Questions and answers about the handling of parcels from countries outside the EU
Here are the answers to the most frequent questions about the rules when buying online from countries outside the EU. These include questions about customs declarations and any charges VAT and duty.
About forwarding agents and transport
Can I choose the forwarding agent myself?
When purchasing via an e-commerce platform, you can sometimes choose which forwarding agent is to send your parcel. However, when Chinese postal services are the forwarding agent, Postnord automatically handles all mail-order parcels in Sweden.
What is a mail-order parcel?
Your parcel is a mail-order parcel when the following two points are satisfied:
- Whoever sold you the goods in the parcel is professionally active and sells goods without the physical contact of visits.
- The sale was made to a consumer.
Sale is the final element in the distribution chain from producer to final consumer.
A consumer is primarily a private individual buying goods for own use. Own use includes the goods being used in the individual’s household.
However, a consumer can also be something other than a private individual. Thus, there can also be mail-order sales when a company sells to someone/something other than a private individual.
Why must I pay a charge to my forwarding agent?
Swedish Customs has no insight into, or influence over, any charges that forwarding agents make for their services or the size of such charges. Contact your forwarding agent with any questions and comments.
If I have already paid VAT via Klarna, Amazon or some other company, do I still need to pay the administrative charge to my forwarding agent? If so, why is everyone hit by the same charge?
Swedish Customs does not have the details of how these types of VAT payment are handled. Contact your forwarding agent to find out how it handles them.
Which legislation backs Postnord’s role?
Postnord is the only body in Sweden that complies with the convention regulating, amongst other things, the importation and exportation of mail parcels (the UPU Convention). This means that Postnord has been appointed to have the role in question. Furthermore, to ensure the quality of mail handling, it is the object of audits by the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS).
Under § 7, chap. 4 of Sweden’s Postal Services Act (2010:1045), a mail forwarding company may participate in international postal service collaborations within the framework of global postal treaties if said company: has the operations and organisation guaranteeing that it can carry out international post forwarding in an acceptable manner; complies with the provisions of such treaties; and, has the relevant government’s approval to participate in such a collaboration.
In a 2009/2010 bill, the Swedish government appointed Postnord to be the postal services operator fulfilling Sweden’s obligations under the Universal Postal Union (UPU) Convention and representing Sweden in matters regarding operational issues in the postal area. This was regarded as effective from 24 February 1994.
The possibility of running postal services must be distinguished from appointment as the postal services operator fulfilling Sweden’s UPU obligations. Some 30 companies in Sweden run such services. In this connection, PTS is the licence-granting body.
Under § 7.2 of Sweden’s Ordinance with Instructions for the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (2007:951), it is the PTS that deals with issues regarding Sweden’s participation in operations within the UPU.
Furthermore, it is only Postnord which is “postal services operator” in the sense of the UCC Delegated Act. Only one postal services operator handles mail parcels (that contain goods). This links to the UPU. However, note that there are other postal services within the UPU (e.g. the “courier flow”) where Postnord is not alone.
Why does Swedish Customs work with profit-driven Postnord?
Postnord is the only body in Sweden that complies with the convention regulating, amongst other things, the importation and exportation of mail parcels (the UPU Convention). Consequently, if anything is sent by post in another country, it is Postnord that carries the goods in Sweden.
However, this role does not mean that Swedish Customs works with Postnord. We deal with Postnord in the same way that we deal with other companies.
About customs declarations
Will there be a digital service for people who want to make their own declarations?
We are looking into the possibility of developing a service for private individuals. However, this needs to be synchronised with the work that is being carried out in this connection within the EU.
Why can a retrospective declaration be made by email when an ordinary customs declaration cannot be made by email?
It is possible to make this sort of exception for retrospective clearance because such exceptions are largely only approved in respect of the mail flow.
A private individual who has received goods other than via mail cannot request retrospective clearance because the initial reception is regarded as defective compliance with customs provisions (illegal importation) and is investigated differently.
Why must all these details be entered when making your own declaration?
Each detail has a purpose.
You must pay the correct charges when importing goods. The classification of your goods determines which charges you are to pay to us. All goods have to be classified and given a commodity code. These codes are made up of numbers. For example, the commodity code of a cotton T-shirt is 6109 10 00 10.
Complying with import provisions (e.g. permits, licences and restrictions) is important. In their turn, these provisions are crucial for: protecting the internal market; protecting people’s safety and health; and, political and humanitarian reasons.
You are contributing to Sweden’s trade statistics
The details you submit in your import declaration are one of the bases of Sweden’s trade statistics. Contributing correct statistics is vital. We compile the details submitted in declarations and supply them to Statistics Sweden (SCB).
Why do I have to physically submit the declaration on a form?
All private individuals who wish to clear their goods through Swedish Customs must pay VAT immediately on submitting their declarations. This requirement is imposed on all private individuals.
Swedish Customs cannot overlook this requirement specifically for the mail flow.
Where can I get help to complete the declaration?
You can use our declaration guide. This sets out how you enter the various details. You then have to enter these details in the Single Administrative Document.
How do I declare my parcel myself?
- Your forwarding agent informs you that your mail-order parcel has arrived at its warehouse and offers to act as an agent on your behalf. In other words, on your behalf, the forwarding agent will take care of all customs transactions (payment of VAT included therein).
- It is perfectly possible to choose not to let the forwarding agent take care of customs transactions and, instead, make the declaration yourself. In your declaration, you then need to state where your parcel is being stored. Your forwarding agent’s customer service department will give you this information.
- You must complete a declaration, which you submit on a Single Administrative Document form. Complete page 1 of the document (if you have several goods, you must also complete a Continuation Form). Enter the parcel’s storage place in box 30.
Go to the Single Administrative Document and the Continuation Form.
- Submit the declaration to your nearest customs clearance office. When you visit a customs clearance office, you also need to present documentation corroborating your purchase (e.g. a receipt).
Our customs clearance offices are here.
- When Swedish Customs has received and investigated your declaration, you have to pay VAT. You can pay cash or use a card. We accept most bank cards, though not American Express or Diners.
- When you have paid VAT, the customs clearance office gives you a bill of release showing that the parcel may be released to you.
- To send the parcel directly to you or to your usual delivery point, your forwarding agent needs to see the bill of release.
About VAT and customs duties
Why is my forwarding agent responsible for levying VAT?
Swedish Customs has the task of collecting the correct revenue and ensuring competitive neutrality. Thus, it is important that whoever carries the parcel levies the VAT on what is being sent to Sweden from a country outside the EU.
If the sender states that something is a gift, do I escape having to pay VAT and customs duties?
A gift is something that is sent between two private individuals. If the value of your gift is SEK 1,600 or less, you do not have to pay any customs duty or VAT. Other rules apply for alcohol, tobacco and perfume.
From the customs perspective, a parcel is only regarded as a gift if:
- it is sent on a single occasion (not regularly)
- by a private individual giving a gift to another private individual
- for this other individual’s private use.
If the gift includes alcohol, tobacco or perfume, the parcel may only contain a certain quantity of these goods and, for the gift to be free of customs duty and VAT, the parcel’s total value must not be more than SEK 500.
How can I recover VAT and customs duty when I have returned my goods?
What is the customs duty on clothes and shoes from the USA?
When you order clothes or shoes from the USA, you must pay 25% VAT. If the total value of the goods is more than SEK 1,600 you must also pay customs duty as well as the VAT.
The customs duty on clothes from the USA is 12 per cent and certain types of clothes are also subject to an additional duty of a further 25 per cent.
The customs duty on shoes can vary between 8 and 17 per cent and, in certain cases, there is an additional duty of 25 per cent. The rate of customs duty depends on materials, styling and, in certain cases, size.
If you would like to know the customs duty on your goods and find out if they are subject to additional duty, please telephone or write to us.
About Swedish Customs’ role
Why does Swedish Customs not ensure VAT collection in another way, e.g. payment providers?
Swedish Customs cannot enter into these sorts of agreements with individual businesses. However, within the EU, work is ongoing to implement such a solution for all EU countries in the future.
Why does Swedish Customs put resources into such trivialities as cheap Chinese wares that private individuals buy for own use?
Swedish Customs has the tasks of ensuring that correct revenues are collected and preventing illegal goods coming into Sweden. Neither one is excluded by the other.
In which legislative act is it stated that I must pay VAT?
You can read about VAT in § 5, chap. 1 of Sweden’s Value Added Tax Act (1994:200).
You can read about mail-order parcels in §§ 3.6 and 4.4, chap. 2 of Sweden’s Act on Freedom from Tax on Importation, etc. (1994:1551).
Last updated: 2021-02-02
What is updated: Quality assured