Since 1 July 2021, the day when the new directive that amended the VAT regime came into force, all goods imported from third countries, including those up to €22, are subjected to VAT, which means the end of the previous exemption from VAT on community purchases up to €22. All purchases of goods on websites based outside the EU now pay VAT and are subject to customs procedures, regardless of value.

If before there were already problems in the delivery of goods from abroad, now the scenario is far worse. This situation, according to information released by Diário de Notícias, has resulted in thousands of orders being held at customs and are still awaiting shipment.

The European directive - which was supposed to come into force at the beginning of the year, and because of the pandemic just came into force this summer – applied to all member states and changes the VAT regime and complementary legislation on transactions outside the EU.

Furthermore, an official CTT source admitted to The Portugal News that there have been delays in the delivery of goods in the EU. For them, this new European directive brought changes and now the market has to get used to it. At the moment, according to CTT, the complexity of the new process and the inexperience of sellers outside the community space, with the new procedure, are causing constraints.

"It took us less than an hour to release the product"

However, the Tax Authority (AT), the entity to which customs belongs, published a note on its website, on 2 September, after being criticided and accused of causing the delays, saying that they took less than an hour to release a product.

“After receiving the customs import declaration from CTT, AT processes the declaration relating to the postal order, performs all required validations and then allows the release of the goods in less than 1 hour”, reads the AT statement.

According to AT, before sending the declaration, CTT has to check whether the online platform through which the purchase was made has ensured the payment of VAT, otherwise, CTT contact the client requesting documents relating to the postal order and payment of VAT. Then, based on the information sent by the clients, CTT submits the customs import declaration, requesting customs to release the order.

In the same note, AT holds CTT responsible for complaints that customs has received. "The complaints that AT has received in this regard refer to orders from CTT, which or did not present any declaration to AT, or in cases where AT has already authorised the released of the goods, that is, always before or after customs intervention”, they said, suggesting that clients should contact CTT directly whenever they have questions regarding this matter.

Sellers don’t send info on VAT payment

The same official source from CTT told The Portugal News that they are doing their best to improve the situation and mitigate delays; however, CTT adds that there are more entities involved that need to be aware of the new rules in order to solve the problem.

“CTT’s current customs process is based on prior notice information from the company that sells the goods outside Europe”, said CTT. This means that proof of payment of VAT must be provided from the seller to the postal operator of destination - in this case CTT - by an electronic message complying with a specific protocol.

However, when this message is not sent by a company that sells the goods outside Europe – “which has been very frequent at this early stage - CTT cannot ensure that the product in question has the VAT paid and this does not allow its release for shipment to the final client”, adding that “is only valid for this purpose the electronic information provided by the seller, so it is not even possible for CTT to complete this information, due to AT’s imposition, even if it is provided by the client”, CTT explained.

The current process requires sellers to be aware that they have to start giving more information to CTT. In this sense: “CTT is working to raise awareness of the new rules”, appealing to its clients to respond to customs clearance notices and to send complete information that allows CTT to complete processes within the deadlines.

CTT is available on weekdays between 8:30am and 7:30pm by calling 21 047 16 16 or using the contact form at


Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252

Paula Martins