IOSS identifier in VAT payments and customs clearance
The Import One-Stop-Shop (IOSS) is a special system for payments of value added tax. The system facilitates your online purchases. When your purchase arrives from outside the EU, you can pay the required VAT to an IOSS-registered web store in connection with your purchase. The web store then pays the VAT directly to the EU.
For a person making purchases online, the system enables the payment of VAT already when making a purchase. You are not required to pay VAT in connection with customs clearance. Same as all parcels arriving from outside the EU, IOSS purchases must also be declared. However, for example Posti usually sees to customs clearance on your behalf free of charge.
The IOSS system covers purchases of a maximum value of 150 euros (transports costs excluded from the value). Moreover, the recipient of the purchase must be a private individual or an operator not registered for VAT. However, taxes for products subject to excise duty, such as alcohol products, are always paid to Finland in connection with customs clearance. Products subject to restrictions must be declared in the Customs Clearance Service. The service is also to be used when declaring products that are exempt from licensing requirements but subject to restrictions based on their commodity code, such as certain firearm components. Alternatively, you can buy the customs clearance as a service from Posti or some other transport company.
When and for what do I need an IOSS identifier?
An IOSS-registered web store always has a specific IOSS identifier. In connection with customs clearance, the identifier indicates that the buyer has paid VAT to Finland already at the time of purchase.
As a rule, you are not required to know the IOSS identifier of the web store. The web store usually provides the identifier directly to the transport company that delivers your purchase, and it is automatically forwarded for customs clearance. It depends on the transport company whether you should declare your parcel personally, or if the transport company declares it for you automatically.
Posti delivers my parcel and declares it automatically on my behalf.
The web store has an IOSS identifier, and you pay VAT to Finland at the same time when you make your purchase. The postal company will usually declare the parcel on your behalf, and you do not need to declare it. You do not need to pay any VAT in conjunction with the customs clearance, and you do not need an IOSS identifier. You will receive the parcel directly to your home address or to a pick-up point.
My parcel is delivered by a party other than a transport company who does not declare it for me.
The web store has an IOSS identifier, and you pay VAT to Finland at the same time when you make your purchase. You will receive a notice of arrival from the transport company, and your purchase must be declared. The transport company has not declared your parcel automatically on your behalf, or has not received for example all details needed for customs clearance from the web store.
You can declare your parcel personally in the Import Declaration Service for private persons or let the transport company declare it.
If you declare your parcel yourself, first make sure that the IOSS identifier has been sent to Customs. Customs has received the required information when page 2 of the Service displays a text under consignment detailssaying that VAT was charged at the time of purchase, but you still need to declare your parcel. Do the customs clearance. Enter the price that does not include the Finnish VAT as the value of your consignment. You are not required to pay VAT or to provide the IOSS number.
What if the IOSS identifier has not been forwarded to Customs?
If Posti or some other transport company does not receive an IOSS identifier from the web store, meaning that Customs does not receive the identifier either, you will receive a notice of arrival from Posti concerning the parcel to be declared. In such a case, your parcel must be declared. You can declare your purchase in the Import Declaration Service for private persons and provide the IOSS identifier personally. If you have a seller’s IOSS identifier, you are not required to pay VAT again.
Proceed as follows:
- Log in to the Import Declaration Service for private persons.
When the service asks the price of your consignment, check the invoice you have received. If the Finnish VAT is specified on the invoice, enter the price without the Finnish VAT. If the Finnish VAT is not specified on the invoice, enter the total sum of the invoice or ask the seller for a new invoice in which the Finnish VAT is specified.
- On page 2 under consignment details, you are asked if you bought the goods from an IOSS seller, i.e. if you paid Finnish VAT already when you purchased the goods.
- Only choose ‘Yes’ if you have bought the goods from an IOSS web store and you paid the VAT at the point of purchase. You can find this information e.g. in the invoice or in the order confirmation.
- Provide the IOSS identifier, which has the format IM1234567890. You can find it, for example, in the order confirmation or the invoice sent by the seller of the goods or you can directly ask the seller for it.
- Finish the customs clearance.
Remember that Customs may ask you to provide the order confirmation or invoice for your purchase. You are personally responsible for the information you provide.
You have paid VAT to the IOSS seller already at the time of your purchase, but you cannot get an IOSS identifier from the web store or the service does not accept the identifier you provide. This means that you have to pay VAT again in connection with customs clearance, and contact the seller for a refund of the tax. Enter the price that does not include the Finnish VAT as the value of your consignment. The VAT is repaid by the web store, not by Customs. (Finnish Value Added Tax Act, section 94(1)(24), Finlex, in Finnish.)
Proceed as follows:
- Log in to the Import Declaration Service for private persons. On page 2 under consignment details, you are asked if you bought the goods from an IOSS seller, i.e. if you paid Finnish VAT already when you purchased the goods.
- Reply “No”.
- You should then pay the VAT again in connection with customs clearance.
- You can apply for a refund of the VAT from the web store after the customs clearance. Send the customs clearance decision to the web store. The customs clearance decision is stored in the Service for 90 days under My declarations.
You can ask for an IOSS identifier from the web store. You will also find out the identifier from the order confirmation or the invoice. Note that the IOSS identifier is not the same as the VAT ID. You cannot obtain a web store IOSS identifier from Customs or the Tax Administration.
As yet, not all transport companies declare your purchases on your behalf. For example, it may also be the case that Posti or some other transport company has not received the IOSS identifier from the online shop, which is why it has not been forwarded to Customs either.In that case, you may have to declare your purchase and pay VAT again. If you must declare your purchase, you will receive a notice of arrival from the transport company. If you must pay VAT again, the VAT is repaid by the web store, not by Customs.
Note that if your purchase contains products subject to restrictions and excise duty (such as alcohol products), import duties are not paid until in connection with customs clearance.
Contact the web store to find out whether it is included the IOSS system and charged Finnish VAT from you in connection with your purchase. This is mentioned, for example, in the web store’s terms of delivery. You can also check the purchase invoice or order confirmation. Customs does not have a database on web stores under the IOSS system.
- Note that certain web stores charge VAT also for the selling country in connection with purchases. This is indicated in the order confirmation or the invoice. This is not connected with the IOSS system which involves Finnish VAT. If you are required to VAT to the selling country for your purchase, you will then usually pay Finnish VAT for the entire amount (price of the purchase, VAT to the selling country, and transport costs).
If the seller does not have an IOSS number, you will not be able to pay the Finnish VAT when you purchase the goods. In such a case, the transport company will notify you about the need to declare your parcel, and you must personally see to both customs clearance and the payment of VAT to Finland. As regards the customs declaration, you can ask Posti or the transport company to submit it on your behalf or submit it yourself in the Import Declaration Service for private persons.
- Already prior to the introduction of the IOSS system, certain web stores have included Finnish VAT in the price of goods. However, some of these web stores are not included in the IOSS system, and therefore do not have IOSS identifiers.
The invoice from such a web store may, for example, have the abbreviation “DDP” or the text “Delivered duty paid” written on it. Ask the web store if your order is delivered by a transport company that does the declaration in Finland on your behalf and pays the Finnish VAT. If this is the case, you will receive the parcel directly to your home address or to a pick-up point.
Information on the European Commission website:
Information on the Finlex website (in Finnish):
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