What you need to know when ordering stuff abroad

By Dmitry Kann 2 min read
This post  in Russian

If you like ordering cheap gadgets and other stuff from AliExpress (and similar online stores) like I do, you may find this useful.

For all shipments originating from within the EU no extra charges are to be paid in the Netherlands.

For all other countries, the Dutch customs regulation establishes a duty-free threshold of € 22 per package.

This can be summarised in the following table:

Shipment kindDeclared valueVATCustoms dutyProcessing cost
EU countries
• PurchaseAnyNoNoNo
Other countries
• PurchaseUp to € 22NoNoNo
• Purchase€ 22…150YesNo€ 13
• PurchaseAbove € 150YesYes€ 13
• GiftUp to € 45NoNoNo


You’ll have to pay the VAT for all packages valued € 22 (excluding shipping costs and/or insurance) and above.

In case the VAT is to be paid, it’s calculated, as usual, based on the kind of the item:

  • Low rate, 9%: food, water, agricultural goods, medicine, art items, books, and periodicals.
  • Standard rate, 21%: all other items.

Customs duty

A duty is to be paid for all packages valued above € 150. This one is a bit more complicated because the rate is defined per item category.

Dutch Tax Office provides the following examples:

CategoryCustoms duty
Headphones and mikes0…2%
Coffers and bags0…3.7%
Shoes and boots3.5…17%
Car and bike parts3…4.5%
Watches4.5% (€ 0.30…0.80/piece)

So, for instance, if you buy an item worth € 21.95, you’ll pay exactly that amount. But if your item costs € 22.50, the total price will all of a sudden soar to 22.50 + 13 + (22.50 × 0.21) = € 40.23.

This is something to consider when ordering stuff. Chinese sellers at AliExpress, DealExtreme, eBay often set the value at some very low figure. Others (e.g. iHerb) usually declare the real value of the package, and sometimes you’ll be better off splitting your order in two and paying the shipping costs twice.

Also, some AliExpress sellers offer shipping from an EU warehouse, in which case all taxes and duties have already been paid and the buyer only pays the face value. ■

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