Guide to Paying Customs & Taxes on Orders from China

Buying online from Chinese stores and shopping portals is very simple. Add your favorite products into cart, add your shipping address and pay by Credit Card or Paypal or other payment method. It’s just like any other domestic online order, with one exception: in rare cases your parcel might be checked by customs or duty office and you may be charged duty tax or VAT. But don’t worry, declaring your customs is easy and it will take you just five minutes if you know how to do it. Read our guide on what to do when you receive customs notice and how to pay import taxes.

Know your local customs regulation

Customs regulation vary from country to country and even from state to state in case of United States, so if you want to check precise rates of potential customs, you need to check in your national customs office. Here are some examples  from two largest importers – European Union and United States.

European Union

  • Computers: 0%
  • Tablets: 0%
  • Mobile Phones: 0%
  • Tea: 3%
  • Leather Gloves: 4%
  • Led Bulb Lights: 4.7%

United States:

  • Mobile Phones: 0%
  • Tablets: 0%
  • Leather Gloves: 3%
  • Artificial fur articles: 6,5%

As you can see, rates vary depending on category, however they are not that large and in case of popular products like smartphones and tablets, actual tax are 0%. In addition, items imported from China to EU countries are subject to VAT (Value Added Tax) which varies in EU countries. Typically, VAT are about 20% (UK), but might be as much as 25% (Denmark).

Do I need pay customs tax for my every order from Chinese store

Absolutely not! Only some random parcels are checked by customs office and depending on country, this number is typically less than 2%. This means that there is very low probability that your order would be subjected to this tax, and even if you buy a lot from GearBest its unlikely that you will get customs notice, especially if your parcel was declared as a “Gift” which Chinese sellers do all the time.

Additionaly, if your order has low value, it is wholly exempted from taxes. In European Union this amounts to 22 euro (if purchase) or 45 euro (if “gift”). United States are much more generous in this regards: item value exempted from tax is up to $800, however CBP (Customs and Border Protection agency) reserves right to check every parcel and demand proof of payment from buyer, which happens from time to time.

So how to pay duty tax for my order?

As stated earlier, you don’t need to pay anything unless you receive customs notice, which would official letter sent to your recipient address and which would contain customs declaration form for you to fill. Just like tax rates vary from country to country, duty forms also differs depending on  local custom office. However, the common  thing in case of buying from Chinese portals is that you are always asked for three documents: tax form itself, purchase proof and payment proof.

First one – tax form typically contains table that you are filling with your order details: what you have bought, how much have you paid for it, what was the shipping costs and if it was gift or purchase.

Purchase proof can be obtained from your account panel in store that you have made your purchase. It should contain details of your order: product name, shipping costs, any discounts that you have got and total price paid.

gearbest- order proof

You can obtain Purchase proof from GearBest by clicking Order Number in My Account – My Orders panel. 

Payment proof can be obtained depending on payment method used for purchase. If you made PayPal payment, log into your PayPal account, search for transaction in question and pick “Print details” to print it out and attach to duty form. If you’ve paid by Credit Card, obtain CC payment proof either by logging into your bank online account system or if you don’t have such access, by going directly into your bank branch and asking for proof of this payment.

And that’s all. If you now have those three documents: filled duty form, purchase proof, payment proof, you can send it back to your customs office. Luckily, many tax offices are allowing to do it through e-mail, so you can send these documents back to e-mail address indicated on duty form. If no e-mail is provided, you need to send it through normal surface mail. We suggest sending it as a registered mail, because you will have proof that you’ve actually sent it, in case it is accidentally lost by post office.

Duty payment and parcel release

If you’ve made everything right, in a few days or at most two weeks your package from China will be released and delivered to your address. If customs office charged duty tax, you will receive fee notification, which can be usually paid directly to postman delivering your parcel or at the post office. If you’ve paid it, you have fulfilled your duty obligation and that’s it – you can unbox your package and enjoy your new item delivered straight from China.

More tips on customs & duty when ordering from China

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  • Don’ t buy fake branded goods, it’s not worth it. Counterfeit Nike Air Max shoes, Rolex watches or Louis Vuitton handbags are popular with some buyers and there are some Chinese sellers that offer it. If customs office checks your counterfeit parcel, you can be in trouble.
  • Some items can’t be imported without special permits, which depends on country. For example diary & meat products can’t be normally sent to EU and United States and you can be even fined if customs officer discover that your order contained forbidden products. Another example of at least partially forbidden items are knives, which might be regarded as a weapon. Check your local regulation if you are not sure.
  • If you have any doubts or questions about your duty tax, don’t ask shop customer service. Chinese sellers and shop staff that handled your order simply don’t know what your local tax regulation are and in worst case they can even misinform you. Google your local customs agency phone number or e-mail and contact them to clarify everything.


Do you have interesting stories or comments regarding shopping from China and paying taxes? Let us know!

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