Cleared by customs (should I be worried?) – AliExpress clearance fee

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You’ve been tracking your package for a few weeks, and it’s almost there. But then you read the message: your AliExpress parcel has been cleared by customs. Oh no, is something wrong? I’ll tell you exactly what this status on AliExpress means.

Cleared by customs: do I have to pay?

In order to understand what this message means, it is important to know how the process goes from shipping to receiving your package. That’s why I tell you below which steps the parcel goes through, and how customs clearance affects your parcel.

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Step 1: shipping to your country
In this step, the parcel is shipped, by either boat or by plane. The parcel has been inspected at the Chinese customs for dangerous substances or illegal goods, but no extra costs are charged here.

Step 2: your parcel arrives at you local customs
Then your parcel arrives in your country, and is brought to the post-delivery through customs. In Europe, you have to pay an extra fee when your parcel is over 22 Euro’s, and two fees when it is above 150 Euro’s. In the US there are different rules, but you are likely to pay a fee when the package is worth more than 200 Dollars.

Depending on where you live, the additional costs can be up to 25-30% of the total value of the product. Whether your package will be picked out by customs is not certain. It all depends on the estimated value, size and other factors, such as taking random samples.

Step 3: the status of your package on AliExpress changes
You will then see the status of your package change. Customs has cleared the parcel. But what is the meaning of that? Well, it’s very simple. It just means that customs has checked your parcel, and began its journey to your address.

But… it doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay extra money. Customs may still have estimated a value higher than 22/150 euros or 200 Dollars, which means that you still have to pay money upon delivery of the parcel. Unfortunately you can’t see this in the tracking of AliExpress.

What can I do to find out if I have to pay customs clearance fees?

At the moment it’s not possible to find out right away, without just waiting. This is because it is impossible for customs to find out for everyone what the package contains, and then tell you whether or not you have to pay something. You will have to be patient for a few more days before the parcel arrives at your house. And hopefully you will then be able to receive it without having to pay an extra fee.

In which cases do you pay a customs clearance fee for your AliExpress package?

With your next shipment, you can check beforehand whether or not you have to pay a customs clearance fee for your AliExpress order. This can be done by taking the following points into account:

  • Make sure your package stays under 22 euros in Europe to avoid the VAT of 21%. For the US other amounts apply.
  • Make sure you stay under 150 euros to avoid import duties within the EU. For the US other amounts apply.
  • Order as much as possible from different suppliers, or have parcels shipped separately to keep the total value of an order low.
  • Do not order fake products on AliExpress, so the ones of which it is very clear that it is a fake. Examples are branded clothing, branded shoes and other clearly fake products. These are often stopped and checked at customs.
  • Some sellers put a lower price on the package to create the illusion that the package has a lower value. Of course this isn’t legal, but some sellers use this strategy to create happy customers.

As you can see, when you read ‘cleared through customs’ you do not immediately know whether you can receive your package for free. The only thing you can do is to check if your parcel (including any shipping costs) is under the maximum amount you can order without paying extra, or if you may have purchased counterfeit products.

Submit an objection to customs clearance charges

It is also possible to object to customs clearance charges. For example, if you disagree with the amount you have to pay to customs. In some cases it is possible to reverse the costs. From our own experience we can say that it is sometimes possible to object. This was when I lost my phone in a foreign country and it got sent back by the police that found it. Customs thought it was a new phone, and therefore wanted to charge me 150 dollars in extra fees, but after objecting, the parcel was sent back to customs, checked properly and the extra fee was cancelled.

So even though this was a product that was already my own, it shows that objecting to the fee can work if you think the extra fee should not be applied to your parcel.

This can also be done with the mail order company that comes to collect the amount, or directly with customs. On your local Tax and Customs Administration’s website you will most likely find an extensive page about the possibilities of recovering your customs clearance costs. Below is a short summary with important points.

  • You always need proof. So look up your order, and make a printout of the invoice to prove that you have stayed below a certain amount with your order.
  • You don’t have to accept a package if you don’t agree with the customs clearance fee. Then you don’t have to pay the extra costs, but you don’t get the product either. This can change depending on the country where you live though.
  • You can reclaim a customs clearance fee when you eventually send the ordered product back to China because you are not satisfied with it.
  • There are two ways to object. Or via the local mail delivery company, or at customs. In the first case, you need to find out which method the company uses in such cases. You can probably find the method of submitting a request to the customs authorities on you local Tax and Customs Administration’s website.

Frequently asked questions about AliExpress customs clearance fees

How high are the customs clearance costs of an AliExpress package?

The European Union has determined that packages with a value of 22 euros will be taxed with 21% VAT on the purchase amount. In addition, above an amount of 150 euros, you also have to pay import duties on your order. The amount of these amounts depend on the value of your parcel.

Do you always have to pay a customs clearance fee for your package?

Yes and no. In principle, you always have to pay extra costs as soon as your order exceeds 22 and 150 euros. Below those amounts you don’t have to. However, your parcel can slip through customs without having to pay. This is because customs receives hundreds of thousands of parcels every day and it is impossible to check everything for it’s value.

Can I contact customs or my local mail delivery company to get information?

No. It is not possible to just contact customs or the mail delivery company before your parcel has been delivered. I’m sure there are hundreds or thousands of people looking for an answer to their question every day, so it would take an enormous amount of time to look up the information about every single parcel.

Is it possible to object to customs clearance charges?

Yes, it is! It sometimes happens that customs has to estimate the actual value of your package. In that case it can sometimes go wrong. It is also possible that you send your parcel back to the sender. In that case you can also object and reclaim the customs clearance costs. You can do this at the mail order company, or directly at customs. Make sure you have all the necessary documents. You cannot simply ask for a refund without proof of purchase or proof of return.

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