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Why was I charged for customs and VAT on an Amazon delivery in France?

Items coming from outside the EU are often subject to various different fees, so it is important to bear that in mind when ordering

Non-EU parcel deliveries often incur extra charges Pic: comzeal images / Shutterstock

Reader Question: Why was I charged customs duties and VAT on an item that I ordered from Amazon?

Products delivered to France from outside the EU are subject to various charges linked to delivery and customs controls, unless they are a gift with a value of less than €45.

It is therefore advisable to check where an item is coming from if you are shopping online, especially on marketplaces such as Amazon, which operates in various different countries.

If, for example, the product was bought on Amazon UK, the customer will – since Brexit – be charged for VAT at 20% and customs duties.

You will either be asked to pay the VAT when you order the item or when it is delivered, depending on the option chosen by the seller. You can normally find out when you will have to pay by reading the Conditions of Use and Sale of the site. You are more likely to have to pay the VAT afterwards if buying via a third party on Amazon’s platform than from Amazon itself.

Parcels worth less than €22 were previously exempt from French VAT, but this rule began to be gradually phased out on July 1, 2021, when a new EU regulation required the tax to be applied to all commercially bought products.

Customs duties are also charged on parcels containing items worth €150 or more at rates depending on the category of the goods (some are zero). 

If the products came from the UK or the EU, and were wholly or mostly manufactured in the UK or the EU, you can be exempted from customs duties. However the product may need to come with documentation proving this (an attestation d’origine - proof of origin) from the seller.

In addition, the delivery service, whether La Poste or another operator, may bill you admin fees it incurred at the international border if it had to advance VAT/duties to be paid by yourself on delivery.

For La Poste, this additional charge is usually €8, or €2-5 if you pay in advance online 

Sometimes, you may be asked to pay this fee when you order the item, for example, through Amazon’s ‘import fees deposit’. 

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