For any parcel leaving a country for another, there is a customs declaration form that is mandatory to fill out.

Declaring customs is slightly tricky and varies from each country. For every item shipped out, the sender needs to provide details of the shipped goods. This declaration includes a description, quantity, value and the sender and recipients’ name and address, so that local customs authorities in your country – i.e. the destination, can assess the correct duty. It is a tax that the importer pays to bring goods into his or her country.

Some parcel forwarders allow you to add your information, whereas others will put the description and value from the receipts on the customs declaration which could end up with some additional charges when they deliver it to your doorstep. So watch out for customs and your country’s rules.

In addition to import duty, imports may be subject to other taxes such as sales tax (VAT, GST, etc.), excise duty, or other customs charges. Each country has its set of taxes and different ways of calculating them.

Special Circumstances

In some cases, if you have the items marked as ‘Gifts’ then there is no customs fee since the item is for personal use only. Other special circumstances may include repairs, returns, personal belongings, that are also usually exempted from customs fees and taxes.

Using Courier Services

Courier services such as FedEx and DHL pay customs on the receiver’s behalf and bill them at the doorstep. The problem in such cases is that the fee may be more than what you thought/calculated and at this point you either need to pay the high fees or get ready to have a long conversation with them. A DDP (delivery duty paid) service by FedEx can help.

Wrap Up

  1. Understand customs fee and be ready to pay. It also helps if you know minimum thresholds for your country.
  2. Understand the risk of using courier services, if there is an option for using local mail / post office for doorstep delivery, then always choose that.
  3. Use DDP if available as an option by your chosen parcel forwarder.

Additional Helpful Resources:

Country Guides: Country guides for imports and customs
Customs Duty Calculator: Free and Paid calculator for declaring customs.