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 Amazon.com 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:

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 ‘sllip 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…

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22 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 Amazon.com 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.

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