What to consider when making purchases abroad this spring?

Due to the coronavirus, normal commerce is restricted and people are using online shops more and more. This spring is somewhat different from the previous ones, as we have to start considering additional taxes that are applied when ordering goods from third countries, said Omniva’s head of the international segment Marita Mägi.

When ordering from outside of the EU (e.g. USA, China, United Kingdom), you need to follow customs formalities and taxes payable in excess of duty-free limits must also be taken into account. Many larger web stores in the UK and in other countries have established intermediate warehouses in the EU, which means no additional taxes, but in the case of smaller shops, it is worth checking if local taxes are added to the purchase or not, otherwise the recipient may face a considerable sum of taxes to be paid when receiving the parcel.

Currently, it is not necessary to pay import tax for goods ordered from outside of the EU when the sum is less than 22 euros. When exceeding this sum, you need to consider added VAT (20% in Estonia), and from 150 euros there is an additional customs duty, which is between 0 and 17% of the goods value.

However, this situation is about to change, as from July it is necessary to declare and pay VAT for third country parcels which cost less than 22 euros. Since delivery times may stretch to up to two months as volumes increase, you should start ordering now to avoid additional taxes, as the taxation of goods depends on the time of arrival and not when the goods are purchased.

As previously mentioned, much of the world is still living under restrictions and e-commerce is experiencing unprecedented volumes. Tax amendment that is enforced across Europe will likely boost orders from third countries before July even more. Therefore, be prepared for the situation where your parcel takes longer to arrive than promised. This problem is not prevalent in the Baltic states and Europe, but errors may occur when ordering from third countries, where some parcels may be on halt in intermediate warehouses or face other issues. All one can do to avoid this issue is to prefer Estonian or European e-stores, order the goods early or use express delivery options, which almost all web shops offer.

When making a purchase, it should also be taken into account that with increasing e-commerce volumes, a large number of fake shops have emerged online which gladly accept payments but do not issue the goods. The first red flag is if the items in the store are significantly cheaper compared to other stores. In general however, it should be made clear in case of all e-stores that it would clearly state which company provides the services or goods and it is also wise to look for secure shopping labels, or simply Google the e-store brand or the operating company and make sure if other people have had issues with the store or not.