Dutch Customs & Gifts from the USA

30 April 2014

An all too common experience for American expats in the Netherlands is the infamous Dutch import taxes on packages from the United States. The general scenario involves an unannounced visit from a Dutch postal worker, followed by a brief explanation that the recipient must pay import taxes and the unrealistic expectation that the recipient will have the exact amount in cash being demanded at that given moment.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the exact amount of cash lying around at home so packages are held hostage until the ransom (Dutch custom taxes + administrative costs) can be paid. For first timers, this can be a frustrating experience given that the situation often involves unsolicited gifts from well-intentioned loved ones from home. Welcome to the Netherlands.

What many people are not aware of is that gifts from individuals from the United States (or any other non-EU country) is officially exempted from import taxes up to a maximum value of 45. What can be infuriating experience is that even if the value of the gifts was actually less than 45, one may subject to still first paying the (necessary) tax to receive the package and then resolve the dispute via a formal complaint letter to the post-office.

Why would the Dutch postal service still charge me taxes and administrative costs if the official Dutch government tax office has clearly indicated that gifts under 45 would not be taxed? The secret lies in how the declaration statement (United States Postal Service – Customs Declaration and Dispatch Note -CP 72) of the package if filled out. If it is not properly filled out, the chances of being responsible for paying unnecessary  import taxes increases.

The three important lines to be aware of are:
1. Detailed Description of the Contents (enter one item per line)

Clearly put down on the beginning of the line “Gift”.

5. Check All That Apply

Mark of the word “Gift”.

8. Total Value US$
The total “value” of the gifts must be less than 45 or approximately $72 to be exempt from Dutch import taxes.


I’ve also included a picture below that you can send to grandma and grandpa just incase they are visual learners.



One of the most challenging aspects of raising my son in the Netherlands is that he is thousands of miles away from his loving grandparents. Being the first and only grandchild, my parents love to send him gifts regularly to compensate for not being able to spend time with him. I hope that my tip can be helpful for other expat parents facing a similar situation.


Disclaimer: Dutch tax & import rules constantly change over time. Please refer to the official tax office of the Netherlands for the most current information about import taxes on gifts to individuals from individuals. This tip does not cover packages from companies and organisations which fall under a completely different set of rules and regulations. Furthermore, whether or not an import tax will be made on the package is prone to human error so this tip cannot fully guarantee that no mistakes will occur.