European Union EU private imports / good local vendors after summer 2021

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teatray
Posts: 37
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2021 4:46 am
Location: Bulgaria

Thu Dec 16, 2021 4:54 am

The rules changed in the EU after July 1, 2021. All imports are now subject to VAT, with no exeptions for low-value (<€22) shipments. Imports valued above €150 (incl. shipping) are subject not only to VAT but also to customs duties (and usually more difficult processing). Shipments below €150 can take advantage of some special procedures:

- The seller may collect your EU country's VAT, at your country-specific rate, when you order your stuff. This is done through the so-called IOSS portal and shipments then declare IOSS VAT identification numbers. I've seen online shops, esp. in the UK, Norway, etc., who deal with a lot of EU customers, adopt this quickly over the past months, as it's really convenient for the customer. The idea is that pre-paid VAT at order time via this "one-stop" scheme should guarantee that customers won't have to pay anything else down the line (courier fees, customs storage fees, or anything else). As convenient as this is for us, maybe it's not that great for tea sellers, as they have been slow to adopt it. I am not sure why. Maybe they don't know about it or don't have enough EU customers to justify the technical implementation, maybe *some* of their EU shipments come through without paying VAT, or maybe they don't like the whole idea and resist purposefully. E.g. o-cha.com seems pretty adamant they want nothing to do with the scheme (see Taxes and Fees / I live in Europe...).

- The "postal operator" or courier may pay VAT for you via a simplified procedure (again, only for shipments below €150). You will probably pay a fee for the service, but, overall, this is usually still preferable to alternatives (importing over €150 incl. shipping or opting out of the simplified procedure, so you can deal with customs directly which is usually yuck).

However, it's my understanding that import experiences vary a lot depending on EU country. What is it like in yours, esp. since July? Do some of your shipments sneak through w/o VAT? (If so, from which countries, via which couriers?) Are there long delays? Do you often get requests for additional documentation or even denials? It'd be interesting to know & compare. In particularly difficult countries (such as my own), it may be worthwhile arranging receipt elsewhere in the EU (e.g. through friends or package forwarder services, though the latter can potentially result in significant losses, if the package does get stuck in customs).

While we are at it, what are your favorite EU vendors, for when you just don't feel like dealing with customs? (There is such a thread already, but a bit old and with a lot of UK entries.)
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teatray
Posts: 37
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2021 4:46 am
Location: Bulgaria

Thu Dec 16, 2021 6:15 am

The short answer for Bulgaria is: it's difficult if you have food items (incl. tea & coffee) in your shipment. There is no such thing as sneaking past customs (last time that happened to me was years ago). I haven't had a single tea/coffee order pass without problems recently, importing from several countries in Asia and non-EU Europe. There were always either long delays (Post, incl. EMS) or requests for additional documentation (DHL), sometimes to a very unreasonable level (phytosanitary certificates, photos of every item sent, a letter listing the "ingredients" of each product from the seller, even though it's just coffee or just green tea, etc.), and sometimes arbitrary documents & certificates that are not really obtainable by consumers (which needed some convincing that there is no real need for them; as far as I understand, there is rarely any real legal basis for refusal, just incompetent couriers and customs officers). I avoid and can't comment much on FedEx & UPS for imports originating outside the EU. They are slower & charge more for customs representation than DHL, often offsetting any shipping price differences.

Overall, I haven't had a refusal yet, but it's not a good experience and it seems to be getting more difficult for no apparent legal reason. I'm thinking of ordering via friends in other EU countries in the future, but not sure which countries would work best.
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Maerskian
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Location: Atlantis

Thu Dec 16, 2021 8:07 am

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Last edited by Maerskian on Fri Dec 31, 2021 11:06 am, edited 3 times in total.
miig
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Jan 15, 2018 3:12 pm
Location: Germany

Thu Dec 16, 2021 2:22 pm

teatray wrote:
Thu Dec 16, 2021 4:54 am
What is it like in yours, esp. since July?
German customs tend to be more difficult about these things than Austrian or French ones for example. But that is actually another topic: shipments from China seem to be subject to increased scrutiny. It went so far that Yunnan Sourcing.com stopped shipping to Germany some time this summer, then resumed shipping. I know a few people who had their shipments refused by customs and had to send it back. But this seems to be the exception to me. Almost all Germans whom I know and who ordered got their stuff from China, too.

But there is some risk involved. Other countries like Japan, Malaysia, USA seem not to be a problem in that regard. I did switch to Yunnan Sourcing.US for that reason - it's just more of a gamble with a 250$+ package if it is returned. But I know people who ordered to Germany from YS.COM and got their stuff.

I don't comment on evading taxes though. Call me stereotypically German - I'd say, if I have the money to order premium tea from overseas then I also have the money to pay about 10% import fees. If a package slips through, oh well... but I wouldn't actively try and create that situation.
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teatray
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Location: Bulgaria

Thu Dec 16, 2021 11:33 pm

miig wrote:
Thu Dec 16, 2021 2:22 pm
German customs tend to be more difficult about these things than Austrian or French ones for example. But that is actually another topic: shipments from China seem to be subject to increased scrutiny. It went so far that Yunnan Sourcing.com stopped shipping to Germany some time this summer, then resumed shipping. I know a few people who had their shipments refused by customs and had to send it back. But this seems to be the exception to me.
Oh wow, thanks for this, I was just thinking of arranging an order via Germany, which (believe it or not) is my general go-to EU country for avoiding dubious regulatory enthusiasm. (I'll probably still try but knowing it's not without risk, I might go for the US version as well. Bulgarian customs however is NOT much friendlier to Western imports, e.g. Norway & UK were problematic as well, haven't tried the US.) I remember importing while staying in the UK pre-Brexit: all I ever got was an email saying how much I needed to pay with a link to a payment processor. The delay was a couple of days at most. The courier fee was maybe a bit high, and I learned that some recipients fought it and won refunds for it, but knowing how things are elsewhere, I just happily paid the fee.
miig
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Jan 15, 2018 3:12 pm
Location: Germany

Fri Dec 17, 2021 9:07 am

Hey teatray, I'm glad you liked my post.
Yeah, experiences are really all over the place. Which seems pretty standard now is that the couriers deal with customs directly and then charge the customer. That can save some efforts (going to the customs etc)., but of course they charge for it. For example: DHL 6€, DHL express 14€ , Fedex 14€.
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Tea Adventures
Posts: 55
Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2020 1:45 am
Location: Belgium

Wed Dec 22, 2021 3:35 am

Maerskian wrote:
Thu Dec 16, 2021 8:07 am
This blogger ( also a TeaForum user ) compiled this long list ( 300+ ) of online tea vendors and you can sort it by "ship from" in order to locate stores that ship within the EU :

https://tea-adventures.net/online-tea-shops/
Thanks for sharing! The goal with this was to make an easy overview so you can avoid import duties. If you know shops that aren't on the list, feel free to tell me and I'll add them.
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teatray
Posts: 37
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2021 4:46 am
Location: Bulgaria

Thu Jan 13, 2022 6:14 am

For all EU people considering importing stuff from Japan but wary of unknown costs / paperwork / timewasters, I have a very good experience to report. Sazen Tea offer a DHL DDP (Delivered & Duty Paid) option. So far, this is the only Japanese tea store I have seen offering this or anything similar (such as IOSS prepaid VAT). Sazen were a bit slow to ship (holiday backlogs, I guess), but once they did, the packet (tea & teaware) was at my door in just over 48 hours, no extra charges, no questions asked. Considering how painful clearing Bulgarian customs can be, this was a revelation. I hope future orders will go just as well.

@Tea Adventures Cool list, maybe add http://www.diekunstdestees.de/, https://itoen.com/ (only US shipping), https://daxuejiadao.com/ (not ready yet but password not a secret either)? I like how you can quickly filter with the search box. Perhaps it would be useful to also add whether the country belongs to the EU, so you can get to that list even faster. Not sure of the best way, since just searching for "EU" would give unwanted results. I think having two continents "Europe" and "Europe (EU)" would be easiest to achieve without extra columns/coding.
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Bok
Vendor
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Thu Jan 13, 2022 7:45 am

@teatray Daxue Jiadao ships from China.
kekstee
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Jul 27, 2021 3:37 pm
Location: Germany

Fri Jan 14, 2022 5:03 pm

My experience with Japan has been smooth in general, be it sazen or hibiki-an.

China is a no-go in Germany, I would assume any shipment to fail that has contents declared as tea now that customs are heavily streamlined?
At least I could only get by with an invoice that didn't detail the contents back when this was handled in person.
Chinese tea is on a dangerous goods list that makes no health test exceptions for private imports.

I think I read that Taiwan is fine though? Can anyone confirm that on orders since last summer?
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aet
Vendor
Posts: 267
Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:56 pm
Location: Kunming ( China )

Fri Jan 14, 2022 8:45 pm

kekstee wrote:
Fri Jan 14, 2022 5:03 pm
My experience with Japan has been smooth in general, be it sazen or hibiki-an.

China is a no-go in Germany, I would assume any shipment to fail that has contents declared as tea now that customs are heavily streamlined?
At least I could only get by with an invoice that didn't detail the contents back when this was handled in person.
Chinese tea is on a dangerous goods list that makes no health test exceptions for private imports.

I think I read that Taiwan is fine though? Can anyone confirm that on orders since last summer?
We never had a problem with German customs when sending private parcels so far. The only problem is the German postal services who do not notify customer and the parcel is returned...that happened to us already.
I also heard , it depends trough which custom point it goes trough. Some cities apparently are hard to get trough.
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wave_code
Posts: 443
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2018 2:10 pm
Location: Germany

Sat Jan 15, 2022 2:26 pm

German customs can be annoying, but at least personally I have never had anything controlled for testing or denied/returned. If you are an actual importer or importing things in what would be commercial scale maybe its a different story. I've been hassled for more detailed invoices or had things take a long time, but thats it. Only once ever did I actually have to go down to the customs office and open the package so someone could poke through it and then send me out of the room for 15 minutes to eventually charge me 5 euros :roll: . This includes buying from 90% China, but also Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan. We'll see under the new system how things change, but in the past I've only even been hit with taxes a couple times. Even if you are buying a lot of tea, the tax is usually not very much, a few dollars - the problem I think comes more from certain shipping carriers charging processing fees which is obnoxious. Last week I did have to pay 10 euros, but its an easy thing to just pay when you pick up at the local package shop and I was expecting it anyway.
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