How to Pass Vietnamese Customs B2C

How to Get Your B2C E-commerce Goods Through Vietnamese Customs

By Nick Bartlett on March 7, 2022
Making mistakes at customs means unhappy customers. Here’s how you can prepare to make sure your packages pass Vietnamese customs every time.

So you’ve started to get individual B2C buyers in Vietnam for your e-commerce business. That’s great news. Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world today. A customer base there likely means lots of sales in the future.

However, as a developing economy run by a one-party government, Vietnam has many import customs regulations you won’t find anywhere else – and making mistakes at customs means delayed shipments, extra fees, and unhappy customers.

If you want to make a great reputation for your business in this rising economy, you need to stay up to date with Vietnamese customs procedures - or work with a business that can do it for you.

For more general information about shipping to Vietnam, make sure to read our overview here.

For B2C shipping to Vietnam, we think it’s best to break the process into the four steps shown below:

  1. Preparing and packaging your goods - We'll discuss all the documents you’ll need to attach to your packages and how to attach them.
  2. Package collection - We'll discuss how to deliver your packages to Vietnam.
  3. Customs inspection - We'll discuss what happens during customs inspections.
  4. Customer fulfillment - We'll tell you how your packages will be delivered to your customers in Vietnam.

Here’s how you can prepare for each of these steps to make sure your packages pass customs every time.

1. Preparing and packaging your goods

This is probably the easiest step to get wrong and a top reason why you should consider working with a logistics business that already operates in Vietnam like CBIP.

With every package, you’ll need to attach a label that includes:

  • Your details and address
  • Your customer’s details and address
  • Country of manufacture
  • Declared value and the currency in VND or USD
  • Harmonized System (HS) Code of Item
  • Item description
  • Item weight and dimensions
  • Item quantity

Incorrectly documenting any of these items means your package gets stuck in customs. Even worse, your packages may be shipped back to you for an additional cost.

Make sure your documents are as accurate as possible and you haven’t under-declared the value of the items of your shipments. Some documents will require your signature and all documents supplied must be written in Vietnamese. 

Finally, you’ll need to print and paste the shipping label with this information securely onto your package. There are two main things to note about this:

  1. The addresses and bar codes on the shipping label must be in clear view.
  2. The shipping documents must be found on the package. Many businesses place supporting documents inside a clear plastic pocket and tape them onto the package.

2. Package collection

Depending on the service you use, a courier will either collect your packages directly from your warehouse address (or wherever you store your packages) or at one of their drop-off points in the country your packages are shipping from.

If you use a business like a 4PL with tech integrations like track and trace, you’ll receive a tracking code for your package after your carrier receives it. Your customer can also use this tracking code to find out where the package currently is.

Once your package is in your logistics provider’s hands, there’s nothing else for you to do. Now you can only wait and see if your package makes it through.

3. Customs inspection

This is the moment of truth. If you have correctly labeled your package, paid proper dues, and your item is not on a list of banned or restricted goods, then your package will quickly go through customs and be sent on to your customer.

If anything goes wrong, a couple of situations could happen:

  • Your package may be sent back to you for an extra charge.
  • Your package may be held in customs until you, your customer, or your courier pays additional fees and/or declares the package.

If either of these scenarios happens, it’s likely your logistics service and your customer will both notify you. Where you go from here depends on your contract with your logistics provider and your customer reimbursement policy.

RELATED READING: Logistics in Vietnam: Growth, opportunities, and need-to-know facts

4. Customer fulfillment

Your goods have passed customs! Now you’ll need to hurdle one last obstacle: sending your goods on to your customers in Vietnam.

Depending on how you’ve arranged your shipping, your goods will be either sent on to your customers by your logistics provider or your customers will need to come to customs and pay to receive their goods.

Let’s talk about that:

Who’s going to pay? DDP vs. DAP

When shipping goods, businesses have two options to choose from DDP (Delivery Duty Placed) and DAP (Delivery At Place). 

  • With DDP, you pay duties ahead of time so your goods go straight through customs and are delivered directly to customers. 
  • With DAP, your customers must come to customs and pay duties and taxes to release their package.

In Vietnam, many customers prefer the DAP system where they have to go pick up the goods and pay VAT themselves. 92 percent of Vietnamese shoppers reportedly prefer cash on delivery (COD) for products bought online. However, it is very difficult to set up a working infrastructure for COD with most logistics providers. Fortunately, Vietnamese are now more comfortable paying online as banking moves to their phones.

Most experts suggest you use DDP for deliveries as it reduces time in customs and, therefore, delivery times. DDP leaves fewer surprises for customers who generally don’t like to learn about extra fees. According to Shopify, unexpected delivery costs are one of the top four reasons for abandoned shopping carts.

However, if you are a small business expanding to many new markets at once DAP may be a stronger option. Using this system can save you time when calculating duties.

Now let’s talk briefly about duties and taxes:

Duties and taxes for B2C goods in Vietnam

Vietnamese have a de minimis tax rule. That means you don’t need to pay duties and taxes on goods costing less than 1,000,000 VND (~$50). But that price tag doesn’t just include the price of the item: 

Package value = shipping price + value of the product listed on the customs declaration + insurance

If your packages exceed one million VND then you can usually expect the standard VAT rate of 10%. However, this rate varies a bit depending on your product category. We’ve listed a few general categories used for VAT below along with their rates:

  • Mobile devices 0%
  • Tablets 0%
  • Computers 0%
  • Cameras 12%
  • Accessories 20%
  • Accessories (Battery) 30%
  • Health & Beauty 0%
  • Fashion 30%
  • Watches 20%
  • Jewelry 20%
  • Pets Accessories 20%
  • Dry Food & Supplements 10%
  • Home Appliances 25%
  • Home Decor 25%
  • Toys 20%
  • Sports 5%
  • Luggage 12%
  • Audio Video 20%
  • Documents 0%
  • Gaming 25%
  • Books & Collectibles 25%

Note: Vietnam calculates VAT using the CIF method. That means import duties and taxes are also calculated based on the total package value above.

Get through Vietnamese customs reliably with CBIP

As you can see, shipping to customers in Vietnam is extremely complicated to do by yourself.

For the last decade or so, you might have turned to express couriers like DHL or FedEx to ship to new markets like Vietnam. However, these businesses don’t offer the flexibility or transparency scaling e-commerce businesses need. That’s why a growing number of businesses are turning to fourth-party logistics businesses like CBIP.

When you work with CBIP, we first make sure we know every necessary detail about your business and vision. We then go back to our network of warehouses, shippers, couriers, and freight forwarders and create a logistics plan designed just for you.

Unlike with FedEx or DHL, if you don’t like the plan we show you, we can change it. We can do that because we don’t own any logistics assets. That means we aren’t locked in by contracts requiring us to use certain routes or warehouses and can focus on making your business better.

Interested? Get on a call with one of our team and we’ll get you started on your new logistics plan for Vietnam and beyond.

About Author

Nick Bartlett

Nick Bartlett is CBIP’s director of sales and marketing. His expertise lies in marketing, supply chain management, and corporate retail experience. He honed his skills over 10+ years working across the Asia Pacific region and beyond.

Nick keeps a close eye on new markets and believes successful business operations come through value-based relationships.

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