Customs charges on gifts sent from abroad

182 posts in this topic

I know it sucks - I'm in the same boat. What I do instead is suggest that friends and family who want to buy presents for my son order on amazon.de (if they can navigate the site with Chrome auto-translate on) or, alternatively, amazon.co.uk. Unfortunately, many other online retailers in Germany (or at least their merchant banks) refuse to accept U.S. credit cards, probably due to fear of credit card fraud, but I've never had any trouble with Amazon.

 

This works both ways, of course: I bought my mom a digital picture frame from Macy's online a couple years back and had an incredible amount of trouble getting them to accept my Deutsche Bank credit card. I was fortunate that I finally got a customer service manager who knew what she was doing and managed to convince her that I was not a fraudster, but rather just an ex-pat who wanted to give his mom a present.

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I was once summoned to the Zollamt to collect a birthday gift of earrings with pretty green stones. They were in a small round presentation box on the bottom of which was attached a price tag of $1.99. Did that guy look disappointed. Pity he can't tell the difference between glass and the real thing though... :ph34r:

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Shipping is taxed because the duties are calculated based on the cost of goods delivered (which includes shipping charges). We may not like it, but it's the global standard.

 

Are you sure that shipping is included when they calculate the taxes?

 

I'm into craft beer scene and I collect/trade beer from all over the world. I recently received two packages from the States (weighing between 15-20Kg).

The shipping costs were 150+ USD, but the content value was declared at 40USD and it was marked as gift.

 

1 package came to my house with no problem, for the second I had to go to the custom office, we opened the package I told them that I just collect bottles (and that 15 bottles of beer don't cost that much) and they let me go with no problem.

 

The same goes for the packages I sent to the USA even though the shipping costs were outrageous, I declared the value at about 40 USD and they didn't have to pay any import taxes.

 

Did the fact that the packages came from an individual and not from a shop, play an important role or was I just lucky?

 

Cheers,

 

Alex

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My SIL did try to order from Amazon.co.uk (.de was too much for her as she doesn't know a word of german) for both kids, but the present for my son couldn't be shipped outside the UK (I don't know if that was b/c of the vendor, or not). It was for Geotrax, which aren't sold here (it is a Fischer Price modular train system that is pretty cool...her son has a lot of it and she thought Max needed it too). In the future though, I will encourage her to only order from .co.uk to make all of our lives easier :)

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Just before Christmas the DHL guy came with a box from family in the states. He gave me a funny grin and said, "Um, there's money due on this one." I'm used to paying zoll so it wasn't a surprise. He said, "I need €2,087 ... in cash." My jaw dropped of course and he said he'd never seen a charge this high before.

 

My family had overnighted the box (costing a crazy $250) that contained a declared $180 in gifts. The form said the charge wasn't zoll it was "sonstige" (other). He called his supervisor on the spot and she said she had no idea what it was and couldn't do anything about it. Our only option was to refuse delivery and hopefully it would make its way back to the States.

 

On the family side, they went to DHL with the story and was told the U.S. office has no control over what other countries charge in tax or other charges, sorry, SOL.

 

Currently we're waiting for the box to make it's way back to California, when hopefully my family can get a refund for their $250 in shipping charges because we're guessing this was a clerical error and someone moved a decimal point, which turned €20.87 into €2000.87.

 

Anyone have an experience like this?

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What I do instead is suggest that friends and family who want to buy presents for my son order on amazon.de (if they can navigate the site with Chrome auto-translate on) or, alternatively, amazon.co.uk. ...

 

Ah, good idea using amazon. co.uk! I don't think I could get her to navigate the .de site.

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BTW, to give some hope, they didn't try to charge taxes at all, even though they technically could have. They just asked what was in the package and for my hubby to open it. So, good things can happen at the zollamt :)

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My Christmas package from Australia went straight through without any problems - I picked it up from the local post office, even though the postage cost should probably have nudged the customs limit (the package contents were 90% edible, so they weren't particularly valuable, but airmail from Oz i alwazs fairly pricey). It seems fairly random, as a previous package (entirely of work-related papers) went directly to the Zollamt. (When I opened it, though, I didn't have to pay.)

 

I do get the impression that things are a bit more relaxed in middle-sized-city Niedersachsen than in Bavaria, though!

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My family had overnighted the box (costing a crazy $250) that contained a declared $180 in gifts. The form said the charge wasn't zoll it was "sonstige" (other). He called his supervisor on the spot and she said she had no idea what it was and couldn't do anything about it. Our only option was to refuse delivery and hopefully it would make its way back to the States.

 

If this was a customs charge then you should have been given the the option to return it to the customs office and take over processing (or clarification of any issues) yourself locally. The local courier is only acting as your agent for the customs clearance and can be devolved of this responsibility at any time in the delivery chain. It could take a while to get it back to the sender as they use the cheapest (=slowest) route to return it, and you will also have to argue for the return of the shipping costs as well as the cost for likely re-send.

 

 

Ah, good idea using amazon. co.uk! I don't think I could get her to navigate the .de site.

 

Most items ordered on amazon.co.uk for delivery to a European address are shipped from Luxembourg, so there is barely a delay in delivery either, nor are the costs particularly high.

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Thanks Lad6,

 

Actually they wouldn't even let me touch or photograph the box at all without forking over €2k. The only option they said was to refuse delivery.

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I had the pleasure of going two times to customs for a gift package. Mine were sent from Turkey though. The customs officer told me that the allowed gift value limit (where you cannot provide an invoice) is 45 Euro. Anything above that is charged. This applies to all countries outside the EU. Electronic goods are not included.

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This applies to all countries outside the EU. Electronic goods are not included.

Just for clarification.. They are not included in THIS Tariff. They are however still charged Import/VAT just at

a different class/tariff.

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Hey guys,

 

I had this problem when I order something from the U.S. I dont mind paying the charges for this. But my friend is going to be sending me her second hand Iphone from Australia, will I get charged for this? Is there anyway around it?

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Yes you will be charged even on used items especially an iphone. I believe if you cannot establish a value they assign a going market value to the item.

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On gifts only 45 euro is tax free. thats not going to fly for the iphone.

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Customs will only charge you for what you have an invoice on. If you have no invoice on a valuable item, they will charge you fair market value for Germany for that item. So, if you had an invoice, say from Ebay or Paypal for an item like a used iPhone, they have to accept such an invoice.

 

On the other side, if there is no customs declaration on the package with the value of the item, then you will have to go to the customs office and prove its value. I just had to do this with documents from the US on which my lawyer had placed a document generation value. I came with my attorney's invoice and opened the package and wasn't charged anything.

 

My advice: make sure the package has a declaration value and that you have some kind of invoice.

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It's value (declared or perceived) plus shipping costs that they use as the basis to establish duty and tax...

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The only possible way around it is if you are a recent arrival (within the last 12 months) and could claim that someone is sending you your personal property, which you have owned for at least six months, after the fact (this is called Übersiedlungsgut). This is verified based on receipts, etc. (more information - in German - at this link).

 

So if you could produce an invoice from Australia in your name, dated at least six months ago - perhaps combined with a believable story that you left the phone at their house just before you left, and it just turned up recently - then that would be a potential loophole. The question is whether it is worth all that trouble just to avoid €50-60 in customs charges.

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So my mom sent me some freeze pops, because the German flavor just aren't the same, and put the price as less than 45 Euros, gift. She sent it FedEx, but since my dad works for FedEx, he gets a crazy discount for shipping (one that makes it reasonable to ship 5lbs of popsicles to a daughter in Germany). I got charged tax for the shipping, which they said was enough to put the cost of the package over 45. Is it worth it to fight this? I'll pay the 9 euro or whatever, its not a big deal, but is there a way I can avoid it in the future?

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