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Greeks buy cheap from e-shops abroad; legislation about VAT & custom fees

An increasing number of Greek consumers choose to buy online and thus from e-shops abroad, a market analysis conducted by online payment platform PayPal has found out. 36% Greeks buy electronic products -mainly tablets and gaming consoles, clothing, toys and cosmetics from USA, Germany and UK.

According to PayPal  data, electronics offered by US online stores are 37% cheaper than offered by Greek online shops. Games are 52% cheaper, cosmetics at 30% and clothes even at half price.

In Germany, games are 40 % cheaper than offered by Greek e-shops, clothing up to 25 % cheaper , while electronic products and cosmetics are sold at prices from 17%-31% lower than in Greece.

Clothing sales offered by UK online shops are at half price when compared to Greek e-shop offers, while discounts on cosmetics, toys and electronic products reach 24% , 35 % and 24 % respectively .

Chinese online stores offer toys at up to 78% cheaper and clothes up to 44 % .

Based on PayPal date, last year Greeks made their online purchases mainly from Russia (increase 68%), Germany, UK and China (increase 44%).

Tablets and gaming consoles are topping the list of purchases made by Greek online consumers.

“However, despite the growing interest of the Greeks for online purchases, there are still many consumers avoiding them mainly because they are worried about the shipping cost and the possibility of being cheated,” notes Daily To Ethnos.

Customs fees & transport cost

As in many other countries, Greek online buyers are often being asked to pay additional charges like import taxes, value added tax and shipping costs, which vary from country to country and depend on the type and weight of the shipment. There are cases where online buyers spent a whole day at the customers in order to clear a product they had bought online, and case of buyers who refused to accept  the purchase.

Not to mention the confusion about the additional Value Added Tax and import fees paid especially for shipments sent outside the European Union. To Ethnos notes a case where the buyer had purchased two children blankets for 70 euro form a US online store. The courrier informed her that she had to custom clear the shipment. The women had to get a new tax number and managed to get the product home after 1.5 month.


Under legislation in Greece,

Custom tax is not necessary if the value of the goods is less than 150 euros , but buyers will have to pay 23% VAT.

If the value of the products is less than 45 euros , there are no extra taxes or charges.

For purchases worth more than 150 euro, VAT is paid only if the goods from the European Union.

If products come from non-EU countries, customs and transport charges vary with the result that the online purchase is eventually more expensive if bought in Greece.

A trick like declaring on the package a lower value than the real one or mark it as a gift often are not reasons for the customs officials not to open the package, notes the daily.

I remember a KTG-ian said once, that her relatives in Greece had to pay some 70-80 euro custom tax for a package containing two dog lashes sent from the USA.

I remember once in a foreign non-EU country, I had to go to the end of the world to the customs to pay  fee for a books shipment. After 7 signatures and 3 euro tax fee, I was proud to return home with my freshly arrived 6 books. Only that I paid 25 euro to two ways ride with the taxi lol

But here in Athens, I receive my Christmas package full of lemon curd, biscuits and other goodies sent by friends in UK (:) ) without paying a penny. Delivery right to my door step.


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  1. Having had an online retail business for years, I’m kind of baffled by the Greek law. Under the EU Distant Selling Directive every on-line retailer must INCLUDE VAT in the advertised prices, even if the ultimate destination of the purchase is outside of the EU, this MUST be charged. If the purchase is destined for an EU address, then no extra VAT can be charged as it is already paid. For a transaction between 2 EU member states, there are also no extra charges for customes etc. The only extra to be adedd to the adverstised retail price is the shipping cost.
    So, if you are EU based, and buy from an EU online retailer, you only pay the cost of shipping.
    If you buy from a non-EU based retailer, then, you must pay VAT at point of entry (into the EU)and possibly also customs and excise taxes. Plus of course shipping costs. Normally speaking, the courier contracted to deliver the purchase will have an arrangement with the local authorities and pay these taxes for you. You then refund the taxes to the courier, plus of course their fee for this service. I used to work with all the major, international couriers, and they all work in the same way. The only exception to this is if the non-EU retailer ships stuff using the postal services. If, and it’s a big “IF”, the postal services decide to check, then you may just get done for all the taxes, and you will indeed spend hours running around like a headless chicken trying to find the right person to pay…

  2. “For purchases worth more than 150 euro, VAT is paid only if the goods from the European Union.”

    According to EU law, anything which is bought VAT-paid in one EU member state is VAT-paid in all EU member states. Greece cannot charge VAT on anything bought from another EU member state if VAT was paid at the time of purchase. The value of the goods doesn’t matter.