My AliExpress product is “held by customs”, what should I do?

If your package has been held up in customs (or you're not sure if it has been held up) and you don't know what to do, you've come to the right place. Although most packages manage to avoid AliExpress customs, it's not always that way. What do you have to do? How do you pay customs? And most importantly, how much will you have to pay?

In the AliExpress help section the information about paying customs is somewhat limited, as you can see here, so below we will answer all your questions and give you useful tips in case you want to avoid paying customs.

How do I know if my order is being held at customs?

Most commonly, we find out that our package is in customs when we are contacted for documentation or when the letter carrier asks us to pay customs. We can also find out when we check the tracking number, when a customs message appears.

Be careful, that your order is in customs does not mean that you have to pay, there are some order statuses that simply inform us that the package has entered or left customs, without implying that it has been retained, for example:

  • Clearing customs.
  • Export clearance success.
  • Import clearance success.
  • Started customs clearance process.
  • Cleared customs.
  • Released from customs: customs cleared.

On the other hand, if any of these messages appear, we can begin to suspect that we will have to pay taxes:

  • Held by customs.
  • Import clearance failure.
  • Item held by customs.
  • Awaiting customs clearance.
  • Item presented to customs.
  • Custom problem.

When do I have to pay customs?

The answer is tricky, because it totally depends on the country you live. However, we'll give you a summary depending on the country. If you'd like to know all about this topic, you can check our article on AliExpress Customs.

Customs in the UK

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.

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.

Customs in the United States

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”.

Customs in the European Union (Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, France…)

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%, especially if the package exceedes the €150 mark.

Customs in Canada

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.

Customs in Australia

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.

Now, if your package is worth more than AUD $1000, then you will have to pay customs when the order enters the country.

I have received a customs notification, what do I do?

If your package has been stopped, you will receive a letter asking you to go to customs or asking for a verification of the payment of the product in order to calculate the customs costs according to what the product has cost.

Even if the seller has put a lower amount, we recommend you not to take a gamble and say the real price of the product, otherwise customs could make an assessment and it will probably be above what you paid, raising the costs.

Can I refuse the package?

Despite what you may have heard, it is not always a good idea not to respond to your country's customs letter to have the product returned to the seller. When buying on AliExpress, the buyer is responsible for any customs charges, so “bypassing everything” means losing the money for the order.

However, if you are too lazy to do the paperwork and the product is not very expensive, it might be worth it.

On the other hand, if you ignore the letter, the product will return to the seller, so you may be able to reach an agreement with him and get a refund of part of what you paid. Keep in mind that if you ignore the letter from customs your data may be “marked”, so from now on they will block your orders.

All in all, this is not a tragedy because you can always order things in the name of a friend or relative.

Do I have to pay customs or import duties?

Yes, the customs payment is paid by the buyer. This is not something exclusive to AliExpress. In all international websites who buys is responsible for knowing the customs regulations of their country and pay the customs costs in case you stop the package, because:

  • Duties and other taxes are not included in the purchase unless the seller specifies that the shipment is “tax free”.
  • AliExpress purchases usually come from outside your home country and have to cross international borders. Each country has its own regulations.

Therefore the buyer is responsible for paying the customs fees and making all the formalities.

What documentation do I need to submit for customs clearance?

The documentation may vary from country to country, so it is best to read the message you receive from customs or ask directly to the courier or customs what papers they need. In general, a screenshot of the product from AliExpress with the tracking number and proof of payment will be enough for customs to check what you are buying.

Customs conditions and responsibilities on AliExpress

Sometimes, problems with customs can happen and many times you come to our comments section to ask what AliExpress will or will not do with your customs problems. Well, here are some tips recommended by the platform on customs conditions and responsibilities:

  • Your local post office or customs office can give you more information about your country's customs regulations.
  • Customs, taxes or import charges are usually paid directly to the courier company.
  • The seller will not be responsible for delays in shipping due to customs.
  • Products with domestic shipping offered by some sellers are shipped from your country and are customs free.

In short, is it worth paying customs to buy on AliExpress?

Our experience as AliExpress buyers shows that if you have the necessary information, you can buy with complete peace of mind on AliExpress. As you have been able to see, almost all countries allow the purchase of products of small value without having to do too much paperwork.

And in the case of buying products of higher value, the advantage is that the price will be so low compared to our country that it is still worth it, because surely in our country the seller pays the import taxes and also applies a profit margin.

It is certainly very important to be aware of how customs work, how they should be paid and what you can do to claim in case the customs calculation has not been done properly.

Remember that in order to pay customs you will need certain documentation such as the AliExpress invoice and it may also be important to contact the AliExpress seller to get it.

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