A person ordering sparkling wine from an online shop in Helsinki in April 2021. Unpaid excise taxes and duties on alcoholic beverages ordered from abroad are estimated to cost the Finnish state 80–100 million euros a year. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)


FINNISH CUSTOMS and the Finnish Tax Administration on Wednesday announced they are stepping up the enforcement of rules governing the purchases of alcoholic beverages from webshops located outside Finland as of November.

Customs officials will start detaining orders of alcoholic beverages and ascertain with tax officials whether the requisite advance notices have been submitted and guarantee amounts have been paid.

If the notices have not been filed and payments have not been made in cases where the seller is responsible for duties, tax officials will seize the products. Customs officials will receive the right to dispose of the seized products if the seller fails to make the payments within six months, according to a press release from the Tax Administration.

Customers who encounter delays with their orders are urged to contact the webshop because legal rules prevent authorities from notifying the customer in cases where the seller is responsible for the duties on grounds that the issue only concerns the seller and the Tax Administration.

In cases where the buyer is responsible for the duties, the products will not be detained by Finnish Customs. Tax officials will instead send the buyer a tax demand if any excise duties are deemed outstanding.

Sami Peltola, the head of compliance control at the Tax Administration, reminded that the price of low-cost beer ordered online from overseas can double with the inclusion of duties.

The Tax Administration provided two somewhat startling examples of the potential impact of duties on alcohol ordered from abroad. A 24-can pack of beer with an alcohol content of 4.6 per cent that was sold online for 13.90 euros carries an excise duty of 13.86 euros on the beer and one of 4.03 euros on the cans, raising the total price to 31.79 euros.

A three-litre box of red wine sold for 11.9 euros, in turn, carries an excise duty of 12.63 euros on the wine and one of 1.53 euros on the container, raising the price to 26.06 euros.

Estimates suggest Finland is losing roughly 80–100 million euros in excise-tax revenue every year because of failure to pay duties on alcohol ordered from foreign online shops to Finland. Statistics from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) indicate that altogether 33 million litres of alcoholic beverages was imported from online shops in 2021. The statistics show that the volume has increased threefold since 2019.

“It has become obvious that the increased popularity of online alcohol is almost entirely based on easy avoidance of excise duty payments,” said Peltola.

The enforcement campaign is set to continue at least until the end of 2023.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT