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Swedish Customs: Sharp increase in intercepted online alcohol purchases

Martin Petersson, sakunnig på Tullverket
Martin Petersson

12.04.2024 - Swedes are increasingly ordering alcohol from online stores as it has become expensive to personally transport goods from abroad. However, many are unaware that they must also pay Swedish alcohol tax. This can result in an expensive lesson when both tax and penalty fees must be paid if the Swedish Customs stops the delivery. Last year, seven times as much alcohol ordered from foreign online stores was intercepted compared to the year before. "We are seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of alcohol intercepted in mail and package flows. Most people who order alcohol from foreign webshops unfortunately have no idea about the rules," says Martin Petersson, an expert at Swedish Customs.

Significant increase In 2023, Swedish Customs intercepted seven times more alcohol in mail and package flows compared to the previous year. The amount of alcohol stopped for personal use last year was 35,077 liters, compared to 4,873 liters in 2022. The amount of beer increased significantly, from 2,410 liters to 27,830 liters. The amount of spirits almost doubled, from 1,648 liters in 2022 to 3,213 liters last year. For wine and cider, the increase was fivefold, from 815 to 4,034 liters.

Looking at the number of shipments that Swedish Customs stopped in mail and package flows during 2023, there were 378. The year before, 2022, there were just under half as many, 173 shipments. In the first three months of this year, 167 alcohol shipments have been stopped.

Poor deal "Actually, it's quite a bad deal to order alcohol from foreign stores without paying tax. Because when we have stopped the alcohol, you must pay both the alcohol tax and a penalty fee, called a transport supplement, to get your ordered goods," explains Martin Petersson.

For example, if a person orders three liters of white wine for 290 SEK and seven liters of vodka for 1,650 SEK which are stopped at the import to Sweden, the cost after tax and penalty fee amounts to over 4,100 SEK (see the example calculation).

Clear rules

"I understand if people think it's both practical and economical to order alcohol online now when fuel prices are so high. Unfortunately, the webshops are often poor at informing about the applicable rules. It is unknown to many that the rules are different depending on whether you transport the alcohol yourself or hire a transporter for it," says Martin Petersson.

The rules state that anyone ordering alcohol online from abroad must always pay alcohol tax regardless of the amount. This also applies if it is for personal use. The buyer must register themselves as the recipient with the Swedish Tax Agency in advance and ensure that the alcohol tax is paid.

Swedish Customs charged twice as much tax on alcohol purchases from foreign webshops in 2023 compared to the year before. In 2023, tax revenues were 929,928 SEK. In 2022, it was less than half that amount: 421,185 SEK.

Example calculation

A person orders from a foreign webshop three liters of white wine for 290 SEK and seven liters of vodka for 1,650 SEK. Swedish Customs stops the shipment because the recipient has not paid Swedish alcohol tax.

Purchase price without alcohol tax: 1,940 SEK. The alcohol tax for the wine is 88 SEK, and for the spirits, 1,475 SEK. Purchase price with alcohol tax (88 + 1,475 + 1,940): 3,503 SEK. Total price after tax and transport supplement, which is 40 percent of the tax (3,503 + 625): 4,128 SEK.


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