Any package valued over 45 Euros is subject to a hefty French tax, payable by the receiver. You're taxed on the customs value of the package and the shipping costs. You also pay a fee for the clearance through customs. It can all be VERY expensive. To avoid the surprise of having to pay big fees, be sure that the contents are valued at less than 45 Euros. We recommend using the United States Postal Service and avoiding FedEx. We've had lots of problems receiving packages from FedEx. They have their own rules for fees and taxes (more below). After much back-and-forth with them, we're still confused as to how they come up with their charges. Example- they told me that the 45 euro limit is only valid with the French National mail service (La Poste) and that we'd be charged tax on items valued at over 22 euros since FedEx is a private company. Simply put, our advice is that if you insist on a private carrier, use UPS instead of FedEx. Regarding insurance- Sometimes insuring a package will make it a more likely target for theft. If you do insure a package, the insured value must be equal to or less than the customs value.
A warning for shippers-be sure you're honest. If you ship a new iPhone to your family member in France and list 44 Euros as the value to avoid the customs tax, the French customs department (if they catch it) will require the value to be changed and will assess a tax to the item. If it is a used iPhone that you own, you're expected to provide evidence that the phone is not new. The shipping company may be able to help you figure out how to do this.
More specifics regarding FedEx- they charge their own "admin fee" for "taking care of" the duty and taxes on your behalf. (They pay it for you and then they send you a bill in the mail.) From the FedEx website: "What is the clearance administration charge? FedEx pays the Duty and Tax charges on your behalf to ensure we can deliver your shipment as quickly as possible. This incurs an administration fee of 2.5% of the combined Duties and Taxes or 12.00 € (whichever is greater, VAT on administration fees excluded)." Again, use USPS or UPS!
Here are the situations that may allow you to avoid being taxed:
The shipment is a gift
Items up to 45.00 € in value that meet the following French Customs criteria are not liable for import charges: The shipment must be sent directly from person to person.
- The sender must be a private individual and the consignee must take delivery at a private address.
- The gift must be sent free of charge and be of an ‘occasional nature’.
- The word “gift” must be marked on the Air Waybill and commercial invoice.
- All items must be itemised with their own full description and value.
I am a temporary visitor to France
You will need to pay the import charges but may be entitled to claim the charges back when you leave France. This depends on the individual circumstances of your package.
The shipment contains samples
Samples can be imported to France without Duty or Tax charges as long as they meet the following French Customs conditions:
- Can only be used as samples.
- Are of a negligible value.
- Intended to obtain orders for the type of goods represented.
Visit this FedEx webpage for more: http://www.fedex.com/fr_english/dutyandtax/_
The following is directly from the French government website:
Customs and tax exemptions
You can receive free of duties and taxes under certain conditions, goods sent by an individual located outside the European Union. However, for mail order purchases, other regulations apply.
Shipments between individuals:
Goods contained in consignments sent by one private individual in a non-member of the European Union (third countries) state to another individual residing in France or in the European Union are exempt from customs duties and VAT provided that the value of the goods does not exceed 45 euros and whether imports of a non-commercial nature (occasional receipt for personal or family use and for free). Beyond this value, you must pay to the French customs duties and taxes.
Shopping by Mail:
Purchases a commercial correspondence (mail order, Internet sales, telephone sales, etc.).
To qualify for relief, imports of goods must correspond to items of negligible value (EVN). Thus, when the goods are shipped directly from a third country (non-member of the European Union) to a recipient located in France or in the European Union and their tax value does not exceed 150 euros the goods may qualify for relief from customs duties .Goods shipped through a mail receive no VAT exemption .
To see the entire French webpage click here.