Prepayment of Import Duties

Updated 17 October 2018.
Knowledge base document on prepayment of import duties, for sellers and buyers.

Prepayment of Import Duties to Commercial Service Providers

A number of large online sales giants are now offering services to include the prepayment of import duties and taxes for international sales between seller and buyer.

An example of such a service states "Customs services and international tracking provided". Here, the two services appear as if they are connected, but they aren't, or at least, they should not be.

Under the terms of such a service, the service provider automatically adds the buyer country's import duties and taxes to the seller's product price. The seller then collects the product price. The service provider collects the import duties and pays these duties when the products arrive in the buyer's country.

Our opinion is to ignore this service, for both sellers and buyers. Here's why:

The commercial service provider's calculation of these duties and taxes will always be an estimate. The nature of commercial estimation is rather to overestimate than underestimate, so you may be paying more import duties than needed. Additionally the estimate includes an unnamed, unspecified service fee. Lastly, shipments may very well pass through customs without payment of any import duties at all, and if you already paid these to a commercial service provider, two questions arise. First, why did you pay it? Second, and what happened to it? Winner takes all.

So our opinion is to leave these types of services be, and ignore products that claim to have import duties and taxes included in the sales price. The fact remains that for small packages it is very easy to simply pay the official import duties bill upon arrival (if there is a bill), and most probably, much more economical.

Of course, you can also make your own estimate. Have a look at our guide for calculating customs import duties and taxes.

Disclaimer: The above is a professional opinion. Your opinion may differ and that's fine, too. If you are uncertain, do look into the issue in more detail. Consult your favorite delivery agent (postal service, courier, other forwarder) or your friendly local customs /tariff office.