Key Points:

  • A duty is a kind of tax payable to the government, charged on goods and financial transactions
  • Import duty, also known as a tariff, is a tax that the importer has to pay to bring foreign goods into the country
  • Easyship's free duties and taxes calculator to help ease the process of calculating

One of the more complicated aspects of international shipping is having to deal with taxes. Regardless of where or what you are shipping, taxes will always be a point of consideration and, in all honesty, something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

In this post, we are going to go into detail about tax-related information you need to know for international shipping. Let’s start with the basics.

Table of Contents

What are Duties & Taxes?

A duty is a kind of tax payable to the government, charged on goods and financial transactions.

Customs Duty includes both an Import and Export Duty. Import duty, also known as a tariff, is a tax that the importer has to pay to bring foreign goods into the country.

What’s important to note is that an import duty, unlike a sales duty, varies considerably on a category-by-category basis. A sales duty, on the other hand, to some extent can be standardized.

The next thing to note is that each country has its own specific import duty tax which applies to each HS code (Harmonized System Codes).

If you didn’t already know, taxes are compulsory financial obligations levied by the government on income, goods, and activities. An Indirect Tax is a tax charged on goods or services.

Here are common taxes on goods:

  • Import Duty
  • VAT (Value Added Tax)
  • GST (Goods and Services Tax)
  • Others

Now that you know the basics, let’s go more into detail on each type of tax.

Common Taxes on Goods

Just like we’ve mentioned, there are different types of taxes on certain goods. That’s why we’ve come up with this in-depth list of the common taxes you might run into. Let’s get to it.

Sales Tax

A Sales Tax is a ‘direct consumption tax imposed on the local government or state's sale of goods or services. The sales tax is collected by the seller from the end consumer when a purchase is made.


A value-added tax, or VAT, is an indirect consumption tax on the consumption of goods and services. Unlike a sales tax, it is levied at each stage of the supply chain from the production stage to the end and is ultimately charged in full at the final stage of the sale.

Now, what often causes some confusion for our customers is the difference between VAT and GST. Some countries will use GST in place of VAT, however, they are generally treated the same. They are similar in the sense that they both share the same mechanism of being imposed at each stage of the supply chain.

Learn more about VAT.


GST Tax, or a goods and services tax, is an ‘indirect consumption tax on the manufacturing, sale, and consumption of goods as well as service on the national level.

Try out this calculation to see how much sales tax needs to be paid. Sales tax amount to be paid = sales tax % x (CIF value + duty)

So the gist of it is that there are a number of kinds of taxes that need to be considered whether you ship internationally or not, but why?

Well, the simple answer is that imports need to be declared to local customs authorities so that duties and taxes can be assessed. Import duty is a tax that the importer has to pay to bring foreign goods into his or her country.

So when does this tax have to be paid?

After the item is shipped, duties and taxes are due at the time of declaration at the local customs at the country of destination. They must be paid and cleared before the package can be delivered to the recipient.

How to Calculate Tax on an Item

Now that you have a better sense of what these taxes are and what they mean, let’s look into calculating them.

There are two main valuation methods (also known as Incoterms):

1) CIF Price Calculation (Cost, Insurance and Freight)

CIF = Total cost of a product right up to delivery

Duty = duty % x (product price + cost of shipping + cost of insurance)

CIF is a pricing term that means the cost of the goods, insurance, and freight (shipping charge) is included in the quoted price.

2) FOB (Free on Board)Duty = duty % x product price

FOB value is the price paid for the goods plus the cost of transportation, loading, unloading, handling, insurance, and associated costs incidental to the delivery of the goods at the port or place of export in the country of export.

Example Import-Export Cost Calculation:

Below is an example of Import-Export Cost calculation.

1) Calculating the customs value

The customs value in the USA is FOB:

$800 - Product price

2) Calculate the import taxes

Sales tax = $800 x 8% = $64

Import duty = $800 x 4.4% = $35.20

3) Calculate Merchandise Processing Fee

(also called Courier Handling fee)

Imports by courier of a value under $2,500 pay an MPF of $1

4) Total calculation of import duty and taxes (landed cost formula)

+ $64 + $35.20 + $ 1.00

= $100.20

The total landed cost equals $1,110.20

Common Extra Charges for Duties & Taxes

Can there be other extra charges in my shipping costs? Yes, in fact, they’re most likely will be! Hooray!

Other common taxes charged by customs include:

  • Excise duty (usually levied on alcohol, tobacco, and fuel products)
  • Consumption tax on luxury goods
  • Environmental tax
  • Clearance/entry fees

Courier Handling fees may include:

  • Customs clearance fee, or customs handling fee for processing the import declaration
  • Advancement fee for paying the duty and VAT on behalf of the recipient
  • Airline handling fee for loading and unloading the goods
  • Security fee for screening or x-raying the goods

Finally, let’s look at De Minimis rules, and what they mean.

The Duty or Tax-Free Amount is known as ‘de minimis value’ is a country-specific value below which duty and tax are exempted.

Now the de minimis value is typically different for duties and taxes. Some countries also use a simplified process for customs clearance, based on imports being below the de minimis value.

Below is a table of de minimis values for common shipping destinations.

Country de minimis value:

  • USA USD 800
  • UK GBP 15
  • China RMB 50
  • Australia AUD 1,000
  • Canada USD 15
  • Dubai AED 1,000
  • Singapore SGD 400
  • Indonesia USD 50
  • Japan JPY 10,000 (CIF value) or JPY 100 (Duty and consumption tax)

How Easyship Can Help

There’s a lot to take into consideration. Taxes, while complicated when done right can save you time and money. One of the major reasons SMEs use Easyship is because we provide full visibility on a lot of the items aforementioned and make sure you know at every stage in the process what you’re being charged for.

At the end of the day, calculating taxes shouldn’t have to be hard. That’s why we have an in-depth list of destination countries for detailed tax, duties & customs information. Plus, you can even use our free duties and taxes calculator to help ease the process of calculating. Doesn’t that sound nice?


Want to read more? We've prepared a comprehensive guide that should answer all your questions to give you the confidence to sell globally while maintaining a high quality of service.

Duties & Taxes FAQ

How much can I import without paying duty?

Each country has its own restrictions on what you can import without paying duty. To know how much you can import without paying duty, be sure to check with the country you're importing from.

What items are exempt from import duty?

Each country has its own list of items exempt from import duty. Be sure to check with the country you are importing from.

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