Customs clearance guidelines

When sending outside of the EU, your shipment will be subject to customs clearance prior to delivery.
Every country has a customs agency, who are responsible for controlling goods and charging import duty and tax where applicable.

Here's a handy guide for all you need to know about customs.

The clearance process

If you're sending anything other than documents, your shipment will be subject to customs clearance. Most shipments will incur import duty and tax charges which are payable by the recipient.

You will need to prepare paperwork which is called a customs invoice, which declares what items you are shipping, the quantity, the value, and why you're sending them, helps produce this paperwork. Customs will inspect the paperwork you have provided, and then decide how much duty and tax will be payable by the recipient.

However, if the information you provide on your customs documentation is inaccurate or too vague then customs may hold your package and request further information from you or the recipient. This can delay your package for a day or more.

Entering the shipment details

helps you produce all customs documentation, however the information you enter is key to ensuring there are no delays when the goods are cleared through customs.

Enter a clear accurate description
It's important to be as clear and accurate as possible when detailing what you are shipping, otherwise it may lead to delays when clearing customs. For example, instead of saying that your package contains ‘clothes', write ‘Man's t-shirt'.

Things you can do to
reduce customs delays

  1. Make sure you declare every item you are sending.
  2. Make sure you enter accurate quantities.
  3. Always state the reason for export, for example ‘personal effects'.
  4. If you're sending a commercial shipment to a business, then add the recipient tax ID.
  5. Make sure you're not sending any prohibited or restricted items.
  6. Always enter a realistic value that you can justify.
  7. If you are sending gifts or personal effects, the recipient may be required to complete a specific declaration form which you can source from the local customs office in advance of shipping, to speed up the clearance process.
  8. Track your shipment regularly, if you see it stuck in customs, ask the recipient to contact the courier directly.

Reducing the import duty and tax payable by the recipient

There are things you can do to reduce the amount
of duty payable by the recipient:

  • Many countries have exemptions for personal effects and gifts if their value is below a certain level. Check out the exemptions for the country you are shipping to, and make sure the value of goods you are sending is under the threshold.
  • Although you must enter a realistic value, you don't have to enter the purchase cost of the item if it's second-hand. For example, if you're sending an old laptop, you can declare the value as per the realistic resale value of the item as of today.


Can I pay import duty or tax on behalf of the recipient?

When you're sending a gift, you may not want the recipient to have to pay to receive it! If you do not wish for the recipient to pay any customs charges, please contact us in advance of shipping. We can offer a service that enables you to prepay these charges.

How do customs calculate the level of duty and tax?

Every type of item has a tariff code associated with it. The tariff code (sometimes known as a harmonisation code) is a global system maintained by the World Customs Organisation. Each country has a different level of duty and tax assigned to each specific tariff code. In order to calculate the level of duty and tax payable you will first need to establish the tariff code for each product you are shipping.

Find the tariff code for your specific product

How can I check how much tax is payable in advance of shipping?

You will need to contact the customs department of the country you are shipping to, in order to establish the level of duty and taxes payable for the product that you are shipping.

You can also try this handy duty calculator