Customs duties by country: Information and guide

Customs duties are payable when goods are imported or exported from one country to another. This indirect tax, usually payable by the recipient, is calculated according to the nature and value of the goods contained in the package.

Find out the scope of customs duties by country and how they are calculated.

Customs duty: Definition and scope

The term customs duty is used to describe a tax that affects goods entering and leaving a country. This tax is applied when goods move from one customs territory to another.

Customs duties are a very old taxation mechanism that serves several essential functions for countries:
  • To protect domestic industries by encouraging the purchase of domestic products at the expense of imported products,
  • To generate revenue, mainly in countries that rely heavily on imports,
  • Regulate international trade,
  • Negotiating major trade agreements,
  • Etc.
Although tariffs include many benefits for countries, they are a price increase on the purchase of imported products for consumers.

Tariffs in Europe 

When it comes to customs duties, the member countries of the European Union work together to promote internal trade.

This union means that the customs authorities of the EU member countries apply the same tariffs on goods from the rest of the world. In addition, there are no customs duties to pay when importing goods from another EU member country.

Good to know: Switzerland is a European country that is not part of the European Union and the Customs Union. Therefore, it is necessary to pay customs duties for products coming from Switzerland.

Customs duties outside the European Union

For all imports of products from outside the European Union, customs duties are applicable.

Goods from overseas departments and regions (DOM-TOM) are also subject to specific customs formalities. A tax called dock dues is applicable in the following departments: Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte and Réunion.

How are customs duties calculated per country?

All goods purchased outside the European Union and whose value and/or quantities are above the duty-free thresholds are subject to the payment of customs duties. You can consult the customs website to find out the duty-free thresholds in force.

You have two options for paying customs duties:
  • Flat-rate taxation,
  • Taxation on the basis of the Common Customs Tariff.

Flat-rate taxation at 2.5

The flat-rate customs duty of 2.5% ad valorem (on the value of the goods) can be applied under certain conditions:

  • The imports are not of a commercial nature,
  • The pre-tax value of the imported goods is less than EUR 700,
  • The value of the goods exceeds the applicable exemption thresholds.

The Common Customs Tariff

The Common Customs Tariff (CCT) applies in all cases where flat rate taxation is not applicable.

In this case, customs duties are calculated ad valorem on the CIF value of the goods. The CIF value is the value of the goods plus delivery and insurance costs.

The rate of duty, generally between 0 and 20% of the CIF value, varies according to the nature and country of origin of the goods.

Other customs charges by country

In addition to customs duties, there are other charges to be expected when receiving a parcel from a country outside the EU.


French VAT (Value Added Tax) is applicable to all imports and is payable from the first euro. In France, the normal VAT rate is 20%.

Application fees

The handling fee is charged by the transport company that handles the customs declaration of the goods. These fees, which are freely determined by the carriers, are generally between 10 and 25 euros.

Happy-Post: the best carrier to send your parcels at the best price all over the world

Happy-Post is a company specialising in the collection and delivery of parcels in France and throughout the world. By opting for Happy-Post's services, you are assured that all customs formalities are taken into consideration in order to avoid any delay during customs clearance.

Among the main advantages of entrusting the delivery of your parcel to Happy-Post, we can mention
  • The guarantee to send your parcel at the best price,
  • Several delivery solutions to obtain an offer perfectly adapted to your needs and your budget,
  • Fast delivery to over 200 countries,
  • Real-time tracking of your package,
  • The formalities of sending your parcel are done in a few clicks and without leaving your home if you opt for a home collection,
  • Etc.
Happy-Post is the best carrier for sending your parcels in a simple, fast and secure way!

FAQs on customs duties by country

Can my parcel be checked by customs?

Yes, your parcel can be checked by the customs authorities when it is in the "customs zone". The customs authorities are free to choose which parcels to check, depending on the nature of the goods being transported.

The transport company must hand over your parcel to the customs authorities so that they can carry out the necessary checks. If everything is in order, your parcel is returned to the carrier so that the delivery process can resume.

Why is my parcel being held up at customs?

There are several reasons why your parcel may be blocked at customs. Here are the most common reasons for a parcel to be blocked at customs:

A mandatory document (invoice, specific document for certain categories of products, etc.) is missing,
The customs declaration form is incorrectly filled in (inaccurate description of the goods, incorrect value of the goods, etc.),
The goods contained in the package are prohibited (counterfeit goods, drugs, weapons, perishable goods, etc.),
Customs duties have not been paid.

What does "under clearance" mean?

The words "in the process of clearance", "in customs" or "blocked in customs" mean that your carrier is in the process of completing the customs clearance formalities.

This clearance process usually takes between one and two days if everything is in order. If not, your parcel may be held up in customs for several weeks while you wait for the deficiencies to be resolved.