How to calculate import duties when doing business with China

If you import products from China, you usually pay import duties. China also levies import duties on products from the Netherlands. Dutch importers will also have to pay import VAT on top of the import duties. Chinese importers must pay import VAT in China.

Calculating import duty is often tricky. The amount of import duty depends on the type of product you import from China. And the value of the shipment. You use this information when clearing goods with Dutch Customs.

Common Customs Tariff

The EU has a common customs tariff for import duties on products imported from non-EU countries. This means that all member states levy the same import duty rate on products imported from China. If you import T-shirts from China into the Netherlands, you have pay 12% in import duties. You pay the same rate if you import the T-shirts into Germany or another EU member state.

Find the correct TARIC code

You need a so-called TARIC code to calculate import duties. This commodity import code is based on a product’s HS code. The full list of products, their TARIC codes and EU import duties can be found in the Tariff Manual of Dutch customs and in the European Commission’s Access2Markets database.

Finding the correct commodity code can be tricky. When in doubt, call the Customs information line. Customs brokers may also be able to help find the right commodity code for your product.

Dutch import duties

If your import shipment from China falls under the €150 threshold (in Dutch), you are exempt from import duties. This €150 threshold is exclusive of transportation and insurance costs. The exemption does not apply to alcoholic products, perfume, eau de toilette, tobacco, and tobacco products.

Import duties are calculated on the customs value (in Dutch) of your goods. The customs value is the price paid for the goods by the importer plus the transport and insurance costs up to the port of entry into the EU.

Example: importing goods into the EU

Price for 1 pallet of T-shirts from China: €5,000
Transportation and insurance costs from China to Rotterdam: €1,000
Customs value: €6,000
Payable import duty (12% of customs value): €720

Quantity over value

For certain products, the import duties to be paid are based on the quantity of goods rather than the value. If you import wine into the Netherlands or any other EU member state, for example, you pay a fee per imported hectolitre as import duty. The amount varies by type of wine and alcohol by volume (in Dutch).

Excise duty

In addition to import duties, you pay excise duty when you import excise goods such as beer or wine (in Dutch), spirits (in Dutch), or tobacco products into the Netherlands. Importers of mineral water, soft drinks, and fruit and vegetable juices have to pay consumption tax (in Dutch). Both excise and consumption taxes vary from one EU country to the next.

Import VAT in the Netherlands

If you import products from China into the Netherlands, you pay Dutch import VAT on the customs value plus the import duties due. In the example above, you would pay 21% import VAT on an amount of €6,720. This works out as €1,411.20.

If you are allowed to deduct VAT in the Netherlands, you may deduct the VAT paid as input tax in your VAT return. If you regularly import products, Dutch customs may issue you an Article 23 permit (in Dutch). This permit exempts you from having to pay import VAT. Instead, you can report the import VAT in your VAT return. This will benefit your liquidity.

Different EU countries have different import VAT rates. What VAT rate you pay depends on whether you are importing T-shirts into the Netherlands, Germany, or another EU member state.


A customs broker or logistics service provider can help you clear your import or export consignment and pay import duties and VAT. Service providers will charge fees, such as for drawing up the import declaration and for terminal handling charges.