Kickstarter Lesson #47: This Project Is EU Friendly

20 August 2013 | 80 Comments

Today I have a special guest post for you about how to make your Kickstarter project more EU friendly–and if you’ve done that, how to communicate that on the project page so European backers can quickly and easily identify your project as something they can reasonably afford to back. You can see the financial value of European backers in the Euphoria stats–a full 27% of our backers were in the EU.

I “met” the author of this post (Euphoria backers will recognize him as andvaranaut) through the Euphoria campaign. Recently we were discussing EU shipping on Kickstarter, and he had so many invaluable things to say that I invited him to write a guest post about it. Andvaranaut lives in Spain, so this is the inside scoop on how to make an EU backer happy.

Also, andvaranaut happens to be a very talented graphic designer and developer, so I suggested that he create a few logos to be placed on EU-friendly projects. You can copy and paste them from this post or download them from my Kickstarter shipping folder. Enjoy!


I must confess that I am a sucker for board game Kickstarters. I’m always curious about all the new offerings. I love the idea of supporting small publishers and indie authors. And, for those cases in which I have ended up pledging, I have enjoyed myself immensely participating in the community that all energetic projects have around them. Most of the times, it’s a great ride which has a cool reward at the end – what’s not to like?

For a resident of the European Union, however, there is an important factor to consider – whether the rewards will be shipped from within the EU or not. While, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Stonemaier Games and other pioneers, more and more projects are shipping from within the EU, I still find that most projects either don’t offer that possibility or don’t make that information available or easy to find.

I won’t go into the logistic details – that’s not my area of expertise, and Jamey has already covered that base in depth in a great Kickstarter Lesson. Rather, I would like to explain, from the perspective of a potential EU backer, why exactly having an EU shipping system in place is a boon for us, and why it makes us much more likely to support your project.

It’s Not Just the Shipping

A distribution system such as the one Jamey recommends has the evident advantage of cutting on shipping costs. So, if shipping a game from your warehouse to Europe costs, say, $20 more than having it being delivered from within the EU, you are saving your backers $20, plus the time of an extra shipment step.

That alone is great. However, you might think that, if you find a way to keep the shipping costs down, or are willing to absorb some of these costs yourself, it should make no difference for an European backer whether you ship from within Europe or not. After all, it’s just a $20 value, right?

Turns out, it is not the case.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say I’m a backer in a $40 pledge level in Spain, my home country, which is representative of European Union laws. As you are a nice guy, you ask me for $10 extra for shipping and you subsidize the other $10, and send the package with a declared value of $50 (what I actually paid for it).

Then, this is what will happen when you ship my reward to me. First, the package will be stopped at customs, entailing a delay of a few days to a week. Second, two charges will then be levied – VAT (21%, or $10.5) and a fixed administrative charge (around $23 as of today). And third, when the mailman shows up at my door with the package (usually with no previous notice), I will be expected to pay both charges (around $34).

So the $40 reward level for which I already paid $50 back in the day ends up costing me about $84, and that’s with you taking a significant hit on your profits with the $10 discount. Conversely, had the package been shipped from within the EU, it would have already cleared customs and VAT at the port of entry, and I would not have had to pay anything other than the original pledge.

There are a few nuances to the process, as charges (and the administrative procedure) may vary depending on the country, but there’s a fairly uniform limit of 22 € (about $30) for all Euro-zone countries – any commercial shipment over that amount has to pay VAT and possibly a fee to clear customs. Because of this, some creators —in good faith— offer the possibility of marking the packages with the manufacture value.

However, this is not correct practice – the declared value of packages should always be the actual amount that was paid for them (and, in some cases, you even need to include shipping, insurance and other additional costs). While it might slip under the radar, if the package catches the eye of customs agents (and a huge package marked as $20 will probably do), the backer will be asked to provide a receipt stating what was actually paid for it – and pay VAT and other fees if over 22 €.

The bottom line is that having a somewhat expensive package shipped into the EU is a source of uncertainty, inconvenience and additional costs for your backers down the line. It does not help that the way customs work is somewhat confusing, and that the relevant information can be difficult to find. In most circumstances, it’s just not worth the risk.

The Value for Your Backers

As a potential backer, this is what I see when a project states that it will ship EU-bound rewards from within the EU:

  • My pledge is final – it has no hidden costs or nasty surprises in store because of customs.
  • All the money I’ll pay will actually go towards paying the creator’s costs, not external administrative overhead.
  • The creator not only has tried to keep shipping costs down for us (which is much appreciated) – he/she also understands what the problem is, and has worked hard to provide an alternative.

By shipping from the EU, you are saving your backers a significant amount of hassle, in delays and cost. You are also saving yourself from frustrated backers (“I already paid for shipping – what do you mean I have to pay $30 extra?!”), which can be damaging to your reputation through no fault of your own. And it’s faster and safer – you can use local shipping companies instead of the regular mail, which means tracking numbers and speedy delivery.

As things stand today, it’s also a great way to differentiate. Every backer is a world, but I’ll tell you this: I’m very unlikely to back any project which does not ship from the EU, specially if I have several other great projects to choose from which do.

EuFriendly1024Let the World (or the EU) Know

Let’s say you have a system for EU shipping in place, either by following Jamey’s suggestions or by any other means (such as somebody acting as a mail forwarder, or just shipping everything from the EU). That’s great – but if you don’t make an asset out of it, you’ll be missing on a lot of its potential value.

So tell the world! Be sure that potential EU backers will know from a cursory glance at your project that you will ship from within the EU. There are three places in which you should consider mentioning this:

  • The shipping section. This is an absolute must. The section should be clearly redacted, easy to find, and state upfront where the games will be shipping from. Be sure to make EU shipping a prominent feature – if your visitors have to search for the information elsewhere or (worse) ask you directly about it, most will not bother.
  • Pledge levels. Let EU backers know that you are shipping from within the EU, or that customs is included in the pledge level. Remember – “shipping” and “customs” are different things. At the very least, mention something along the lines of “EU backers, please see Shipping below for more information”. It’s particularly critical that you include these mentions from the start, as you can’t modify pledge levels after the campaign has started.
  • Near the page header. The intention is that somebody can get the idea just by glancing at the project page. Unlike the two previous places, I don’t think that it’s mandatory, although I’d recommend it – and if you are going the “free shipping” route, it makes for a great selling point.

I am in the habit of asking, and I’m continually surprised by how many creators are shipping from within the EU but don’t mention it in any easily reachable place of the project page. I wonder how many EU backers these projects could have gained by making that information more readily available. While it’s great to give the information on comments, updates or replying to interested persons directly, the truth is that neither of these avenues will help you capture new backers, save for very dedicated ones – so be sure that your main page gets the point across effectively.

In all honesty, the best model I have come across is Euphoria – there’s a “Free shipping” call in the video, “customs included” in the pledge levels and a clearly written Shipping section in which the whole EU shipping model is outlined. Most well-meaning projects mention “free shipping” or “shipping included”, which, while hinting in that direction, is not the same as “ships within the EU”.

Byzantio and Canterbury are other examples. They both mention in the project page that the games will be shipped from Europe, and, while not explicitly stated in the pledge levels, they make clear that the EU is a special case. However, in both cases, the information is in the “Risks and Challenges” section – it would probably have been a good idea to also state it in the “Shipping” section to make it more easily discoverable.

Handling Extra Costs

Once you do the math, you may find that you still have to ask your EU backers for some extra charge. Perhaps shipping to their particular country is expensive, or you need to add VAT (around 20%) to the pledged amount.

As long as the involved amounts are not outrageous, I would not sweat it. Of course, it’s nicer if you can offer completely free shipping, but remember that you are already saving your backers a significant hidden cost by shipping from within the EU.

If the amount is significant (perhaps over $10), a clarification in the Shipping section of your homepage (or a linked update) explaining it could be a good idea. You may take the chance to stress that the amount charged is final, so that extra charge is actually much cheaper than having the package stopped at customs.

Offering a more advantageous package can also be worth considering. For example, Templar – The Secret Treasures, which will ship from Germany, charges $15 for shipping to most of the EU, but offers free shipping for pledges over $80, and a number of attractive bundles at that price point or above. As the base game cost is $50, I would expect most affected people to have gone with one of the bundles – $65 for a game is hefty, but two games at $40 each is a very competitive price.

Why Is the EU Special?

While I’m no expert, I’m sure that most of what I have written above can be applied to countries or territories other than the EU. Here are some reasons which make the EU a good target for your efforts:

  • It’s big. Once customs and VAT is cleared at any EU port, you are able to send your packages anywhere within the EU (28 countries, and counting) without extra charges (other than shipping). That’s half a billion people.
  • There’s an audience. Two particular countries stand out. Germany is the Mecca of Eurogames – board games are huge in the country. The UK has also a very dedicated gaming community and has no language barrier for games in English. But gaming is popular throughout the EU. While it’s anecdotal evidence, it’s interesting to check the amount of European people in the Map of Euphoria, on which Euphoria backers could voluntarily place themselves.
  • The hobby is alive. It’s not only players – there are many local forums, blogs and other platforms which specialize in board games and which can be tapped to provide extra exposure. Many recognized game designers and publishers are European, game stores (local and online) abound, and the EU hosts several large conventions and fairs each year, including SPIEL.

A Modest Proposal

While talking to Jamey about the possibility of tackling this subject, he had a great proposal – namely, creating some kind of banner to easily identify projects which will ship their EU-bound rewards from within the EU, as a way to state “This project is EU-friendly”. Here’s a logo which you are welcome to use in your projects as a way to catch the eye of potential EU backers, simple and unique enough to be recognizable and readable at small sizes, both in “stamp” form (SVG, PNG) and in banner form (SVG, PNG).

You may also have your art director create a personalized image or banner which conveys the same message. Either way, if creators make a habit of clearly showing EU shipping in their project pages, it will not only convince potentially interested backers to pledge with confidence – it will help bring more creators on board.

Until EU shipping becomes the norm instead of the exception, it would also be great to have some kind of central index of projects with intra-EU shipping. I have created a GeekList to that effect; contributions are certainly welcome.

Also read: 5 Shipping Partners in the EU for Kickstarter Reward Fulfillment

Leave a Comment

80 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #47: This Project Is EU Friendly

  1. I’m working with an manufacturer in Taiwan right now that wants to be able to offer fulfillment services to their KS-based clients, and they’ve agreed to take my game on as one of their early trials for this, because it’s a small-box card game. They say they’ve done fulfillment for single deck card games before, and have never run into any trouble with VAT charges when sending out bubble envelopes with even up to 6 decks of cards via Taiwanese air mail.

    Now, I’m a little skeptical about this, because I’m kind of just taking their word on it, but if I’m not mistaken, if I’m sending out a single deck of cards that I’ve charged $20CAD to the customer for, that should be under the VAT threshold for almost all countries, correct? Therefore I’d be relatively safe to include free worldwide shipping with that $20CAD for one copy of the game? But charging, say, $60 for 4 copies/decks of cards would put the package value high enough that I should be wary of whatever tactics they might be using to get the package to the end user without additional customs charges, yes?

    And even if I stick to just sending individual copies of the game, one copy per package, which would result in securely free shipping for pretty much everybody, I assume I still can’t use the “XYZ Friendly Shipping” icons on my page, right? Since those icons are meant specifically for projects that are shipping from within Canada, USA, Australia, and the EU?

    I do feel like the shipping method I’ll be using would still be friendly towards all the different regions, but if I’m not within my rights labeling my project with those icons, obviously I don’t want to do it.

  2. One question I have always had is about the CE code to get through EU customs.I apologize if this is explained elsewhere. We plan to ship through Panda Manufacturing and my packaging designer said we need to get the CE test done which Panda said would run about $900. Anyone have any other details on this?

    1. Casey: It is true that the CE test costs $900, but you don’t have to actually get the CE test to claim that your game (via the CE icon) would pass the test IF it took the test. Basically, put the CE logo on your game, and if European customs has a problem with it, you can pay for the test.

  3. Thanks for the good idea Bichatse! I think whatever choice I go with I will need to make sure to communicate it well to my backers. The one drawback I see with this option is that I would need to have an “EU friendly option” for each of my pledge levels which would double the reward sidebar…

    Perhaps, if it was communicated well enough, I could have no shipping charged during the campaign and they could choose to upgrade to “EU Friendly Shipping” ($5) afterwards. This would keep the sidebar clear and still allow them to choose which option they want… In general, I prefer shipping charges to be upfront, but this may be a better option. Thoughts?

  4. Thanks for that information Morten. I guess EU shipping is a bigger conundrum than I thought… And, as I reconsider my proposal, sending 2 packages also means that the backers would receive them separately… So it seems that my best options would be:

    1) Just charge all EU backers an extra $5 shipping and send all packages EU friendly (reduces hassle and backers get their pledges at once).

    2) Charge an extra $5 shipping to low threshold/no threshold countries to send packages EU friendly and send packages to $15+ threshold countries individually (reduces cost for some EU backers).

    3) Use option 2, but allow EU backers to add $5 in shipping to use EU friendly shipping.

    Does anyone have an opinion on this?

    1. Given that I come from Denmark I would of course prefer options 2 or 3, but if it’s only Denmark that has a threshold this low (the few others I’ve seen has been higher), then I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle, since Denmark is such a small country.

      So, my first suggestion would be to figure out, whether other countries has such low thresholds.

    2. Personally I’d go for option 3b, I think – offer two separate pledge levels, one for “proper” EU-friendly shipping where you use the fulfilment company’s EU-friendly service, and one for general “international” shipping where you send out one game per package and you tell the backers what the declared value of the package is – and EU backers can work it out for themselves whether they want to risk the individual packages getting into their country unmolested or whether they want to pay a bit extra for the peace of mind of EU-friendly shipping.

      Of course, you need to also make sure that you calculate your goal amount based on the worst-case scenario (where the maximum amount of backed money is spent on shipping so you have the minimum amount to actually pay for the manufacturing of the game!) and if that produces an undesirable target, you may find it’s better for your KS to just insist on the individual $15-$20 packages even if it means fewer backers from EU countries.

  5. Shipping two $15 packages to Denmark from outside the EU would cost the receiver two times roughly $26 _extra_ per package.

    The threshold in Denmark tend to hover between $11 and $12 (depending on the exchange rate). When a package goes above that it adds a fee of around $23 plus 25% VAT – and this is per package.

  6. I’m 100% sure that two packages from the same sender won’t be evaluated as a single unit in the UK at least. Unless you tape them together and fill out a single customs declaration. The whole point of ignoring low-value items is that it’s not cost-effective for HMRC to examine them.

    However, there’s a few issues:

    – You’d have to pay shipping twice, and 2x shipping-for-half-the-weight is usually more than 1x shipping-for-the-whole-weight

    – $20 is an arbitrary usually-the-case value, each EU state has their own thresholds beneath which import duties/VAT is ignored on incoming packages. For example, in the UK the real threshold is £15, which is presently more like $18 thanks to the bloody idiots we left in charge of our country. Also in the UK, the price of the shipping is not considered when this threshold is compared, so if you label your item as having a value of $17 and assume the other $3 is shipping costs, then that would still pass under that threshold.)

    – Point of order, the issue generally isn’t paying VAT in principle, it’s the handling charges that couriers and postal services place on the service of taking your VAT money. Often as much as the value of the item itself. This often means that sending to an in-EU forwarder (and paying VAT on the whole batch of rewards upon entry to the EU) then re-shipping within the EU is often still preferable for EU residents. Unless your forwarder is in the UK and your KS expects to ship after March 2019!

    1. I’m planning on using Send From China (SFC) for my campaign. They package the product and send it directly to the backers from China. This means no freight charges (assuming I’m manufacturing in China, which I am). Shipping 1 unit to the UK would be $5 (from a $20 pledge), Shipping two units concurrently would be $15 with their EU friendly service (from a $40 pledge). Instead, I can send them independently, the total costs are then $15 per unit with $5 shipping per unit; thereby, by my understanding, I would be sending EU friendly packages at a cheaper price point.

      1. If you ship to the UK, and with the $5 deducted from the value on the customs declaration (that is, declare it as having a $15 value), then that will probably be the best solution *for UK backers*. But across the EU there are different countries with different import duty/taxation schemes and guidelines, and it’ll quite possibly be the case that some of those have different thresholds.

        Their “EU Friendly” service, on the other hand, most likely ships the package to a forwarder inside the EU, pays the VAT/import duty on the entire shipment at manufacturing prices, and then sends the individual packages out without any risk of additional fees to backers whatsoever – so there’s most likely a reason it’s more expensive.

        1. AFAIK the extra cost from shipping via the EU is not necessarily because of VAT and import fees, but rather because the agreements in the Universal Postal Union makes postal services in first world countries subsidize shipping from third world countries and China is categorized as being a third world country.

          The consequence is that it can be cheaper to ship something from China to Denmark that it is to send the same package within Denmark.

  7. It seems like this EU shipping fiasco is super complicated. But I did have an insight and it would be good to have someone check me. It seems to be established that if I have a $20 pledge level, shipping including, there’s no VAT. But lets say that someone added a second copy of the game, so now their pledge is $40, shipping included. If I sent those packages together, there would obviously be VAT applied.

    Now, what would happen if I sent those packages separately: two distinct $20 packages with shipping included?

    My instinct says that customs would see this as two separate packages valued at $20 (which is true) even though technically they were paid for together. Insights?

  8. Guys, thanks so much for these posts, and to all the commenters too.

    I’m a British national planning on my first Kickstarter using international shipping methods like the ones you’ve detailed. I’m hoping you might know but you might not and thanks anyway if that’s the case!

    My question is… What changes being in the UK. Do I need to find an American postal address for anything?

    Does anything change in terms of me shipping to the EU? (Based on the thought that we might actually stay in Europe.. Eek).

    Also, forgive my ignorance, but is Amazon connected to Kickstarter and that’s why you need to create an account in each continent? I did a small greetings card print run a while back and remember signing up to Amazon sellers I think, but shipped everything myself. So I’m not sure anything got shipped through Amazon.

    Anyway, thanks in advance. I can’t wait to get my copy of Scythe!

    1. Previously Kickstarter used Amazon as their payment service provider, which meant that project creators needed to create an Amazon Payments business account. In the meantime they’ve switched to using Stripe and so the Amazon account is no longer needed.

    1. Brian, Jamey, I’m not a tax expert. But, gut feel is this may be leaving you open to long term potential hrmc duty and extra vat liabilities. If you ‘sell’ to the uk, which you are doing as kickstarter is treated as pre sales, you need to charge vat of retail price plus shipping, and arguably, plus duty. By not doing so the uk hrmc / Eu, could hold the company or even yourself liable. That’s One view and advice I’ve had mentioned to me. Essentially, Clearing customs is not all of the vat obligation. It’s just customs. It may (and there may be a threashold) be you as a USA company have to register for vat in the eu, and then as you are selling goods in the uk or Eu, and then collect vat.

  9. Thanks Jamey. So in your experience there’s no obligation to collect VAT from the backers on the pledged amount?

  10. Hi Jamey,

    First of all, thank you so much for providing such an incredible resource for Kickstarter project creators.

    We ran our campaign in the US and have been planning on fulfilling rewards to EU backers through a UK-based fulfillment partner. We understand that we will be required to pay VAT on the cost of goods being imported into the UK, but what about VAT on the Kickstarter pledges? We haven’t been able to find any concrete literature on the subject. What was your experience in the past?


  11. I need a little bit more explanation on the financial flows involved in importing in selling in UK.
    Let’s say the backers each paid $50 (free shipping included) and that you declare that the value of each game entering the Amazon warehouse is $20. You therefore have to pay $20*20% = $4 per game in VAT to the UK tax office.
    But what happens when Amazon actually ships the game to the backer?
    a. you remit the VAT on the sale (i.e. 20%*$50 = $10 on which you can offset the $4 you paid upon importing, making a net payment of $6) to the UK tax office?
    b. nothing
    c. something else?

    1. Dicey legal ground in one PoV, as far as the advice I’ve had is, it’s a USA company making what is called in the uk a ‘distance sale’ and vat would be charged at the full rate of 20% on the shipping plus game box costs. BUT, There is also import duty of 4.7% on games to the uk. There is an argument the hrmc could chase you or your company for the unpaid duty if your customer did not pay it.

  12. Hmm, thought that would nest, since it didn’t I’ll expand… There were some comments about charges being waved for the UK if below a certain amount, this does not apply to VAT.

    For imports to the UK there is a waiver of amounts of *Import Duty* less than £9. No such waiver applies to VAT. Once you go over £15 you will pay VAT, currently at 20% and an admin charge, which for me has always been £8. Import Duty is only payable on goods over the value of £135 and then at a rate that depends on the type of goods, generally 2.5% but also 0% for many categories of goods (miniatures = scale models appears to be a good way to go).

  13. Hey, thanks for this post. Despite the time passed I have found it really interesting! My question is the opposite, im from EU (Spain) and almost going to launch a Kickstarter next week. Do you have any feedback about shippings from EU to USA, Canadá, Australia? I’m talking about customs or VAT. I will be sending books alone (using the Spanish Post service for sending international books) or with merchandising related to the book (using normal international packages post service or maybe UPS) as rewards. Thanks in advance!!
    ps.- Congratulations for the friendly shipping badges!

    1. Xavier: Thanks for your question, and sorry about the delay in my reply–I was at a convention. I must admit I don’t know much about fees incurred by shipping from the EU to the US, Canada, or Australia. The only time I’ve had any issues was when shipping from the US to Canada via FedEx–customers were surprised (just as I was) to pay a $30 customs fee when they received the games. I’m not sure if that was a FedEx thing or a general customs thing. If it’s a book, different rules may apply.

    2. Hi Xavier, the comment may be a bit late to be of use to you now, but I’m making it in case it’s of use to others looking at the lessons.
      The eu /uk law is that When you import to the USA from the uk you DO charge VAT, but it’s 0% . Ie zero rate vated. One (roundabout) reason for this is so you can claim back input vat you made in creating the product.

  14. There is also a high level of ‘faffing’ involved. For me recieving a kickstarter that requires the vat to be paid will often involve driving 30 miles to my nearest depot, which due to working hours can only be done on a Saturday morning. We really do appreciate the EU friendly badge

  15. EU-friendly is a great initiative but you should really include the three EEA-countries in EU (Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein). I live in Norway, Norway is not a member of EU but it is a member of the European Free Trade Association and therefore a part of the European Economic Area. This results in Norway enjoying the the same freedom of moving goods, services and capital across European borders.

    Shipping a board game from Germany to Norway costs no more than shipping it to our neighbouring countries in the EU like Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Having to pay an additional 20-30 dollars for shipping for every “EU Friendly”-project I back is therefore a cost that actually doesn’t exist.

    So please consider including the EEA-countries in the EU shipping plans.

    1. Jon: Unfortunately the fulfillment companies in Europe rarely offer shipping to non-EU countries because there’s a big jump in price. For example, and (multi-channel fulfillment) don’t offer shipping to those countries at all because they’re not in the EU. My other shipping partner in Europe, Ideaspatcher, also cannot ship to EEA countries.

      If you know of a fulfillment company in Europe that offers cost-effective shipping to EEA countries, please let me know. Shipwire and Shipnaked are the other two I’m aware of, but I don’t know their costs for those countries.

  16. Thanks for the quick response Jamey!

    I will tell my partner that we need to nix the early backer level. The $22 was the average import, duty, and VA tax we would have to pay to send one copy of the game to a backer in the EU. I read those entries and the thing I missed was exactly when and how those taxes are paid.

    1.) If I ship 50 games to the through Dimerco at $5 a game, does that include the import and duty taxes on each of my games?
    2.) Now that the games are in the UK, when and where do I pay the VAT? I know you talked about an importer of record, are they immediately sent a bill for the VAT on those 50 games?
    3.) I saw in an early post that you used Panda to manufacturer your games, why did you use Dimerco to ship them to the UK instead of having Panda do it directly? Was it simply cheaper?

    Again, thank you for your insight.

    1. 1. $5 is a rough estimate–I don’t know the size, weight, or manufacturing cost of your game. If you contact Dimero with those figures, they’ll be able to give you an exact number. :)

      2. You pay the VAT when the games enter the UK. The importer of record will be sent the VAT bill soon after the games arrive.

      3. Panda is a manufacturer, not a shipping company. They hire companies like Dimerco to freight ship games, but because of the nuances my shipping system, I preferred to handle that hiring process myself (and have Dimerco handle all of it).

  17. Hello gentlemen, my business partner Jared and I are still trying to decide if it is financially feasible for us to include EU shipping on our project but I am still having trouble wrapping my head around a few items in regard to the VAT and import taxes.

    1.) The MSRP on our game is currently set at $70 but the backers will pay $45-$55 depending on how early they get in. If I understand your posts right then it will cost us shipping + ~$22 to get the product to our backers doors if we shipped directly from the US; is that correct?
    2.) If, instead, we were to ship a few pallets to then wouldn’t we still be paying ~$22 per copy of the game to whatever company we choose to send the units to the UK? Would I then be correct in assuming that the money we are saving is simply the cost of shipping from the US vs. the cost of shipping from inside the EU?
    3.) Jamey or anyone else who actually funded a KS in the US and then shipped to the EU, did you eat the cost of the import and VAT taxes on every copy of your game shipped to the EU or did you pass that to your backers? My fear is that if we eat $22 per copy of the game before fulfillment and shipping costs then each EU backer will only contribute a couple bucks to our bottom line and that will SKU the money we have available to fund stretch goals.

    Thanks again for all of the insight, this blog has been an amazing asset.

    1. ouariakas: Thanks for your questions.

      First, please don’t do a early-bird reward levels.

      Second, as for the $22 cost to ship to backers from the US, where are those backers and where did the $22 come from? I don’t quite understand the context of that question.

      Third, have you read my big entries about shipping? The key is that you don’t ship international packages from the US–you ship them directly from your manufacturer. Now, if your manufacturer is in the US and you have, say, 50 games to ship to the UK, you would get them in the hands of a freight forwarder (Dimerco), and they would send all of those games in one bulk package the UK, probably at a rate of around $5/game total. You’ll pay VAT on those incoming games based on the manufacturing cost of those games.

      Go read the following two entries and it’ll make more sense:

  18. It should, and will in a good majority of cases, as long as the stated value is not over 10 € (about $13 or so). But there’s no bulletproof guarantee. That’s the fickle nature of customs. :)

  19. Btw, guys, I plan to do my campaign as an individual and not a business entity. When sending out the rewards, it’s said that a sender invoice must be included– what kind of invoice do i send? like one simply typed out using MS Word? Thanks.

    1. As for the invoice you send, you can create one in Word. I would suggest that you run the campaign as company, though (or at least register as a company afterwards, even a sole proprietor). If you don’t, you leave yourself personally liable if you get sued.

  20. vwm: Speaking solely for the UK:

    – When the determination as to whether the value of the import is below £15 is made, in order to determine whether VAT is payable at all, shipping and insurance and so on is *not* included in the considered price. Only the value of the goods is considered.

    – *If* based on that valuation, VAT is payable, then you have to pay VAT on the value of the goods *and* the price paid for shipping and insurance.

    (This is exactly the same as I outlined more briefly above; there’s no conflict with the DutyCalculator’s description. Apologies if my earlier statement wasn’t clear enough.)

    So if you import an item priced at £14, which cost £10 to send to the UK, then you don’t pay VAT – because the price of the item itself is below the £15 threshold even though the total is higher. However, if you import an item priced at £20, with £10 shipping, then you pay VAT on a total of £30 (the cost of the item plus the cost of the postage), which at present rates is £6.

    Additionally, iff you pay VAT then you will almost certainly also pay a “handling fee” of around £8-£20, which supposedly covers the cost to the courier/postal service of presenting your package to customs and lending you the money to pay the VAT/duties in order to bring the parcel into the country. I say “supposedly” because in reality it doesn’t cost them anywhere near that much and it’s simple extortion.

    1. Thanks, Jake. Yes, sorry i got confused. I’m thinking one way to go about it (for direct mailing to EU recipients) is to lower the reward value below usual, and offset by increasing the shipping amount? Thereby both falling under the customs and vat minimum AND handling fee! my game isn’t expensive, actually $2 over the minimum threshold, so I was thinking maybe I could transfer that $2 to the shipping charge… no?

  21. Are there minimum thresholds below which import taxes are waived?

    For imports into the EU, there are minimum thresholds below which duty is waived. Duty is not charged if either:

    the total value of the goods (not including shipping charges or insurance) does not exceed £135 (€150, or equivalent in local currency), or
    the amount of duty payable on a commodity, does not exceed £9 (€10, or equivalent in local currency)

    Neither duty nor VAT is payable if the total value of the goods (not including shipping charges or insurance) does not exceed £15.


    Please note that VAT computation basis excludes shipping and insurance cost, unlike mentioned above by Jake Staines that it’s is value of good AND shipping cost– I hope someone can clarify which is correct?

    Thanks for the enlightening thread.

    1. vwm: Thanks for your comment. I think the key difference between shipping individual products from within the EU versus from the US to the EU is the burden of cost on the publisher versus the buyer. If you pledge $50 to receive a copy of a game from me and I ship it from the US, I have to report the total as $50 + shipping for customs/VAT. However, if I ship games in bulk to, the burden is on me to report the manufacturing cost per game on that shipment for VAT, and then after we ship those individual games within the EU, the burden shifts to the backer to report the total amount they pledged for those games if they’d like to (few do).

      1. Thanks for the clarification, Jamey. It seems the best way to go for a high volume campaign, like yours, though I’m extremely hesitant to set one up being without knowing how high (exceed) or low the volume would be before the campaign starts to justify something so elaborate… maybe I should limit mine to NAmerica first to see the reception, then do a round2 on my own site if there’s interest in EU territory. Does that make sense? Or would it be too late then?

        1. vwm: I don’t necessarily think this is just a high-volume solution. You could send a single box of goods to or and end up saving shipping costs to you and backers (as well as customs/VAT). Whatever you decide, don’t limit backers by location. Even if it’s a really high shipping price, backers like to have the option to support your project.

    2. Let’s see:

      1) The 150 € limit is EU-wise, and refers only to tariffs, not VAT. For the typical board game, tariffs are not an important factor and can be ignored – they need a high value and are typically small (about 3%).
      2) The £15 limit for VAT can be set by individual states (in this case, it’s for the UK) and ranges from 10 € to 22 €. This means that unless the value is under 10 € there’s no guarantee of the item clearing customs of all EU countries. Furthermore, whereas the UK is (apparently) nice enough to waive taxes if they’d be under £9, that’s certainly not the case in other countries.
      3) Regarding shipping and insurance in VAT, in theory they don’t count towards the £15/22 € limit, but there are two important caveats. First,they need to be expressly stated separately in the customs form – if they are not (which is usually the case), the customs agents will make no distinction between package value and shipping/insurance. And second, if (even by discounting them) the VAT threshold is surpassed, they *will* be taken into account when doing the calculation of the amount to pay.

      1. Thanks for the explanation. Ok, so let’s say we’re sending a comic book with value 10 € , if we send it straight from the US, that’s 100% in the clear no import duties/VAT/admin charge– and goes straight to the recipient without any other cost to buyer/seller… right?

  22. Hi, this is a very interesting initiative!
    Nel has already contacted me to create a geeklist on RPG Geek, so I’ll keep you updated when it’s up.

  23. Hi Nel, thank you for your kind comments and for going EU-Friendly in your project!

    I would rather keep the list that I maintain to just boardgames. Unfortunately, my knowledge of the current RPG scene is nil, and, besides, updating the list is enough work as of now. :)

    But I would certainly like to know if something similar exists (or is created) in RPGGeek, and will happily link to it. If you (or anybody else, for that matter) are interested in assuming the task I’d be happy to share a few tidbits I use to make updating the list less of a chore.

    Best regards!

  24. Hello!
    Thank you very much for this post. We just posted the banner on our Kickstarter but we did not find a way to add it at the GeekList as Shadows of Esteren is only registered at RPGGeek.
    By the way sorry for my broken english as this is not my native language.
    The link of our campaign:

    We will also share this on our blog and Facebook because I think it is really great for project owners AND backers.

    Cheers !

  25. Great post, andvaranaut, and nice to see you here also :-). I agree that it seems that many Kickstarter project creators don’t realise how much VAT and fees adds to the price for international backers. When I cover Kickstarters on my blog I generally try to find out where the rewards are shipped from.

    On the other hand I do of course understand that some project creators simply don’t have the time to handle this stuff and decides that their energy is better spent focusing on the American market.

    1. Hi Morten! Thanks for your comments! Of course, EU shipping is an ordeal for people based on the USA, so it’s understandable if some creators don’t have enough resources to set it up. But I found that quite a few projects were already shipping from the EU for cost-saving reasons – but either not telling anywhere or hiding that information in awkward places, probably because creators are not aware of how much of a difference it makes. I find it a little sad, since it means missing on a number of EU backers because of a small detail – even having done the (significant) homework.

      And I’d love to keep an eye on your blog – what’s the URL? (or tweet me at @andvaranaut)

      1. Yeah, if you’ve already gone to the trouble of setting it up, then you’re just shooting yourself in the foot by not shouting the message loud and clear. I hope project creators will start to use your logos or something similar.

        I’m not on Twitter, so I’ll give you my blog URL here (hope that’s OK, it wasn’t my meaning to self promote): (“Thematic solitaires for the spare time challenged”). It’s very niche though, so I don’t know if it’ll interest you.

      2. I’ve backed at least one project (off the top of my head, I honestly don’t recall what it was!) which I pulled out of late in the day because the project creator decided to cancel his previous decision to send EU packages from within the EU and ship everything from the US, with a blasé “I’ll cover the extra postage, so it’ll be OK”. Of course, I’m glad he mentioned it – had he just done so without telling anyone I’d have been pretty upset!

        For the record, the current situation in the UK is as follows:

        – There is a tax-free limit of £15 (~$23) for merchandise (which Kickstarter rewards count as). Anything above that pays VAT.
        – The tax-free limit is calculated against the price of the object only, but the VAT is calculated against the object and the postage costs added together.
        – The cheapest “handling fee” I have ever got away with was £8; it’s not unheard of for it to be £15 or £20 ($23-31).

        1. Thanks for the info, Jake! That’s a great point on shipping being included in VAT but not counted towards the tax-free limit – that explains a lot of the conflicting reports I saw when doing research of the situation in other countries.

          The handling fee is more or less completely dependant on the post agent – the customs paperwork itself is free (in Spain at least), but the post can (and will) charge you for doing it in your behalf. Even if you manage to do the paperwork yourself (here there are some convoluted ways to do so, although they are not always a possibility), the post will charge you for storing your item while you clear customs (?). Costs depend on the particular country (here it’s a flat rate, in other places it depends on the value of the item) and on the post agent involved – eg. a package sent through UPS entails a higher charge than through regular post.

          With regards to the KS situation, well, at least he warned you… but it’s clear that the creator was not aware of the big picture. For a KS to be successful in Europe, I’m convinced that Germany and the UK are the key countries – so hindering your UK backers is not exactly a great idea.

  26. First, thanks for the great post, as someone considering a Kickstarter campaign, this is really helpful. Indeed this is a really interesting problem.

    I worked in eCommerce for a long time and know a little about the ins-and-outs of VAT, but I’m from Canada, not Europe, so I am no expert in VAT. We do face similar issues ordering from the US here in Canada also (our VAT is the HST)

    So here’s my question:

    Technically speaking, when supporting a kickstarter project, you are not buying a product. You are, in essence, donating to a cause. Therefore, whatever is sent to you via mail is not a purchased product. It is a Reward, or a Gift, sent as a thank you for your contribution.

    From Kickstarter ( Backers are supporting projects to help them come to life, not to profit financially. Instead, project creators offer rewards to thank backers for their support.

    I know, I know… We may be talking semantics here because we all know the reward is a major reason why we do support many projects. But sometimes the semantics are important, and in this case your money is not going towards a purchase and IF you receive a product, it is a Reward, or Gift.

    So technicalities aside, is there not a way to ship a ‘Gift/Reward’ to someone in Europe without them having to pay VAT on it?

    My understanding was: As long as the package is marked as a gift, AND the declared value of the product is under $40 AND it has been sent from a private individual (gifts sent from a company are never considered gifts), then there is no duty, and no additional VAT issues.

    If the product is over $40 then VAT has to be paid, but duty/customs don’t kick in until ~$150 (I believe – again, I’m not the expert here)


    1. Hi Michael, thanks for your kind words!

      To address your points:

      With regards to the KS ‘donation’ scheme, what you are saying is technically true. However, there are some nuances to keep in mind.

      First, whether an item is a gift or not does not really make a difference. In fact, marking something as a gift with no commercial value is a sure way to get unwanted attention from customs :) The operative concept is that you pay VAT on the commercial value of the item. If you have a receipt, then you can prove that the value is what is on the receipt. If you don’t have the pertinent receipts, however, customs officers may estimate the commercial value of your item by themselves and charge you for it. Customs agents have the final word, and they don’t usually tolerate well what they perceive as trying to game the system.

      I would expect to have a very hard time convincing customs that the item is really ‘free’ and that what I paid for was a completely unrelated donation, even if that is true at some level. What could (maybe) help with that would be getting two separate charges (or at least two receipts) – one destined to covering strictly the manufacturing cost of the reward (which you could then use for package value and customs), and another as an ‘extra donation’. But KS and similar platforms are not setup that way (I can see why it would generate an entirely different set of problems), and even then there’s no guarantee — a particularly nosy customs agent could just look up the MSRP online (or in the box…) and charge VAT for it, and he would be following the law.

      In short, the only sure-fire way of having a marginally expensive gift not pay VAT is carrying it into the country yourself, since personal customs exemptions are much higher, and inspections are much rarer. Then again, it’s probably not cost-effective to fly to Europe just to deliver 10 packages… though the continent is nice ;)

      Second, even though most packages will have to pay customs if over 22 € (about $30), there is indeed a more lax limit which applies under some circumstances. It’s actually not $40, but 45 €, which is a rather reasonable $ 60. However, its application is tricky – basically, it has to be a shipment between individual people AND it can’t come as a commercial exchange. So, while it would apply to you sending your own stuff home from abroad, and (perhaps, I’m not 100% positive) to buying some second-hand stuff on eBay from a particular person (definitely NOT from a company), it wouldn’t apply to KS rewards for the same reasons that it would be difficult to convince customs that the item is a gift :) Like marking manufacturing price, it’s a way of sneaking around the system which might backfire. Of course, you may try your hand, and there’s a decent chance that it will slip under the radar – but no guarantee, specially if you are shipping several packages. Perhaps one or two packages will make it through, but if 20 identical packages come from the same individual, customs is bound to take notice. In fact, I thought about mentioning the different limit, but decided against it because I felt it would be more confusing than helpful (and the post is long and meandering enough as it is).

      With regards to duty/customs, AFAIK the exact scheme in the EU (technically in a few more countries, which are included in the common customs area) is as follows, at least in countries using the Euro:

      Up to 22 € (about $30): Exempt.
      From 22 € to 150 € (about $200): You pay VAT (19%-25% depending on the country).
      Over 150 €: You pay VAT and an additional 2.5% tariff.

      The 22 € limit can be raised to 45 € in the specific circumstances I mentioned above.

      However, even when customs proper (ie. the tariff) is not levied, clearing customs involves some paperwork when the shipment is not exempt – and the usual way of going is that the mail service or company will do the paperwork on your behalf, then charge you a fee for it (that’s the administrative charge mentioned in the post). That and the VAT make the bulk of the extra cost – the tariff is usually not a concern.

      I hope I helped clear some of these points – they can be really confusing (another great reason to save your backers the hassle – if they go looking for information, it will be difficult for them to make something meaningful out of it). Thanks for your comments!

    2. Michael, thanks for your question (andvaranaut, thanks for answering in the comments). I wanted to confirm that you cannot claim a Kickstarter reward as a gift on customs–I can’t do that as the seller, and you can’t do that as the buyer. What I do is select “other” and write “Kickstarter reward” in the dialogue box below that.

  27. One should pay VAT on the shipping cost to.

    However my understanding is what you paid is what matters.

    So it won’t be taxes on $40, it would be on $60, if that’s what you paid. If all you pay was $50 then obviously the package of the value was $50 and that was what the seller sold for including shipping cost.

    If the package was labeled $40 + $20 and someone only went with the custom declaration that would be an issue. If the invoice listed $50 then maybe it could be fixed (I’m running this issue currently.)

    Anyway, the point is that you pay VAT on everything. More likely on Kickstarter would be like a $50 game + $30 shipping and then you’re up to $80, add 25% VAT here in Sweden = 100 + throw on the fees for having the shipping company handle the customs for 16-19 more and you’re up to 116-119.

    Now if the pavckage instead could be taxed within the EU for say 20% = $60 and then shipped for $15 or something paid and done and you end up with $75 then that’s much better than $115-120 =P

    Also if one have to pay super expensive shipping + additional fees beyond game + VAT then backing on Kickstarter may be a pretty stupid thing to do vs just buying the game retail. That way you’ll possible even know if it suck in advance.

    1. Hi Johan, thanks for your comments!

      You are probably right in that including shipping is the most common way to go. I’ll ask Jamey to change it (sorry! ;)). I have seen conflicting reports about whether you should include shipping while calculating VAT on an import package – while doing research on the topic, some people seemed to imply that it was possible to exclude the shipping. But reflecting upon it, it’s better to assume you have to include it in the calculation unless otherwise noted.

      The difference in the example is $3 more – $50 declared value, $10.5 VAT, and VAT plus administrative charge is about $34. Of course, both VAT and administrative charge varies from country to country. That’s another advantage to shipping to Germany, which has a rather low VAT rate (19%) as compared with most other EU countries.

      However, for typical KS reward levels, VAT is a nuisance but not that huge – it’s the fixed administrative charge that it’s the killer. And that’s counting on regular mail – if the package comes through some other means (eg. UPS) the charges levied are usually even higher.

      Hope you can set your current customs situation straight. For EU “outsiders”, it’s difficult to imagine how much of a deterrent it can be – hence the post :)


© 2020 Stonemaier Games