender, receiver, the item description, value of each of unit and total value. Additionally, it should be signed by the owner of the goods.
Read more about Brexit customs regulations

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Customs documentation for international freight shipping

When shipping cargo outside of the EU, you will need to provide a proforma or commercial invoice as well as a customs declaration or packing list describing the content. You will have to describe the cargo you are shipping as specifically as possible.

The number of documents required for international freight customs clearance will vary by country, but the following documents are required in the majority of cases:

Import Documentation
  • Purchase order
  • Sales invoice from supplier
  • Bill of lading (sea freight), Road Waybill (CMR), Air Waybill (AWB) or Rail Waybill (CIM)
  • Packing list
  • Certificate or proof of origin
  • Any other documentation as required by the buyer or as outlined in a letter of credit from a financial institution
Export Documentation
  • Purchase order from the buyer
  • Sales invoice
  • Packing list
  • Bill of lading (sea freight), Road Waybill (CMR), Air Waybill (AWB) or Rail Waybill (CIM)
  • Packing list
  • Certificate or proof of origin
  • All other documentation as required by the buyer or the terms of a letter of credit

Read more about required documentation for shipping

How to fill in the required documentation for cargo clearance

List each of the items separately, with detailed descriptions.

Avoid writing general terms such as “food”. Instead, write “cheese-flavoured cracker samples, packed in aluminium bag”.

Write the cargo value, as you may be entitled to this amount of compensation in the event of a damage claim.

Keep original invoices to prove the value of each of the items.

Be very specific when indicating what items are made of, their origin, and their purpose.

Provide a commodity/HS code for each item.

Bear in mind that failure to provide the required documentation for freight customs clearance or refusing to pay customs duties and taxes will result in delivery delays. The shipper may also be reported to the local authorities.
Need help with the required documentation?

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FAQ on international freight customs clearance and charges

What does cargo custom clearance mean?
Cargo customs clearance is the act of moving and clearing goods through customs so that they can enter the destination country. Customs authorities are obliged to inspect the goods to make sure they follow local importing regulations.
Can I do my own road freight customs clearance?
It is possible to fill out the paperwork yourself but because international customs can become very complicated, most shippers choose to hire a broker. In any case, when booking road freight services with Eurosender, it is the shipper's responsibility to ensure that all required paperwork has been correctly completed for cargo customs clearance.
Why does Eurosender not include freight customs charges or duties in the price?
In freight shipping, import duties are based on the information provided on the waybill and additional customs documentation, in particular the contents, declared value and weight. The customs authorities in the destination country determine whether any duties and taxes are applicable when the cargo arrives. For this reason, Eurosender cannot include freight customs charges or duties in the initial price.
Are there any exceptions to European freight customs clearance procedures?
Different rules may apply to goods subject to a state monopoly, for example, alcoholic beverages or tobacco products. Depending on local legislation, some cargo may be forbidden for import or export. If cargo is transiting through a non-EU country, customs will not have to be paid, but customs authorities may request invoices and transit documents.
Who pays road freight customs charges for international shipments?
International freight customs charges are usually paid by the receiver unless otherwise agreed with the shipper based on the Incoterms or purchase agreement. The amount of duty to be paid by the receiver depends on the information provided in the customs declaration and supporting documents, as well as any additional information requested by customs authorities.
Can the sender pay for international freight customs charges?
Yes, although it is more common for the recipient to pay for the customs charges, some shippers may agree for the sender to cover the road freight customs charges under specific Incoterms, for example, if they are buying under the DDP. The customs authorities will contact the receiver of the freight shipment to instruct them on paying the duties.
How much are customs fees for high-value cargo?
The customs clearance fees for shipping high-value cargo will depend on what you are shipping and the regulations of the destination country. When booking freight transport with Eurosender, you should check the customs procedures that apply in your specific case and determine if other factors may influence your freight customs charges.
What international freight customs charges should I expect to pay for goods arriving by air?
The different methods of cargo shipping have different sets of charges. Air freight transport costs are included in the customs value, depending on the Incoterm agreement. There may be additional freight customs charges or excise tax for storing or handling dangerous goods. For more accurate information as to what freight customs charges would apply for your own particular cargo and circumstances, please contact our logistics experts.
How long does cargo customs clearance take?
The time it takes for your freight to pass through international customs will depend on a number of factors, including:
  • Destination country
  • Type of cargo to be cleared
  • Number of shipments moving through customs at the same time
  • Customs inspections
In general, you can expect most cargo to be cleared by customs in 12-24 hours. If you are shipping as a business, consider the maximum delay as the time it will take for the freight to clear customs and communicate this to your customers. This will help maintain higher customer satisfaction and minimise disappointment.
Why is my cargo being held at customs?
In most cases, goods are held by customs authorities to check if the declared value is accurate. Other reasons may be incomplete paperwork or prohibited items in the content. Unfortunately, neither Eurosender nor the carrier can stop or accelerate customs procedures. If your freight tracking status indicates that your cargo is being held at customs, it may take a couple of hours to a few days for the goods to be released for delivery.
Can I refuse to pay freight customs charges?
Yes you can, but you may encounter the following problems if you refuse to pay freight customs fees:
  • The cargo will be destroyed.
  • The cargo will be stored and additional costs may be incurred.
What if I declare a lower value for my freight shipment in the documents for customs clearance?
It is a serious offence to declare a lower value to avoid paying freight customs charges. Customs authorities in the destination country inspect all incoming cargo. You may be charged a penalty for writing false information about the value of the freight shipment in the customs declaration and your cargo will be seized.
All information presented on this page is true and correct as of July 2022 but is subject to change at any time. Eurosender will not be liable for inappropriate, incomplete or inaccurate data presented. Still, we do our best always to have up-to-date information on our page.