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AliExpress Customs & Import Taxes

See how customs work on AliExpress orders and what the common problems are. Also, learn how much taxes you need to pay (if any) and what happens if you fail to do so.
Customs & Taxes on AliExpress: Ultimate 2020-2021 Guide

AliExpress has proven itself as a great platform for consumers who want to save some money buying directly from manufacturers. However, with AliExpress shopping being as popular as it is, there are still some questions. For instance, most people are unfamiliar with customs clearance and tax regimes when it comes to Chinese products. 

There are definitely some specifics to keep in mind if you want everything to go smoothly. In this guide, we’ll give detailed information on tax rules depending on where you live, what to expect in terms of AliExpress customs, and how to avoid getting your packaged seized. After reading this, you’ll be well-prepared to make your order.

AliExpress Import Tax: How It Works

Import tax is charged on goods or services purchased from abroad. It varies based on the countries of export and import, the package’s value, product category, etc. 

When buying from overseas, your purchase is regulated by a series of trade regulations issued by the country you live in. It also depends on who you purchased the goods from and the purpose. Since it’s an AliExpress retailer, it will fall under international trade regulations between your country of residence and China. 

There are certain cases when you don’t have to pay import tax, such as when it’s paid by the seller or the total value is below the tariff on imported goods. In other cases, you will probably need to pay extra to get your item delivered internationally. 

Usually, you are automatically informed by the postal service or your courier. They will let you know how much you need to pay, and when it’s due. So, all the details are up to them. The only reason to calculate it is to get a general idea of the final cost for the item.

You can save time by asking your supplier to send the shipping invoice before the delivery. The delivery service will know about the order beforehand. This way, you can pay the charges before the goods arrive in your country.  

AliExpress Import Tax in USA & Canada

AliExpress import tax in the USA falls under several categories. The most relevant category for regular consumers is items with the values below $800. These orders are tax-free. 

Also, thanks to The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, the goods that meet are less than the stated dollar amount of $800 can be exempted from making customs declaration. Under this act, goods that are part of a tariff quota can’t be tax-free: 

  • Clothing (cotton category: 16%)
  • LED products (LED lights: 3.9%)
  • Furniture products (furniture: 1%)
  • Solar products (anti-dumping)

Similar to AliExpress tax in the USA, Canada doesn’t tax packages valued below a certain amount. Only it’s significantly lower – CAN$20. For higher valued goods, the Government of Canada will collect the Goods and Services Tax (GST) a rate of 13%.

Provinces that collect both the GST and the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) are:

  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan

AliExpress Import Tax in Australia

Imported goods in Australia are charged a 10% GST on the price of products. This applies to orders valued at AUD$1,000 or under for product categories, such as books, jeweler, electronic devices, sports equipment, cosmetics, and clothing. There are tariff tables available online where you can check what category you purchase falls into.

The import declaration should be filled by the owner of the imported products. If the purchase has been finalized, it means that documentation is the buyer’s responsibility.

AliExpress Import Tax in Europe

Unsurprisingly, the percentage of import duty is based on the customs value and its HS code. Most products in Europe are in the range between 2% to 6%. 

There are many exceptions. For products that are considered part of an important industry in the European Union, the rate will be much higher. But for products that are not commonly manufactured in the EU (e.g., consumer electronics), the rate tends to lower– sometimes as low as 0%.

Here are some specific examples for AliExpress tax to illustrate the point:

  • Tablet PC: 0%
  • Solar panels: 0%
  • Wristwatches: 4.5% 
  • LED bulb lights: 4.7%
  • Electric bikes: 6%
  • T-shirts: 12%
  • Peanuts: 12.8%

AliExpress Import Tax in Other Countries

Always check with your country’s Customs Agency and trade laws. The rules may change at any time, and you want to only have recent, relevant information. Also, research taxation of specific product categories. For example, most countries have higher tariffs for tobacco, alcohol, and fragrances. 

Your country may have a certain threshold at which you don’t have to pay AliExpress customs fees. But in this case, be prepared for the Customs to request a formal clearance. It means that they suspect the declared value isn’t correct, and you’re avoiding taxes, your package will be sent for detailed examination and evaluation.

If it turns out that you’ve undervalued the goods, it will lead not only to processing delays but also major fines and penalties. 

AliExpress and Customs: How Do They Work?

Depending on your chosen shipping method, your package will be handled slightly differently. AliExpress shipments arrive either via your country’s postal system or private couriers. Both have advantages and disadvantages and require you to have different levels of involvement with customs. 

There is also a scenario where processing and customs costs are taken care of by the seller. But we will focus on the first two methods as they are the most common.

AliExpress & Local Postal Services

When choosing this route, you will be given an identification code that you can enter both on the Chinese platform and your national postal service website. This is the tracking number that tells you where your order is at any given moment. 

Below are status descriptions so that you’re always aware of the package location:

  • Not found. Not necessarily lost, but can’t be located.
  • Waiting for the carrier to pick up. Hasn’t been sent yet.
  • Leaving origin. The original country postal service is ready to ship.
  • Arrived at destination. The package is in the destination country and the carrier is about to deliver it.
  • Undelivered. It can be missed delivery, wrong address, the address that the carrier doesn’t deliver to, etc.
  • Security check failed. Perhaps, the package was deemed dangerous, counterfeit, or unsafe in some other way.
  • Delivered. The parcel delivery is complete.

If there are no issues, you don’t need to do anything extra – the order will arrive at your local post office for you to pick it up (as long as the relevant taxes are paid). 

AliExpress & Private Couriers

Private couriers work directly with the Customs Agency, which verifies the packages and required authorizations and documentation. On all stages of delivery, you can also view updates through your chosen service. The specific terms may not be the same, but the overall steps and statuses remain as is.

You can also ask for an estimated courier delivery time or any other information regarding your package. Private companies usually have to deal with lower package volumes compared to postal services. Therefore, they should be more responsive and stay with you in closer contact to handle taxes and customs.

How to Find Out If Your Package Is Stuck at Customs

We’ve briefly discussed that if your package can’t be delivered to you for some reason, it will be shown on your tracking status. Alternatively, your private delivery service should let you know. Sometimes you are also sent an email or phone notifications.

Your order status is also displayed on your AliExpress personal account. Sign in and enter the tracking number in the following format: 

2 letters + 9 digits + 2 letters indicating the country of origin (usually CN – China). For example SB771609490CN.

The easiest thing is to stay in touch with your delivery service. Contact them when the package due date has passed (depends on where you live) and ask for more detail.

Why a Package Could Be Blocked by Customs

There can be a number of reasons why packages are delayed or taken during the clearance process. The most common of them is having an issue of documentation. Countries may specify the format of the documents, the number of copies you need to submit, their language, and other details required. 

Perhaps the invoice is missing any of the following information:

  • The seller, buyer, and shipper details
  • Invoice number and the date of shipment
  • Mode of transport and the carrier
  • Itemized list of what will ship separately
  • Type of packages, such as a box, crate, drum, or cartoon, and the number of packages
  • Total net and gross weight (in kilograms/pounds)

Documents required for international shipping that customs also look at are airway bill, bill of lading, or export licenses. 

Some countries also require certificates of origin, especially for specific goods (dangerous goods certificate, Halal certificate (for some Middle Eastern Countries), insurance certificate, or dock receipts). It’s unlikely that you’ll need them for generic AliExpress purchases, but it’s something to keep in mind.

The package could be blocked if the declared price doesn’t match the real value of the product. This violates international agreements and may cause you some trouble. Remember that deliberately choosing to undervalue the package isn’t worth it. 

Lastly, we’d like to group other common reasons as restricted or prohibited items. Your package can be stopped it contains:

  • Illegal items in the destination country (medicines & prescription drugs, seeds of illegal plants, cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, firearms, products coming from endangered animals, etc.)
  • Items with micro-organisms that can affect life in the destination country
  • Items that are against the domestic interests in the destination country (both for people and industries)
  • Restricted products that require proper checks.

What to Do If the Package Is Blocked by Customs?

A very common problem is when the package contents don’t match the customs declaration. In this case, you should provide the correct names, quantity, and declared value. But bear in mind that you’re likely to have to pay fees and fines for the package to be released. 

The Customs Office will also ask for proof of purchase (printouts of the order and shipment confirmation emails, receipts, invoices, printouts of your bank/PayPal account activity history, etc.), tracking number, etc. Follow their instructions as the proceeding differs depending on what the issue is. 

Here are general guidelines for what you should do when your package is held at customs:

  1. Contact your carrier to find out the order status.
  2. Call the local customs service that deals with imports.
  3. See if there are outstanding taxes. 
  4. Make sure there is no missing or incorrect paperwork.
  5. Verify whether the item is legal to ship to your country.
  6. Submit additional info to the Customs if needed.
  7. Wait.

Depending on why your package is blocked by customs, you will or will not be able to retrieve your package. For example, if the problem is with documentation, you can ask your seller to provide it or submit it yourself. But if there is a more serious issue (such as counterfeit or illegal goods), you will have to accept it.As long as you know why packages can potentially be seized, you’ll be able to avoid such issues. Also, remember to check your local regulations for orders coming from China, how they are declared and taxed. This way, you should have a great experience shopping on this platform.

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