Probably, the most common concern when shopping on AliExpress is this: “do I have to pay customs?”.
New: you can see AliExpress' official customs explanation by clicking on this link.
The answer is tricky, because it totally depends on the country you live.
For this reason we have prepared this guide where we explain how AliExpress customs work in every country.
In England, according to law, buyers are obliged to pay customs on all packages arriving from other countries.
If you'd like to avoid doing paperwork, you can pay VAT directly through AliExpress if the order is under £135. You'd pay a 20% of the total of the product through the shopping cart, and the Chinese platform will send this amount to the UK Tax Authority, thus exempting you from paying it when it arrives to England.
Now, if the order amount goes beyond the £135 limit, you will have to pay VAT and additionally Import Duties. The carrier will let you know if you have to pay customs when you receive the package. They will send you a bill with the amount you need to pay (approximately 20% of the value of the package + other customs and handling fees).
According to the AliExpress website:
From 11PM 31 December 2020, AliExpress is required by law to collect UK Value-Added Tax (VAT) at the applicable rate and remit to the UK tax authority when goods are sold to UK customers
(i) where the goods are located outside the UK at the point of sale with a consignment value of GBP135 or less, or
(ii) where the goods are in the UK at the point of sale, but sold by an overseas seller.
When it comes to the United States, you can receive orders of up to $800 per day, without worrying about customs costs if no “anti-dumping” measures are applied.
If there's several packages that arrive in customs with an amount superior to $800 on the same day, they can be stopped to see if they exceed said amount. If that's the case, or if your package gets stopped in customs for review, you will receive an “Arrival Notice”.
You can fill in the customs declaration online; you'll get asked for a comercial invoice, details of the content and proof that you've made the payment.
European Union (Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, France…)
Main article: AliExpress EU VAT in 2021
Until July 2021, packages under €22 were exempt from VAT and duties in most countries of the European Union. However, now the “low value” exemption no longer exists and all packages arriving to the European Union will need to pay taxes.
As in other countries, it will be paid directly in the shopping basket. VAT will depend on the country of destination and it will vary between 17% and 27% (for Holland: 21% and for France: 20%).
From €150 onwards, you will have to pay VAT and duties in the country of destination.
You can read our extended post about this topic.
Most small packages don't pay duty in Canada, since many sellers declare a value of less than the CAN $20 value required by regulations. Now, if the package is stopped at Customs, the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) will review the package and determine the customs cost.
If you receive the package through Canada Post, in addition to the customs value, you will have to pay a $9.95 handling fee and in this case, the best and fastest way to pay customs is to do it online, by accesing Canada Post's “track tool”. All you have to do is add the tracking number and you can pay by credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay.
Now, if you happen to disagree with what customs has calculated, you can ask for a readjustment after delivery by contacting the CBSA with an E14 form. You can also refuse to pay customs and inform the carrier that you would like to appeal. If that's the case, then Canada Post will return the package to the CBSA for readjustment.
Now, if the package comes by private courier, usually the customs cost is claimed at the time of delivery, and a handling fee is added which is usually higher.
To save customs cost, you can do the self-clear: reguse delivery and let the courier know that you will pay customs directly to the CBSA. Then, visit the local CBSA office with the tracking number and commercial invoice, plus your ID.
They will give you a receipt that mentions that you have paid customs to the CBSA, give a copy to the private courier either by fax or in person and then they will tell you when the delivery will be made.
In Australia, customs fees are paid directly through AliExpress on purchases under AUD $1000. Usually a 10%, which is applied directly in the shopping cart. AliExpress collects the Australian Goods and Services Tax (GST) and forwards it to the Australian Taxation Office; this way, you avoid having to pay anything when it arrives in Australia.
If your package is worth more than AUD $1000, then you will have to pay customs when the order enters the country (customs will calculate the amount according to the type of product and its price).
You will receive a notification with the documentation you have to provide and the steps to follow. So, if in your shipment tracking the status “in customs” shows up, don't worry, the packages will still go through customs in China and Australia to avoid any illegal material to be sent in the packages.
I have received a notification from customs, what do I do?
If your package has been stopped, you will receive a letter asking you to go to Customs or to provide a check of the payment so they can calculate the customs costs according to the product cost.
Even if the seller has put a lower amount, we recommend you don't play around too much and say the real price of the product, otherwise, customs could price the product higher than what you actually paid, raising the costs.
Can I not accept the package?
Despite online rumors, it is usually a bad idea choosing not to respond to your countries customs letter. When buying from AliExpress, the buyer is responsible for any customs charges, so if the product is returned, it means losing the money for the order.
However, if you are too lazy to do the paperwork and the product is not very expensive, you may be able to pay for it.
As the product will return to the seller if you fail to respond to customs, an alternative could be tryin to reach an agreement with the vendor so he can refund you part of what you paid. Keep in mind that if you do not pay attention to the customs letter your data may be “marked” and future orders could be blocked.
However, this is no tragedy as you can always order things under a friends or family members name.
Do I have to pay customs or import fees?
Yes, the paying customs is the responsibility of the buyer. This is not something exclusive to AliExpress. On all international websites, the buyer is responsible for knowing the customs regulations of his or her country and paying the customs fees in case the package is stopped, since:
- Duties and other taxes are not included when buying unless the seller specifies that the shipment is “tax-free”, i.e. without customs.
- AliExpress purchases normally come from outside your home country and must cross international borders. Each country has its own regulations.
Therefore the buyer is responsible for paying customs fees and doing all the arrangements.
What documentation do I have to submit to clear customs?
The documentation may vary depending on the country, so it is best to read the message that you have received from customs or to ask directly in the post office or customs which papers they need.
In general, a screenshot of the AliExpress product will suffice, showing the tracking number and proof of payment so that customs can check what you are buying.
Customs Terms and Responsibilities at AliExpress
Sometimes, problems with customs can occur and many times you go to our comments section to see what AliExpress will or will not do with your customs problems. Well, here are some tips that the platform recommends about customs conditions and responsibilities:
- Your local post office or customs office can give you more information about customs regulations in your country.
- Customs charges, taxes, or import duties are usually paid directly to the courier company.
- The seller will not be responsible for delays in shipment due to customs.
- Products with domestic shipping offered by some sellers are shipped from your country and are duty-free.
Post Office vs Private Couriers: which one to avoid customs?
Not all shipping methods are the same, as we explain in our Ultimate Guide to AliExpress Shipping Methods. Most free shipping comes through your country's postal system (the same one you usually get letters and invoices from).
This system has the disadvantage of being somewhat slower, but the great advantage is that customs are more easily avoided due to the large volume of packages that have to be processed each day.
After many years of buying from AliExpress, we can attest that private couriers (DHL, FedEx, etc.) usually have custom costs attached to them unless the seller specifically takes care of them.
National warehouses without customs costs
For quite some time now, AliExpress has warehouses all over Europe and America, so you can buy the best Chinese and international products and receive your order in record time without the hassle of customs. You only have to filter your search by choosing the country from which you want to receive your product.
Most of them are shipping through the Cainiao Warehouse shipping method.
Remember that the European Union is a free trade area and all shipments are customs-free.