Charges on packages sent to Denmark from outside the EU – beware!

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collage-2014-09-22Imagine this: your mother has announced that your birthday package is on its way and while you wait for its arrival from India (or the United States or Korea or…), you anticipate the taste of the food items you’ve been craving, picture how a pair of jeans she ordered for you is going to look, and eagerly await the few products you haven’t been able to find in Denmark. But then, instead of a box, you receive a letter from the Danish Post informing you that your box is being held at the post office and that you must pay more than 300kr. to retrieve it. Say what?

The fact of the matter is that if you buy anything online (or over the phone) from outside the EU or receive a gift from someone residing outside the EU your package may be subject to VAT, customs duties, and import fees on top of the price of the items and shipping. Whether – and how much – you are charged depends on the value of the goods inside the package. Keep in mind – THIS IS ONLY RELEVANT FOR PACKAGES FROM OUTSIDE THE EU.

If you buy something online, it does not matter which site you use to order your items – if they are shipped from outside the EU, the package is subject to extra charges. Here is how warns its customers of this, IF they happen to notice the link in tiny print below the ‘Order total’ and button to ‘Place your order’:

The recipient of an international shipment may be subject to such import taxes, customs duties and fees, which are levied once a shipment reaches the recipient’s country. Additional charges for customs clearance must be borne by the recipient; we have no control over these charges and can’t predict what they may be. Customs policies vary widely from country to country; you should contact your local customs office for more information. When customs clearance procedures are required, it can cause delays beyond our original delivery estimates.

Here are the guidelines for items purchased (online, by phone, etc.), based on the value of the contents (please note that no distinction is made between new and used items):

  • Under 80 DKK: no charge
  • 80 – 1.150 DKK: 25% VAT + import fees
  • Over 1.150 DKK: 25% VAT + customs duty + import fees

Here are the guidelines for items received as a gift, i.e. ONLY private individual to private individual where no money is exchanged:

  • Under 360 DKK: no charge
  • 360 – 1,150 DKK: 25% VAT + import fees
  • Over 1,150 DKK: 2.5% customs duty + 25% VAT + import fees (click here to see this information in Danish)

For items you buy online that are worth more than a total of 1,150 DKK, the amount of customs duty you have to pay depends on the type of good it is (unlike gifts, which are subject to a fixed 2.5% customs duty no matter what the items are). There is a very long list of the various types of items and the percentage of the value you must pay on top, e.g. ‘musical instruments with keys, including pianos, synthesizers, organs, digital keyboards but NOT harmonicas: 3.2%’ and ‘pants/jeans: 12%’, which you can find here. (However, as the authors of the site admit, this is only a list of the most popular items and it is subject to change at any given time; for the most up-to-date, precise information you may have to contact SKAT.)

Import fees are fixed. Danish Post charges a straight 160 DKK, including VAT, whether your purchase is worth 81 DKK or 5,000 DKK. For packages delivered by DHL, the import fee is 100 DKK on goods worth more than 80 DKK. And for UPS, the import fee is 150 DKK (however, the man at UPS with whom I spoke said they include shipping costs in the 80 DKK limit, which means that an item worth 40 DKK shipped at a cost of 41 DKK will incur the 150 DKK import fee. This is NOT true of Danish Post.) These import fees are levied as explained by Post Nord here (this is a translation from Danish in the question ‘Køber du varer eller modtager gaver fra lande uden fra EU?’):

For the importation of goods by post, we have the obligation to declare these items to the tax (SKAT) authorities. To cover the cost of this work we charge an import fee of 160 kr. on shipments exceeding the max value limit for purchases and gifts.

Here is a very good example of what a purchase shipped from outside the EU and delivered by the Danish Post will have cost you by the time you have it in your hands (provided by this helpful site):

You order a pair of jeans from the US. They are worth 1,500 DKK and to ship them to Denmark costs you 50 DKK.

The customs duty is 12% of the product value and shipping, i.e. (1,500 + 50) * 0.12 = 186 DKK.

VAT accounts for 25% of the product value + shipping + customs, i.e. (1500 + 50 + 186) * 0.25 = 434 DKK.

The Danish Post import fee is 160 DKK.

So you will be charged 780 DKK by SKAT and Danish Post to get the jeans to Denmark. The total, therefore, for the pair of jeans is 2,325 DKK.

If you have any personal experience with this, please write about it in a comment below. I have heard from several friends and acquaintances that sometimes packages ‘slip through’, meaning they haven’t had to pay extra packages worth well over the limit. It would be interesting to know more about that, although to be safe you should always assume you will be charged…


40 thoughts on “Charges on packages sent to Denmark from outside the EU – beware!

    Inma Vp said:
    September 23, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Indeed Sarah! Unfortunately I had such a bad experience with and the SKAT taxes here in Denmark. I think we would also have some information at the International Citizen Service and Aalborg Townhall, because it is difficult to get aware of this issues in advance. Thank you so much for talking about it and explaining in deep in your artilce. A great one!

      sarahinjylland responded:
      September 23, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Inma, and for alerting me to the issue in the first place! I can understand why it came as such a shock to you when you received your bill from the Danish Post… 😦

    AudioShop said:
    November 25, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Is there a more concise list of Denmark import costs ?

    Mimi said:
    March 19, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    I’m so uncertain about sending gifts to my family just outside of Aalborg. My mother passed away and I must gift some things to the family, but I’m terrified to send them. With all the conflicting information out there, the enormous fees, the possibility for theft, I believe I’ll just bring the items with me when I visit. What I don’t understand is, how can the gov’t charge the recipient for a gift they don’t know they’re going to receive? It seems very unfriendly to me.

      sarahinjylland responded:
      March 19, 2016 at 9:44 pm

      I empathize, Mimi. I wish it were different…

        Mimi said:
        March 19, 2016 at 10:25 pm

        It’s all so contrary to Danish mentality. Honest, loyal, hard working, intelligent yet, theft from the postal service is rampant. Why shouldn’t I be able to give items to family through inheritance without worrying that a Danish worker will steal it. It’s not like the good old days anymore.

        Honestly, it makes me ill.

        Now I have to find out if they’re going to limit what I can bring into the country. Nauseating.

        Qovie (@Qovie) said:
        December 4, 2016 at 12:21 am

        “…..a Danish worker will steal it.”

        This is highly unlikely, bordering on improbable.

        The most likely scenario if your package doesn’t arrive, is when your package is confiscated by the postal service. Because a large number of items that would ordinarily be allowed into any European country by post are banned in Denmark. Or taxed at an exorbitant rate.

        So they are usually confiscated and sent to be incinerated or auctioned if no one files a complaint. One has be very carefully to ensure that the goods they are about to ship can be sent via post. Ideally use a courier like DHL.

    Donna Faught said:
    May 19, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    I am sending 2 pair of compression socks rom the US to a friend in Denmark. Socks cost $20. Can someone tell me approximately how much the Denmark import fees will be.

      sarahinjylland responded:
      May 20, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Hi Donna – if you are declaring them as gift, and they only cost USD20, which is equivalent to DKK132 at the moment, then you don’t have to worry about taxes or fees. Send away!

    Phuong Anh Nguyenová said:
    July 25, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Hi, I am planning to order some good from US . The package should be shipped through DHL. Is the import fee then 100DK ? Is it applied for all orders no matter which amount?

      sarahinjylland responded:
      August 2, 2016 at 10:20 am

      As far as I know, if the item/s you ordered are worth more than 80DKK, you will be charged 100DKK to be shipped here by DHL. You will also have to pay VAT if they’re worth more than 80DKK and if the value is more than 1150DKK, customs duty as well. Hope that helps!!

    sdaze said:
    August 9, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    my boyfriend sent a gift from Australia, and declared value was 30 aud. as stated here you wont be charged if it is a gift as long as price is under 360kr. but they summed up the shipping cost around 80.75 aud and charged me 306kr for the chocolates! which was too much. I sent a tax refund to SKAT about it, and so far they have asked for the Tax receipt Ive paid, so they can decide about it. Hopefully I get a refund. has anyone here experienced same thing and was able to get a refund?

      sarahinjylland responded:
      August 9, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      Wow. I’m sorry to hear your story. Even if they added the shipping cost to the value of the gift, the total is under the limit. Did it arrive via Danish Post? I do hope you get your money back..

    […] a lot – oh and see my post about buying things and having them shipped from outside the EU here) or buy an electronic reader like the Kindle (expensive to import.) Here’s another idea! A […]

    A.King said:
    February 14, 2017 at 3:08 am

    Hi, I am planning to send a gift to my loved one, from Malaysia to Denmark. Item costs 80MYR = 126DKK. Shipping charges from Malaysia on the other hand, costs around 450-500DKK. My questions are, does the danish custom combine both the gift and shipping cost, and then tax us? because to my understanding from your article above, just the gift (item), anything below 360DKK there is no charge. Hope for a further explanation from you. Thanks!

      sarahinjylland responded:
      February 14, 2017 at 7:58 am

      They only look at the value of the items – they do not look at shipping costs when calculating tax.

        A.King said:
        February 14, 2017 at 10:34 am

        Great. Thanks for your reply. So, how would they know of the value of the item(s)? Do I have to give a copy of the purchase receipt? (It is my first time sending a package overseas btw)

        sarahinjylland responded:
        February 14, 2017 at 10:57 am

        Normally the post office will require you to fill out a slip with the contents of the box, which they then tape to the outside of the box so the customs officials can see what is inside. On this slip you also have to write the value of each item. That is how they know.

    COTTA StudiosTM said:
    February 27, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    The value of these fees represent a shameful form of government stealing money. Nowadays these values are no longer justified.
    What is 80dkk? Nothing. The free taxs import limit is 263DKK. For a country with a cost of living as high as Denmark, the value should be the double that of Spain.
    For a Country so developed this is still an archaic form of tax.

    GWood said:
    July 7, 2017 at 1:06 am

    I’m hoping you will respond, as I live in the US and our postal service does not know why this has happened. I sent a package to DK and have traced it through the system as I always do. I saw yesterday a message I’ve never had occur. It said (in misspelled English) “A surcharge has been added to your goods. In the next 1-2 days you will get an invoice. We will send you the shipment when the inoice has been payed.”: So I’m assuming the receiver will have to pay whatever surcharge there is? How can I find out and pay it?

      sarahinjylland responded:
      July 7, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      Hello there – I have never heard of a message being sent to the sender about a package delivered to Denmark. But I don’t understand the situation, either – you sent a package to DK from the US? Or the other way around? Why would you receive a message that the shipment will be sent to you if you sent the package? This doesn’t make any sense. Please clarify, as possible. Where was this message? In an email? If so, it is clearly illegitimate.

    Ranesha said:
    July 31, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Hi there I’m planning to buy hair dyes product from Amazon US to Denmark for only 310 DKK. I want to know will I still be charged with all the things above that you mentioned? Or they would not charge me at all? I would be so happy if you could reply me. Thank you.

      sarahinjylland responded:
      August 1, 2017 at 6:28 am

      Hi Ranesha – officially your purchase is in the price bracket that you could be charged 25%VAT plus import duties. But as I explained at the end, packages also ‘slip through’. So it’s impossible to say what will happen. That’s the best I can do for you!

    Tina said:
    August 12, 2017 at 6:55 am

    Hello, I have a question regarding online shopping. If I buy something on sale for less than 80DKK but the actual price of the item is above 80DKK, will I still be charged by VAT + import duties? Thanks in advanced.

      sarahinjylland responded:
      August 12, 2017 at 8:43 am

      The price taken into account is the actual price you paid – not the non-sale price. In other words, whatever the receipt in the box shows….

    Bhargav said:
    August 29, 2017 at 9:14 am

    HI i ordered a bag from US and the rain cover was faulty. SO the company sent me a new one (for Free) and now I have to pay 30 USD (160 DKK-PostNord Handling Fee) to get that even though it was sent as a gift. The SKAT cannot reimburse me anything. Anybody has any idea how can i escape from this extra charges ?

      sarahinjylland responded:
      August 29, 2017 at 9:47 am

      Hi there – No. I have no tips. I don’t think there is any way around it, to be honest. Was it posted as a gift? I mean, on the declaration form on the outside of the box? Even if it was, if the amount was over the threshold you have to pay. It doesn’t make any difference to PostNord or SKAT whether it was a replacement for something. I’m sorry!

        Bhargav said:
        August 29, 2017 at 10:28 am

        Thanks Sarah. Yeah it was mentioned on the box as a gift. I guess I have to pay it 😦

    David Carter said:
    August 31, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Hello, if i was to order a large shipment of good via boat from China for a value of around 8000dkk may i ask what % tax this would be? would it stand that i would need to pay:

    2.5% customs duty + 25% VAT + import fees (160dkk) = 27,5% plus 160dkk?

    Is this correct to assume?

    thank you in advance for the help!

      sarahinjylland responded:
      August 31, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      Hi David – I assume this is not a gift you are talking about. What you pay in customs duty depends on what kind of items you have ordered. Please see the paragraph that includes the link on customs duty rates depending on item type. So no – I can’t say that is correct to assume. You’ll have to check that website first. Good luck!

    John said:
    September 4, 2017 at 9:11 am

    I have been buying small items from China and other non EU countries for several years. I my experience, Post Danmark did used to let packages through without costs until about a year ago, when suddenly every package close tro the limit was held up and evidence of purchase asked for. And, again in my experience, they included postage costs. My guess is this reflects Post Nord’s financial difficulties – that 160 kr is too good to miss. Sometimes it makes sense to import the item to another EU country where the rules are different, or less stringently enforced, and then have the item forwarded with the EU without charges.

      sarahinjylland responded:
      September 4, 2017 at 11:56 am

      Thank you for this comment, John.

    S. MUHSEN said:
    October 31, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Hi ,I wont to order an item from outside EU , in USA ,the item price:is $89.98 + Shipping & Import Fees Deposit to Denmark $99.08 tottaly 189,.USD I would like to ask you please ´Are there any additional charges ?
    Thank you for your help 😊

      S. MUHSEN said:
      October 31, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      Sorry I want to order !😊

    sarahinjylland responded:
    October 31, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    An item of $89.98 falls within the middle group – so 25% VAT plus import fees. That means $112.48 + import fee, which depends on the delivery company. I have not heard of a sender charging an ‘import fees deposit.’ Unless they know already the company that will deliver it. But a deposit? That sounds strange. In any case, there should be no customs duty. If you buy the item, please let us know how it turns out with the charges!

    Robert said:
    November 21, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    Hi – this was true for me. I bought an old second hand book from a US store through Amazon (or Abebooks). The cost of the book was $25 and the shipping to Copenhagen was $17. I received a letter from PostNord, needing to pay 226kr ($35) in taxes to collect it. It is exactly as you state above: 66kr in Import tax and 160kr in fees.
    It seems to me that they have charged tax based on the combined cost and shipping price, which I believe is wrong – still the difference is negligible and I won’t argue for a few dollars.

    I had no idea that this would happen when I bought it. It is peculiar to be charged to ‘import’ an old book for private use. After looking it up, the UK charges 0% to ‘import’ a book, but may charge on other items. I have often got books in from the USA when I lived ‘at home’ in the UK.

    If anyone was selling this book in the EU I would happily have bought it from an EU seller. Frankly – this is the kind of EU protectionist tariff bullshit that caused people to vote for Brexit 😦

      Robert said:
      November 21, 2017 at 8:54 pm

      I’d like to add- isn’t it strange ? – the purpose of Duty is to keep competition fair by raising the cost of imported goods to the local value to produce. So it seems to me that if something is not produced in the country in question, (eg this book in EU), Duty should not be charged on it.

    Janet said:
    December 7, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    In 2016 I sent 2 inexpensive gifts to Denmark and my Pen-Pal told me that they were charging her a high fee to claim them-so she told me she refused and they were returned to me. I sent her a Christmas Card separately and it was returned because they said they could not read the number-She moved to a different home and they could not read one number ??? I have not had problems shipping for many years and now there is this tax on the receiver in order to finally get the gift. Maybe I will email her and get advised on not being taxed – We have been friends for a long time and now all these problems on receiving a gift. It is sad.

      sarahinjylland responded:
      December 8, 2017 at 10:35 am

      It is a shame, Janet. I’m sorry to hear it. Remember, though, that there is a limit – so as long as the value of your gift is under a certain amount your friend should not be charged. Use to do the currency conversion.

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