How do customs work when buying on AliExpress?

AliExpress is a shopping portal with international incidence, therefore, it’s not surprising that it has its own rules and regulations regarding the handling of customs fees, imports, and tariffs.

Before reading on, if you want to review for yourself the information about customs policies, you can click on this link.

When is it necessary to pay customs on AliExpress?

With the vision of expanding its reach and providing its users, among other conveniences, many facilities to purchase imported products, AliExpress has created local stores in different countries in different parts of the world.

And although there are these physical stores where buy what you need, the truth is that the largest volume of orders still comes from China.

In most countries, this amount is not a relevant aspect of incidence, as customs often do not stop the packages.

But recently the regulations have changed radically for the European Union.

Customs case: The European Union

Since July 1, 2021, everything changed at AliExpress with the entry into force of the “Import One Stop Shop” or “IOSS”, which obliges large foreign stores such as AliExpress to charge VAT at the country of origin.

Since the modifications made last July 1st, the conditions that applied to the concept of “low value” changed drastically; these policies that exempted from paying taxes to those orders where the amount was less than €22 have been eliminated.

You can see the explanation of these new terms applied by AliExpress by clicking on this link. 

Now, this means that all purchases made outside the European Union must pay taxes, whatever the amount.

However, one of the advantages that this platform offers that others don’t is that AliExpress has the IOSS system: this new method proposes that online merchants with large sales volume can pay taxes at the user’s place, as the company would be responsible for remitting this amount to the tax agency of the destination country.

Is it that simple? Yes, it’s that easy: you, as the user, will see the VAT reflected at checkout, directly in the shopping cart total for transactions up to €150.

Rates in the EU

The VAT rate of the amount will be different depending on the country of the European Union which it has as the final destination. However, it can vary between 17% and 27% (for example, in France it’s 20%, in Holland it’s 21% and in Portugal or Poland is 23%).

After these radical changes, many users of the platform had different reactions; some were puzzled by this new action.

However, others were able to recognize and visualize the new advantages brought by these measures, because when the order arrives at customs in the destination country, postal companies used to charge disproportionate rates on many occasions.

With these renovations, the risk of having to pay surprise customs surcharges is completely eliminated.

In reality, if you think about it, it’s not a bad reform, and although the purchases may be more expensive, it eliminates the risk and worries about the transit or checking of the product.

Purchases valued at more than €150

In the case of orders valued at more than 150 euros, the buyer is responsible for making the necessary arrangements to pay the tax and duties that this entails since the IOSS system doesn’t allow the AliExpress platform to manage it directly.

Small and low-volume packages will most likely continue their course without being stopped at customs, however, if you want to gain peace of mind and security you can manage it in advance and avoid unforeseen events.

Print the invoice of your order with AliExpress

Another great novelty of this system is that in purchases from 0 to €150 you can manage the invoice of the transaction by yourself: you will download it from the AliExpress platform and this document will be the proof of payment of the tax, so you won’t have to cancel anything when the product arrives at your location.

You just have to access the order section from here and look for the option “Download invoice”.

From the application through your smartphone

To download the invoice from the mobile app, you will have to follow the steps below:

  • First, you will have to enter the “My Orders” section.
  • Access the order details.
  • You’ll have to scroll down to the payment detail, where you’ll see the order summary.
  • You’ll also see the option “Download invoice” and you’ll have to click on it.

If you want to open a dispute will the VAT amount be refunded?

The money you’ve paid as the amount corresponding to the VAT will be included as part of the product payment made to AliExpress, so when opening a dispute you’ll be able to claim the price of the product + shipping + VAT.

Although, as the platform indicates, the refund of this tax will only be made in very specific cases, for example, when what arrives is completely different from what was purchased or presents a serious inconvenience.

Customs in other countries

Having clarified the situation of the particular case of the European Union regarding the payment of taxes and customs, we will talk about how taxes work in some other countries.

United States

In the US you can receive orders of up to $800 daily. However, if there are several packages arriving in customs with an amount that surpasses what we’ve mentioned previously, they can be stopped. If it happens, you’ll receive an “Arrival Notice”.

Then, you can fill in your customs declaration online: they’ll ask for a commercial invoice, details on the content of the package, and payment proof.

United Kingdom

According to English Law, buyers are obliged to pay customs when it comes to packages from other countries. If you don’t want to do any paperwork, you can pay the VAT directly through AliExpress if your order is under £135. All you’d have to do is pay 20% of the order’s total through your shopping cart.

Then, AliExpress will send that amount of money to the UK Tax Authority. However, if the order goes beyond the limit, you’ll have to pay the VAT and Import Duties.


Small packages usually don’t pay duties in this country but if your package is stopped at Customs, the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) will review the package and determine the customs cost. If you don’t agree with the price, you can ask for a readjustment by contacting the CBSA and submitting an E14 form.

Most small packages don’t pay duty in Canada, since many sellers declare a value of less than the CAN $20 value required by regulations. Now, if the package is stopped at Customs, the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) will review the package and determine the customs cost.


Customs fees are paid directly through AliExpress on orders under AUD $1000 (a 10% that’s applied directly in the shopping cart). AliExpress collects the Australian Goods and Services Tax (GST) which is forwarded to the Australian Taxation Office. This helps you avoid paying anything when your order arrives in the country.

Now, if your order is worth more than AUD $1000, you’ll have to pay customs when the package enters the country.

Customs order statuses

We invite you to visit our main article where you will learn all about AliExpress order tracking: here you will find a more detailed description of the different order statuses, however, here we present those related to customs:

Clearing customs

This is a transit status that may appear when the package ordered from AliExpress China enters customs, either in the country of origin or in your own country. The most common is that the package goes to the next status.

Start of customs clearance

This notification denotes that the order has reached customs, but doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been stopped. Before jumping to conclusions, wait for the status to be updated.

Customs Clearance Completed or Import Clearance Successful

When this notice appears, you will know that there is no need to be alarmed, as it means that your package has passed customs clearance and is being shipped to your address.

(Country initials) Customs

US Customs, UK Customs, AU Customs, PL Customs, IT Customs, RU Customs, DE Customs… means that the package has arrived at the customs of your country, there’s nothing to worry about.

Customs clearance error

This warning is not as serious as it seems, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad. Sometimes, after a few days, the status of the order is updated and good news arrives. However, if this step takes too long, we recommend that you contact AliExpress’ customer service (click here).

Successful export dispatch

This notification means that the order has successfully left the country of origin.

Import clearance success

If your package has already arrived in the destination country, you may see this message when it clears customs and it means that your order is almost ready to be shipped.

If you still have doubts about whether your order has been detained, see the article How to know if my order is held in customs.

What if my package is being held?

If you’ve been unlucky enough to receive the much-hated “Package held” notification then you need to read our other informative article, on what to do when your AliExpress package is held in customs.

Which is better: A private courier or the Post Office?

On AliExpress, you can choose between different shipping methods. Each one has its advantages and points against it. If you want more information, you can visit our article dedicated to the different shipping methods; but to summarize, we can tell you that free shipments, whether with tracking number or not, are usually stopped less by customs.

How to save money and avoid paying customs

According to multiple AliExpress users located in different parts of the world, who claim to buy without any kind of problem in customs, the most functional trick and the one that some sellers even offer, is to mark the package as a gift.

However, we can’t tell you how safe it is and that’s why we mention some other tips that can surely help you.

Order by AliExpress Standard Shipping

Main article: AliExpress Standard Shipping

Of all the shipping methods provided by AliExpress when it comes to shopping and avoiding customs, the AliExpress Standard Shipping method is usually the best option, as it has a tracking number and usually arrives faster.

Customs can be passed through state centers or directly through private courier companies, and in the first case, it’s easier to avoid customs.

Placing small orders

In most countries, it’s preferable to place orders of small volume and low cost.

In addition, if shipping costs are free or very cheap, if you’re going to buy several products from the same seller, it may be more beneficial to order them separately.

You can place the order a few hours or a day apart so that the seller can’t join the orders with the same tracking.

You can also contact the seller directly to ask them clearly and specifically not to send everything together because you want to avoid customs.

National Warehouses

AliExpress, for some time, has been implementing the installation of different complexes in various parts of the world, so you can now buy the best Chinese and international products, receiving your order in record time and without customs.

Products with customs fees included

When you want to buy large items, such as robot vacuum cleaners, you will sometimes find the label “Tax-Free”. At times, some sellers include it in the form of a watermark on the photo and it can also be included in the product description.

For products with this label, the shipment is free of customs duties. You may pay a little more than other sellers depending on the country of destination, but you won’t have to do any additional paperwork.

If you still have questions, you can contact the AliExpress seller directly.

What happens with combined delivery orders?

If you’ve purchased with combined delivery, you don’t have to worry.

Each seller sends their package to the AliExpress logistics center, where they put them together and attach all the necessary documentation to justify that the package has already been paid through the IOSS system.

Normally, there are many concerns that may arise when shopping online and luckily, we’re here to help you!

We invite you, if you like, to visit our other informative articles, where you will clear all your doubts, so you can learn how to navigate AliExpress like an expert.