Customs clearance procedures and fees in international shipping
Shipping goods abroad can sometimes bring unexpected additional costs when the shipment is subject to customs fees. Even though it is widely known that shipments within the EU do not undergo customs charges, there may be some exceptions to it. Additionally, goods that travel outside of the EU do undergo customs charges, even if they are declared gifts. Here is everything you need to know about the customs duties and procedures in the shipping industry.
European customs charges
European Union is a customs-free zone, meaning that there are no customs charges. Not only for goods produced in member states but also for any product which has already been released for free circulation after the respective EU import duty rates were covered. That is why, when shipping within the EU, any European customs charges are usually included in the shipping price.
An exception to this, where different rules may apply, are goods that could be a subject to a state monopoly, such as alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. Thus, depending on the local legislation, some goods may be forbidden to leave or enter a specific country. Make sure to check our list of forbidden goods to ship!
How much tax do I have to pay when shipping outside of the EU?
When shipping globally, outside of the EU, a customs declaration (CN23 or CN22) is required that would contain all the necessary information about the content that you are sending. The amount you will be required to pay, as mentioned earlier, depends on the items you are sending and the regulations of each country.
The applied customs duties are calculated as a percentage of the VAT from the arrival country, the regulations of each country, or in some specific cases, some additional eventual costs may be applied depending on the content of the package.
Can I refuse to pay the customs fees on international shipping?
Customs duties are usually paid by the receiver unless otherwise agreed with the sender. The amount of money that the receiver would have to pay depends on the data provided in the customs declaration, the supporting documents or the additional information which may be requested by the customs officers.
There are two things to do when asked to pay the additional taxes:
The receiver can choose to do one of several scenarios:
- As a receiver, you can refuse to pay customs and the package will be destroyed.
- You can return it to the sender. When you refuse custom fees on international shipping, the sender will have to pay for the shipping costs.
- Or alternatively, you can accept the goods and pay the duties yourself.
What are the customs duties when the shipment is marked as a gift?
What could go wrong if I write a lower amount to avoid customs fees applicable to my shipment?
Another reason for putting the correct value of the content of the package is that in case of damage the courier will only reimburse you for the written value.
Exemption of paying customs duties in Europe
There are several cases in which one can be exempted from payment of customs duties during the customs clearance procedure:
- When a parcel is marked as a gift and its value does not exceed €45.The same way as when shipping regular packages, customs duties and fees do apply when the shipment is marked as a gift. However, it is essential that the parcel is sent between two private persons. Depending on the value of the goods, different products are charged differently. If you want to check the customs value for the goods you are shipping from a non-European country, you can check the tariffs applicable in the TARIC database.
- Purchases (i.e. items) whose value does not exceed €150 are exempt from customs duty.
- There is also a possibility of exemption from customs duty if you are dealing with items subject to the so-called zero duty rate.
Customs clearance procedures for international shipping
Customs, or the customs duty office, is a national body of the local government whose task is to uphold customs clearance procedure. This task consists of preventing illegal and prohibited items entering the country, as well as determining the number of duties to be paid when importing goods that are subjected to taxation under the local law.
How to fill in customs documents
A customs declaration should be provided when shipping globally. This declaration provides information about the content of the items you are shipping. The customs officers have the right to open the package to check for the content and for any prohibited or restricted items, to confirm whether the value and description stated on the Customs Declaration are correct and, to determine the customs fees.
You will need to provide a description of the goods, their value, and nature (whether it’s a gift, personal effects or something sold). Be honest and direct when you describe the contents of your package. List each item separately in your package and avoid writing general terms such as “clothing”, personal belongings or “gifts”. When shipping globally, it is important to leave the package open at the time of collection, as the courier driver must check its content.
For instance: if you are shipping a parcel with clothing, describe its content in a way of 1 x pair of Vans, 2 x pairs of black socks, 1 x Levis jeans trouser, 1 x white t-shirt and 1 x plaid shirt from H&M, and an addition to this, add the country of origin (example Turkey).
By filling out properly the customs documentation and paying the applicable fees, you can avoid further delays during the customs clearance. Failure to provide the required documentation or refusing to pay the customs fees will either result in further delays in the shipping process or in having the goods returned to the sender.
Customs clearance procedure: FAQ
What other documents do I need, apart from the above mentioned?
It is important to keep the invoice for the purchased goods. It serves as an official statement of the value of the goods. It is in your best interest to keep the original and send a few copies of the invoice with your shipment. Whether you need to present other documents like a certificate of authenticity or shipping insurance depends from country to country, it is up to the customers to inform themselves. If the courier company responsible for the shipping is DHL, you can find these documents directly on their website.
Why is my package stopped in customs and how long will it take to be released?
There are many reasons why a package can be stopped in customs. Depending on those, it can take from hours to days, and sometimes even months for it to be released. Some of the reasons may be:
- The customs in the delivery country require more information.
- The paperwork is not done as required.
- The taxes are not paid on time.
- The package contains any prohibited or restricted items.
- The mode of transportation the package is being shipped with (air, road, rail, sea).
Customs fees when using Eurosender services
If you have any questions about the customs clearance procedure or European customs charges, please contact our customer service team. Our specialists will be happy to answer any questions you may have.