What is customs duty?

Import or custom duty is a tax, or tariff, that you may need to pay if you are buying goods or services in one country, including over the internet, and having them delivered to another country.

When you buy something from abroad that is delivered to your home country, that item is considered as being imported. This is known as cross-border commerce.

Most countries will levy import tax on such e-commerce purchases, but not all purchases will be eligible for import duty. For instance, customs duty is not payable on goods that are bought between EU countries.

How does import duty affect my international online shopping?

Most countries will allow you to import certain goods, for personal use or a gift, up to certain values duty free. Most countries will also have items that are prohibited from import – mostly tobacco, alcohol and food, although there are others, and they differ between each country, so you will need to check that what you are buying is allowed entry.

The amount of duty you will be required to pay will normally depend upon things like the value and weight of the purchase, where it has come from and by what method of delivery it arrived.

When you purchase an item from overseas, the shop will generally fill out a customs declaration with information about the item and its value. Some shops, such as Amazon.com, for example, will also organise payment for the duty for you too in advance so that you do not receive a bill from Customs after it has arrived.

As well as import duty you may also be required to pay sales tax such as GST or VAT on a purchase, which is also calculated as a value of the items value.

What purchases are free from customs duty?

If you are buying from abroad and don’t want to pay import duty or sales tax, the easiest way to not pay is to buy an item that is worth less than the tax threshold for your country. This is called your personal allowance.

Although the threshold varies for different products this guide can be taken as a general rule of thumb.

For example if you buy a product outside the EU and have it delivered to the UK, it will generally be exempt if its value is under £135. *This figure is only a guide and amounts may vary between different items, check the link to be sure of amount.

Is shopping bought as a gift eligible for import duty?

Importing low value items as gifts into some countries can be duty free, so you won’t have to pay any import duty. You will need to check with the country you are receiving the shopping into, what the thresholds are. Gifts up to a certain value can also be exempt from import tax.

Can I reclaim import duty?

Yes, it is possible to reclaim customs duty from most countries. If you have paid in error have over-paid then it is possible to reclaim. Look for the correct form or procedure from your Customs Department in order to do this. Here is how you can reclaim customs duty in the UK back.

More info.

Follow this link to find out more about import duty and tax rates and personal allowances by country.

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