Folksy Ltd

Help - What do I do about customs tax?

I have been with Folksy a number of years but am very worried about sending goods outside Europe.

I have been sending low price items (£5-ish) since the beginning, without problem. But items this low are exempt from customs tax.

A number of years ago I won a very small piece of art. It was the size of a postcard. The lovely lady who made it was in the US, she paid the correct postage fee and filled in the customs form correctly. When it arrived then wouldn’t give it to me. I owed £23 customs fee to Royal Mail. It was a real struggle for me to pay it, it was just less than half my weekly food budget, but I didn’t want to offend the lady who made the art, so I paid.

The reason I am thinking about this now is because a few hours ago I was asked on Instagram if I ship my art to Canada. I would like to but I am worried about my customer having to pay tax at the other end.

I have been online for about 4 hours trying to get to the bottom of this. After looking at the Canadian Customs website, it seems certain that there will be tax to pay at the other end, but there is no telling how much. It doesn’t even say a minimum or maximum amount.

This is what Royal Mail says “The customs authorities in the country of destination determine whether charges are due on imported goods. Royal Mail cannot advise as to what these charges may be”.

I am wondering if anyone out there has any experience of this? What do you do about it when you are shipping goods abroad?

Thank you
Alison xx

I think it is up to the customer to be aware of when they would have to pay tax and what the limits are for their country. If it bothers you you could maybe put something in your “buying from me” section or in the item description stating that purchasers are liable for any import taxes. I know I have been stung in the past but now know that if I am buying anything valued over £15 there is a good chance I will be charged, although some things still get through. Just a word of warning though regarding customs tax - if at any time an overseas customer wants to return anything to you make sure they send it back repackaged in the original packaging and that they label it as a return - I once had someone return an item as it wasn’t quite what they wanted - I was happy to do so but got stung with a £13 customs charge on top of the original postage cost of £12 (which I also had to refund) so ended up £25 out of pocket!

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Thank you so much Roz for taking the time to write this. Excellent and much appreciated advice

I have never had a customer in Canada or the US have to pay any customs duties.
I do put in my blurb that it is the customers responsibility, because I don’t know which countries charge - but so far have never had a customer tell me they were charged.
The UK seems to have really tightened up on anything coming in from the US.
We pay much higher rates for raw materials and tools here. Makes it quite hard to compete globally.

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When I lived in the UK, I would order things online from elsewhere- I only ever had to pay import tax if it came from the US- and as the buyer it was always my responsibility.
As a seller in the UK I often posted things around the world and never had anyone say anything to me about import taxes needing to be paid- I did make a point of saying in the T&C’s section that import taxes are down to the customer to pay. But still never heard anything suggesting anyone had to pay anything.
Since living in Canada I’ve had various things posted to me from the UK and I haven’t needed to pay any import taxes.
I’m fairly sure if something is valued at less than $60 it’s exempt from import tax. Most people just mark ‘gift’ on things and say the value is less than the $60.

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Also- I’d like to add that postage over here costs an absolute fortune because the country is so huge! And that’s normal. I know a lot of people are put off from sending overseas because they think the postage will put people off but it honestly doesnt- I’ve only been living here 3 months and I’m already used to postage costing a fortune even within Canada- it’s just the norm so it doesn’t put us off ordering things. :slight_smile:


Import taxes are usually the buyer’s liability to pay, and in most countries outside the EU the value threshold is quite high, so it’s rarely a problem unless you sell very expensive items. In the EU, the threshold varies from country to country, but it’s usually the VAT on imports (rather than customs duties) that catches people out.

In the UK, most imports over £15 are liable for VAT at the usual 20% (most things you buy in this country already have the VAT included in the price, but imports don’t) and Royal Mail also charges a handling fee of about £8 to collect it. The same applies in some other EU countries. The threshold for customs duties is much higher,

I’ve shipped to Canada and the US a lot, and I’ve never had any problems. I’m sure Canadians are well aware of the threshold for customs duties, but it might be worth adding a reminder before shipping that any import duties or taxes are the buyer’s responsibility.

A word of warning - never mark merchandise as a ‘gift’ on the customs form. It’s fraud and could get you into trouble, so mark it as ‘other’ and add a brief description and the actual sales value. If you’re sending jewellery, describe it as a ‘fashion accessory’ to deter theft.


Thanks Susannah, yes that’s spot on what it says on the Canadian website. Things under 20$ are exempt, except if it’s a gift and then it’s under $60. So I did think to myself, well you could just put it down as gift and you will be doing the customer a favour. But then I remembered a seminar I went to ages ago talking about making sure you never lie on forms when you are running a business as it will always come back to kick you in the ass. and I started to worry and it just seemed easier not to bother shipping overseas. Maybe I am just worrying about nothing.

Thank you Deborah

Thank you so much about that ‘gift’ advice, it didn’t sit well with me and would’ve kept me awake at night. I have been asking around, and it would seem a lot of people do it, though.
From what I’ve read on the Canadian website my customer will certainly have something to pay at the other end. It says under $20 is exempt, and mine is more than this. I guess as long as I make him aware of this then I’m OK. I just wish I could advise him how much it is likely to be. Thank you for you help. It was great

That’s fair enough.
I always just put gift. Just means they don’t have to worry about paying anything at the other end. And in terms of the value- as it’s an item I’ve made- it’s me that’s placed the amount I think it’s worth on it- so I can easily say it’s worth less than $60- after all, it’s just ink and paper (in terms of what I make!) haha
To be honest- from what I’ve come to understand being over here- unless you’re posting something that’s worth in the thousands- no one is bothered.
On the customs sticker family and friends and things I’ve ordered have just briefly wrote what the item is and put the value- nothing has been checked in customs and I’ve never had to pay import taxes. And I’ve had some sizeable things come out way since we moved here! Haha

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I’m sorry I don’t have any advice about customs tax (I only sell in the UK) but I just wanted to say how brilliant your shop is! I love the care and attention to detail and the way you explain the eco credentials of your items.

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Yes, I totally hear what you are saying. It has crossed my mind a number of times that what I am posting is essentially scraps of paper from the bin, and so really it’s worth nothing :)))). And yes, the majority of people seem to do what you do, so I don’t really know which way to go. Hope this isn’t going to be the same for EU countries as well soon. Thanks for taking the time to help me.

Thank you so much

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The chances of a customer having to pay customs charges by ticking other on the customs declaration are probably the same as if you mark as a gift.

Remember that any penalties you may incur for failing to properly label and value an item you post overseas maybe be higher than the value of the item itself and any end destination custom fees.

There is no benefit for you not to properly declare your items. Especially as a business.

In my various ventures and guises when sending items overseas customs fees and taxes for buyers have never ever affected what I do.

Yes, thanks Andy, that was my gut feeling.

A lot of countries outside the EU have much higher limits before you have to pay anything, so the chances of someone in the US or Australia having to pay anything are very low, but Canada is one of the countries with a lower limit. I’ve sold there a few times and never had a customer mention fees to me, which makes me think they either haven’t had to pay because a lot of items slip through (like they used to here many years ago), or they’re so used to paying the fees no one thinks to mention it (I never tell the seller when I’m charged them because I know it has nothing to do with them).

And as some people are saying they mark items as gift, just a warning that the limit in some countries is actually lower for gifts! Such as in the US, they can buy $800 worth of items before anything is charged, but for gifts the limit is only $100.

If you’re worried then I would just mention the possible fees to the buyer and if they’re still happy to buy then just ship it with the correct information.

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Thank you, that is very helpful

I’ve just been through this too, trying to work out how to hypothetically send a very large expensive painting overseas. Even though it was Europe it still kept me up at night worrying about how to do it correctly!

Until now I have kept my sales in the UK for reasons of knowing myself and saying - no, it is is perfectly OK for me to offer what feels right for me right now. But recently I’ve gotten a little braver, and offered international sales. I haven’t done one yet though :laughing:

Anyway, just wanted to say one step forward, two steps back still gets you there in the end!

I never want to do things ‘wrong’ - the horror of it. But we can do it!

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Thanks Trudi, yes, that’s my problem too, not wanting to get things wrong. I feel a lot more confident about this now that I’ve looked into it deeper. I am only going to use tracked and signed (with Royal Mail), I am going to be totally honest on the customs form, and I am going to put a little sentence (already done it) at the bottom of each listing saying there may be a customs tax to pay. xx

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