Can I import alcohol over the internet?

Can I import alcohol over the internet?
Ask The Local: Is it legal for a private person to import alcohol to Sweden via the internet?

It is legal for people to privately import alcohol into Sweden, either via online shops in Sweden or directly from the producer.

Until June 2008, it was not legal to buy alcohol from online companies to be delivered in Sweden. If a resident of Sweden was caught doing so, he or she would be fined and the alcohol seized by the authorities.

However, Swedish Customs announced in June 2008 it would change the regulation to allow people to privately order alcohol online. As of January 1st, 2009, the ‘paperwork’ of the matter was completed and made officially legal.

“There are two ways the alcohol can come into Sweden,” says Christina Levander of the Swedish Tax agency. “One is if you go to a website that sells the alcohol and transports the goods to you, like any ordering company. In that case, the seller must be registered here in Sweden as a distance seller of alcohol, and they pay the excess duty.”

However, many companies don’t want to go through this administrative process to register, she says, which creates the second way in which alcohol can enter the country.

“Those companies try to get the buyer to contact a transport company, so the buyer himself orders the transport of the goods,” Levander says. “By law, the buyer is then liable to pay the excess duty.”

Therefore, individuals purchasing alcohol online must take into account the price of transportation and duty taxes, if the company does not pay these fees for the customer.

“We see many sites that don’t pay for transport, which forces the buyer to hire a transport company, and then the buyer is taking the risk,” she says. “There are some websites that are registered and do it by the book, mostly sites with fine wines and such. They aren’t into selling high amounts, but high quality products.”

Levander says whether alcohol is purchased online or in a Systembolaget, the taxes paid on it all go to the same place, the Swedish Tax Agency. The tax rates are the same regardless of where the alcohol is purchased.

So long as alcohol purchased online is for personal use, there is no limit to how much one person can import. The problem is, if it’s a large quantity being imported, to prove it’s all for personal use.

“When the customs authority stops the transport truck and sees the amount, they might get suspicious and take the goods into custody,” Levander says. “They might just examine and see who’s paying for it. The risk you take is that you won’t get the goods until you prove it’s for your own personal use.”

She advises individuals wishing to buy alcohol online to call the company or the Swedish Tax Agency if unsure about the company’s legitimacy. If customers are asked to contact a transport company and arrange delivery themselves, then they should be aware the price of the goods will increase.

If an individual buys alcohol outside of Sweden and brings it into the country him or herself, then he or she will not be charged duty taxes on the goods.

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