Frequently asked questions about shopping online from countries outside the EU
These 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
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.
What happens if I want to return an article that I have not yet collected?
Contact the carrier and ask if you can return the article to the consignor. You do not have to pay any customs duty, VAT or any other taxes.
If you purchased the article from an online seller that charged VAT at the time of purchase, you must contact the online seller from which you ordered the goods to request a VAT refund.
I have ordered a pullover from a company in the USA. I have not yet received any parcel. I’ve queried this via their website. Is it possible to check whether a parcel has “got stuck” in customs?
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.
Why must I pay a charge to my forwarding agent?
Swedish Customs cannot comment on any administrative fees charged by the company transporting your goods. Please contact your forwarding agent for more information.
Am I still required to pay the forwarding agent's administrative fee if I paid VAT at the time of purchase?
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.
Why does Swedish Customs collaborate with Postnord, a for-profit business?
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 has any collaboration with Postnord. We deal with Postnord in the same way that we deal with other companies.
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.
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 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.
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
The company I’m ordering my article from says that it will pay customs duty, VAT and any other taxes and that everything is included in the price. How does that work?
Swedish Customs is unable to answer this. You must ask whoever is sending your article, or the business selling it.
What must I do if I have bought an article and notice that the company that carried said article has not paid customs duty, VAT and any other taxes?
You must inform Swedish Customs. We will help you calculate what you should have paid and send out a periodical customs bill so that you can do what is right.
What is the rate of customs duty on an article that I order online?
That depends on the article you have ordered. The rate of customs duty is between 0 and 20 per cent. All goods can be found in the online query service Tulltaxan (Customs Tariff).
What is the rate of VAT on an article that I order online? Is the VAT different on different goods?
For most goods, VAT is 25 per cent. However, for foodstuffs it is 12 per cent and for printed items such as books and newspapers it is 6 per cent.
Do I always have to pay customs duty on goods I order online?
If the total value of the goods is no more than SEK 1,700 exclusive of freight, you do not have to pay any customs duty. However, you always have to pay VAT. So that we can see whether you have to pay any customs duty, it is crucial that the value of your goods is clearly stated in the documents that are visible to Postnord or the company making your customs declaration.
I have to pay customs duty even though the value of my goods is under SEK 1,700. Why?
It may be because you have ordered goods that are excluded from the general rules, e.g. tobacco goods, perfume and toilet water. In such cases, you have to pay both customs duty and VAT on the goods. It may also be that you have to pay VAT, but not customs duty.
How do I calculate the import charges on my order?
To calculate the import charges, i.e. customs duty and VAT, you must start by calculating the customs duty value of your article. The customs duty value is the price of the article plus the freight charge and any transport insurance. Use the customs duty value to calculate the customs duty on the article. You then calculate VAT on the total of the customs duty value and the customs duty.
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 1,700 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.
What is the VAT rate on confectionary?
Confectionary, crisps, chocolate and similar goods are foodstuffs. The rate of VAT on foodstuffs is 12%.
If the confectionary contains ingredients of animal origin, such as dairy products or eggs, you require a permit from the Swedish Board of Agriculture to introduce the goods into Sweden.
Do I have to pay customs duty on goods I use electronically, for example eBooks and streaming services?
Customs duty is paid only on “physical” goods. VAT should already be included in each article’s price.
About Swedish Customs’ role
Why does Swedish Customs put resources into such trivialities as cheap Chinese wares that private individuals buy for their 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).
May I bring in counterfeit and pirate goods?
I want to order CBD oil. Is that permited?
What is the difference if the item I want to buy online is used compared to new?
There is no difference. The same rules and fees apply regardless of whether the product is new or used.
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