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Old 20.05.2009, 11:45
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DHL and customs on gift?

Hi all,

Okay, this is weird. A few months back a friend of mine in the US sent me toys (monkey dolls, for some reason) worth $25 for my birthday. This was done via DHL. Now I have mail from them asking me to pay them CHF 35 for customs or VAT!

Is that common? Can it be right? I didn't buy this item, it was gifted to me and is obviously non-commercial, and is worth less than the customs. I didn't even buy anything from DHL or ask them to ship me anything. Plus the bill seems a bit large for the items, no?

Can DHL just unilaterally charge me like this?
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Old 20.05.2009, 11:49
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

According to the shipments I send and receive to and from the states...
Yes, DHL can charge you if the shipment was not marked as a gift. If it
was marked as a gift, then it is your responsibility to prove it. But, first
you must pay the invoice then prove your point to get a full refund.

Usually, if indicated as a gift and the value is truly low enough, there will
not be any charges, exempt from taxes and fees.
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Old 20.05.2009, 12:04
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

- Thanks for the response! I just got them to email me an invoice, which is marked commercial (incorrectly). Is the invoice something they made or is it what was made by my friend? Or is it the website that he bought from?

- I don't understand quite why DHL is in a position to ask me for anything - I neither bought the thing nor asked them to ship it nor agreed to anything with them. Legally, can they just send me bills like this without my agreement to anything? Seems like an amusing - or annoying - modern day white elephant racket if so. Just send someone something big and make them pay DHL.

- In fact, why is *DHL* asking me for money? They're just a courier company, right?
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Old 20.05.2009, 12:16
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

Oh and the bill has a break-up of the charges...it's like 20 bucks for 'admin', another eight for 'avance fonds' and five for TVA (VAT?)
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Old 20.05.2009, 12:18
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

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- Thanks for the response! I just got them to email me an invoice, which is marked commercial (incorrectly). Is the invoice something they made or is it what was made by my friend? Or is it the website that he bought from?

- I don't understand quite why DHL is in a position to ask me for anything - I neither bought the thing nor asked them to ship it nor agreed to anything with them. Legally, can they just send me bills like this without my agreement to anything? Seems like an amusing - or annoying - modern day white elephant racket if so. Just send someone something big and make them pay DHL.

- In fact, why is *DHL* asking me for money? They're just a courier company, right?
Several answers to several questions:

Especially if the item was sent from a commercial firm then DHL will
act accordingly, despite being a gift, despite you not ordering it or not.

If it was not sent from a shop, then your friend stateside put a value
on the paperwork. Also had the chance to mark it as a gift, or other
valuable. If they forgot, then see my last comment below.

DHL acts as your representative to the Swiss authorities. DHL figures
the value, does the paperwork and prepays the costs to the Swiss
government. In turn, they send you a fancy bill adding a small
percentage for their troubles. This is normal. First time I received a bill
from DHL or UPS for this same reason... I call and complained. Did no
good, they said it is policy that was accepted to when someone sent
the shipment and when you picked it up. Typical small print!

If you don't pay, they may seek Inkasso (bill collection agency). I
have used them as well and know how they work. First if you don't pay
- your name goes on a list of non-paying customers. If you don't react
and pay the bill after the Inkasso contacts you - then you name goes
on a red list. After that they do the official Inkasso part and seek to
deduct your pay. If your name goes on any list, don't try to get a
credit or rent a high-priced item in Switzerland - you will get turned
away!

To close, let me say this: If you have proof that it was sent and
indicated as a gift, then use it and show DHL... Finished. But, again,
first pay the bill. On the other side, if you don't have any verification of
"gift", then pay the bill and forget about it. Mark it up as an experience
and tell your beloved friend in the states not to send anything via
DHL... USPS is the best bet for ensuring the "gift" is checked.
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Old 20.05.2009, 12:29
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

I'm curious to hear if someone has the policy/rules on this for receiving packages from the States. I currently live in Italy (but will be moving to Switzerland over the summer) and I often receive packages from my mother in the States.

In Italy, I do have to pay duty (dogana) and delivery charges on packages I receive from my mom. She always marks them as a gift, but that doesn't matter. Italy still charges a duty because it's based on the value (and sometimes the amount paid for shipping it over). It's never consistent though - sometimes the courier charges me the duty and delivery charges and sometimes not. I've managed to find on the internet the rules on charging duty on packages received from the U.S. and the courier guy should actually almost always charge me something, but only has a few times. I don't think the courier or the Poste Italiane always know what the policies are. Go figure....that's Italy for you!

P.S. The delivery charges are for the courier here in Italy. Basically my mom has paid for the postage to Italy and then there is a courier fee from Italian customs (in Milan I think) to my home in Torino. I rarely get charged this though.
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Old 20.05.2009, 12:31
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

Thanks Scott
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Old 20.05.2009, 12:34
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

Ah. Wow. Thanks again for the very detailed response.

To close, let me say this: If you have proof that it was sent and
indicated as a gift, then use it and show DHL... Finished. But, again,
first pay the bill. On the other side, if you don't have any verification of
"gift", then pay the bill and forget about it.

Yeah, the idiot child bought it online and sent to me. Probably the website is the "official" sender. I'm assuming from context that "verification" isn't a matter of me emailing a copy of birthday wishes. Sigh. I should send them an invoice for a hundred bucks for the pleasure of getting my attention. By opening the letter they'd accept the fine-print, carefully enclosed of course
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Old 20.05.2009, 12:39
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

Doubt the Birthday wishes will make any difference. Coming from a
business is the hammer here.

Pay up and tell your offspring that an e-mail is enough Birthday wish
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Old 20.05.2009, 13:00
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

I get the same bills from FedEx when my cousin sends me packages from the US, even if it's a gift and the value is $30.

However, when my parents send me parcels via Canada post valued at $200+, I've never gotten a bill for that or had to pay customs/VAT duties.
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Old 20.05.2009, 13:05
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

Exactly, as I said, USPS/Canadian Post would be the best bet to send a
gift. FedEx, UPS, DHL and the same all try to get the most out of a
shipment.
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Old 20.05.2009, 13:17
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

From our experience here and from what we've read - our understanding is this:

First you have to account in the value of the item (or what Customs thinks your item is worth here in Switzerland)...then you have to account the value of shipping. If it's a gift, the limit is 100CHF for the combined worth (item + shipping costs) before its hit with customs tax...if it's a commercial purchase, I think it's like 55CHF or something like that. We were told to always have people from the US send stuff via USPS only as the lower shipping cost helps keep it under the 100CHF limit. In addition, if you send it "Express" by UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc - it goes through a special customs office which adds in their fee for "processing the package" to that magical value for your package (so then its item + shipping costs + processing fee = package value). In any of these cases, if its over 100CHF, you get taxed the 7% or whatever...and yes they tack administration costs onto everything here...not just packages.

We've had to pay "administration costs" for someone to look at our permit and sign/stamp a piece of paper that says we match our permit (as in my face matches the face in the permit)...only to have to show the permit again when we turned that piece of paper in. That and for example, my parents were visiting here in Switzerland - they didn't see a parking meter sign in a Migros parking lot...ran in, bought 1 thing, came back out in 5 minutes and had a 90CHF parking ticket. The fee for the actual ticket? 40CHF...with a 50CHF administration fee. That's Switzerland.

The good news is that it is hit or miss whether customs will actually inspect your packages or not to charge you. We had several packages in a row mailed to us with no charges - then the last 2 times, we got hit with charges of 130CHF and 70CHF to pick up our packages (for baby things that my wife's parents shipped themselves - marked gift and everything). The explanation given is that those items would have cost a lot more in Switzerland so this is how they protect their vendors.
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Old 20.05.2009, 13:43
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

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The good news is that it is hit or miss whether customs will actually inspect your packages or not to charge you. We had several packages in a row mailed to us with no charges - then the last 2 times, we got hit with charges of 130CHF and 70CHF to pick up our packages (for baby things that my wife's parents shipped themselves - marked gift and everything). The explanation given is that those items would have cost a lot more in Switzerland so this is how they protect their vendors.
What?? Swiss customs can just look at items in a package and decide that these onesies or baby rompers would have cost 20CHF instead of the $5 declared??? Seriously?? Seems kind of random and would depend on who the customs official is on that day. Or do they call a local children's clothing shop in Switzerland and ask how much each of the baby items costs at that shop?

Or am I not understanding what you wrote?
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Old 20.05.2009, 13:52
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

I was caught out at christmas by a friend who sent me a box of crappola, totally useless bits and pieces and I got stiffed with a 50chf bill for the pleasure!
To say I missed the spirit of christmas was an understatement and everyone has now been told not to send me anything unless it is preplanned and organised. They just think Im turning pedantic and Swiss but at least the savings of duty charges means I can pay for a round of drinks on my birthday!
gal x
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Old 20.05.2009, 13:55
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

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What?? Swiss customs can just look at items in a package and decide that these onesies or baby rompers would have cost 20CHF instead of the $5 declared??? Seriously?? Seems kind of random and would depend on who the customs official is on that day. Or do they call a local children's clothing shop in Switzerland and ask how much each of the baby items costs at that shop?

Or am I not understanding what you wrote?
Nah you pretty much understand it - they'll unwrap presents within boxes (happened to us at Christmas), and I'm not sure just how they determine the price exactly but I'd guess it would depend on the customs official who looks in your package that given day. They searched our packages at Christmas time - but then never charged us customs fees so yeah, I'd lean towards it being dependent on who was doing the looking.
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Old 20.05.2009, 14:31
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

Here are some links to some extra info:


Expensive customs costs for clothing from UK

I'm upset at the Post Office

DHL and import duty

Paying tax on a gift sent to me??

Help with post office

http://www.englishforum.ch/finance-b...purchases.html

Ordering eBay from abroad - customs fees?

postal charge?

http://www.englishforum.ch/daily-lif...-payments.html
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Old 20.05.2009, 14:43
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

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Nah you pretty much understand it - they'll unwrap presents within boxes (happened to us at Christmas), and I'm not sure just how they determine the price exactly but I'd guess it would depend on the customs official who looks in your package that given day. They searched our packages at Christmas time - but then never charged us customs fees so yeah, I'd lean towards it being dependent on who was doing the looking.
That has happened to us, too, although we didn't get hit for any charges. They just inspected the contents which were made up of toddler t-shirts and socks and a packet of chocolate buttons from his grandparents (which the miserable buggers had opened so I had to chuck them away and wash the items which had been smeared with chocolate ). My mum had marked the package "gift", too.
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Old 20.05.2009, 14:57
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

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Nah you pretty much understand it - they'll unwrap presents within boxes (happened to us at Christmas), and I'm not sure just how they determine the price exactly but I'd guess it would depend on the customs official who looks in your package that given day. They searched our packages at Christmas time - but then never charged us customs fees so yeah, I'd lean towards it being dependent on who was doing the looking.
I don't mind paying duty or charges if that is what the laws/policies state. What I do have a problem with is inconsistency. The policy/law should be clear and the courier should be able to explain why he is charging the amount he is charging. In Italy, the couriers are unable to ever explain, they simply tell me to call Poste Italiane or Italian Customs to find out what the charges are for (meanwhile, if I want my package, I have to pay up then and there or the courier will take it away). There should not be just random and inconsistent charges.

The other thing is if the person sending the package fails to declare an amount on the customs form, then I can see where the Swiss customs officials would declare an amount (it's the sender's fault for not declaring an amount...so this is the punishment). HOWEVER, if the sender declares an amount (and it's not ridiculous like $2 for a large box of new clothes and baby toys), then who are the customs officials to decide the value of baby clothes bought in the U.S.?! Are they pricing experts in the global infant garment industry?? I think it's absurd for a Swiss customs official to inspect baby clothes and judge whether or not my mother valued them correctly. If the price tag on the Gap onesie says $1.99 (because it's on sale...my mom never pays full price ), then that's what the value is. How can a Swiss customs official, look at the onesie and say, "Hmmm, this onesie would have cost about 20CHF, rather than $1.99, if bought here in Switzerland, so I'm going to change the amount of the value declared that this person's mother wrote on the customs form." Seriously, is this right????
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Old 20.05.2009, 15:01
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

If they didn't, then everybody would send TVs and high dollar stereo
equipment with a price of $3.85. If the Swiss or any other country didn't
check, then the Customs office would not have any income!

BTW, don't know for sure, but can imagine that most countries on this
planet do exactly the same thing!
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Old 20.05.2009, 15:32
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Re: DHL and customs on gift?

Nah, it's just a DHL rort - they whack the 7 frank customs plus a 20 frank 'handling' charge on every parcel they deliver in Switzerland.

Before christmas my husband ordered a few things from the USA and because some of the items were not in stock his three items were sent in three separate parcels - two even arrived on the same day...

My husband signed for them and a week later the invoices for the additional charges arrived... 27 franks x 3....

We won't be ordering anything from the US ever again...
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