Country specific information
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There are many countries which will add extra taxes onto goods coming into their country. There are many reasons behind this, but for you this is just an additional fee that will cost you money. Depending on your country, there are ways to avoid this. Using these methods may be against the law depending on your country, it is advised that you look into your country's laws before attempting this especially when it comes to porn, as the information below may be incorrect.
- 1 Undervaluing
- 2 European Union
- 3 North America
- 4 South America
- 5 Other
Undervaluing is when the declared price is lower than the actual price you paid. This can be used to avoid paying import taxes.
For stores that are willing to do this, see the ones marked with ★ in the list of shops.
Several of the stores listed that offer undervaluing and ship directly internationally more commonly experience issues such as poor packaging and misleading figure condition descriptions.
Because of this, an alternative undervaluing strategy that anons have had success with is by shopping from a more well regarded retailer through a proxy/forwarder that undervalues, as the combination of domestic shipping and their fee is still less than the import tax that you would have otherwise had to pay if buying from a more reputable store directly, thus allowing you to save money on import tax while also getting what you expected undamaged.
For proxy and forwarding services that are willing to do this, see the proxy and forwarding services page. These are also marked with ★.
The declared value should obviously be lower than the tax threshold in your country. Read the information for your country on this page to find out what this is.
This section is regarding imports from outside the EU. Imports from other EU counties are exempt from import taxes. VAT is still applicable but is almost certainly included in the item's listed price.
Starting July 1st, 2021, new VAT rules will be implemented in the European Union; the exemption for items valued less than 22€ will be removed; and marketplaces will either have to register and deal with VAT themselves, or be unregistered and have the buyers deal with it, potentially having to pay more than before. 
In Austria, the following fees apply:
EUSt: Import tax: 10% for books, otherwise 20% of the shipments' total value, including shipping costs and customs tax if applicable. Applies to everything equal to or above a total value of 22€. Items below that go free.
Customs tax: May apply if the total value is 150€ or greater. Various rates apply depending on the nature of the content with some items being exempt altogether. Some of the rates for stuff above the 150€ threshold: Figures: 4.7% (TARIC 9503 00 35), textiles: 8% for anything with cotton or polyester (TARIC 5210*, 5407*, 5408*), 6.9% - 7.5% for anything made of high quality silk and 3% for anything made of lower quality noil silk (TARIC 5007*). 3.7% for the stuffing (TARIC 9404 90 90). Books like Manga or magazines are exempt from this (TARIC 4901*, 4902*), as are non-blank optical media like CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays (TARIC 8523 49*). As said above, the EUSt applies to the shipments' total value including the customs tax, similar to Germany!
Inspection fee: 10€ flat. Applies to each and every package that is being inspected by customs when the "Post.at" is handling logistics, unless the package is found to be exempt from both EuST and customs tax. This applies to SAL and EMS packages, but not to DHL, UPS or Fedex. If a package is misdeclared and you're asked to show a proof of purchase indicating the contents' value, the cost for this re-evaluation is included in those 10€, as long as you don't delay the process by too much - usually the limit is 3 weeks without any extra charge. You may provide the proof of purchase via eMail.
Grand total: Say you import a figure worth 300€ using SAL or EMS for shipping. 4.7% customs tax apply, so do the EUSt and the inspection fee. The total cost for customs would amount to: ((300 + 300 × 0.047) × 0.2) + 10 = 72,82€. So that figure would set you back 372,82€ in total.
Counterfeits: Will be destroyed without any reimbursement if detected.
Loli is legal (§ 207a StGB), as long as the depiction isn't "so close to reality that it might be mistaken for it". There are no known rulings based on this paragraph when related to Manga, Anime or Anime figures as of 2017.
Note that if you're not at home when receiving a registered SAL or EMS package, you will need to present your ID upon pickup at the post office, and said ID will be scanned and OCR'ed. The following extracted data will be retained on a central server for a duration of 6 months: Name, type of ID, ID number, ID issuer and date of birth. The data will be linked to the shipment. See here.
Trying to avoid customs altogether isn't likely to work with EMS packages, you might want to try SAL for that.
Like most countries in the area. Packages valued under €22 will exempt from any taxes. Any package above €22 will be taxed 21% (Except for books: 6%). For packages over €150, import duties must also be paid. There's no set value for this duty and varies per product. Some have none, others will be above 10%. (Source)
Packages are generally delivered to their destination and the post man will ask for payment. For EMS services, this might be online instead.
If the package is caught in customs you receive an SMS with instructions for paying online.
def calculate_charges(cost_incl_shipping): """All rates in DKK""" incur_customs_duty = cost_incl_shipping > 1150 customs_duty = cost_incl_shipping * .047 if incur_customs_duty else 0 vat = (cost_incl_shipping + customs_duty) * .25 handling_fee = 160 return customs_duty + vat + handling_fee
VAT is added to packages over 22€ in value (shipping etc. included), which is 24% for pretty much everything except notably 10% for books, including manga. If the VAT is less than 5€, it's ignored. Notice, that if the product itself stays under 22€ in value, shipping costs do not matter, it is still exempt from VAT. Possible additional costs of unknown quantity (usually few percents) for packages over 150€ in value. Finding the amount out beforehand is difficult, but it's usually less than 10% of the package's value. If your package gets caught in customs, you just fill in the info online, pay, and wait until they send it off on it's way again. EMS has a very high chance of getting caught by customs, with registered mail having a pretty good chance as well. Basically anything coming from Japan is under close scrutiny and very likely to be taxed if taxes apply.
As of February 2020 receiving shipment that exceeds the VAT limit (22€ in value) from outside EU costs 2,90€ extra in postal handling fees on top of VAT. The amount is charged as part of customs declaration procedure by Posti whether you did it by yourself, online or not. Debit or Credit card is required for payment, wire transfer does not work.
Loli is legal, including sex dolls, figures and other physical items.
Taxes work basically the same way as in the other EU states: 20% VAT on total value (items + shipping + assurance + customs fees) from 45€ if marked as gift or 1€ otherwise (the "gift" mention has no other utility and will not increase your chances of dodging customs.) Tariffs are applicable from 150€ up: 0.8% to 4.7% on figures and models, 12% on clothing, 3.5% on DVDs and Blurays, and 0% on books and vidya.
Only a very small percentage of parcels are inspected by the actual customs because carriers have the required authority to control the parcels themselves. Because of this, carriers will add their own fees (called "frais de dossier/dédouanement", usually between 10 and 30€) on top of your taxes for doing the paperwork.
EMS (Chronopost) and private carriers will control your parcel basically every time. On the other hand, SAL or ePacket depend heavily on the size and declared value of your parcel, so for this reason you should avoid combining orders to keep them small. Airmail should be avoided unless small packet because it is more expensive (even than EMS on large orders) and you have an overall higher chance of getting taxed.
Loli is technically illegal (Art. 227-23 of the Penal Code) but the viewing and distribution of artistic works, regardless of the content, isn't. Because the legislation isn't really clear, import at your own risk (fr/a/nons who got their loli doujins intercepted by customs please confirm.)
Germany will tax packages at the following rate:
EuST: Is calculated for every package with value+shipping above 22€. It's usually a flat 19% although EuST for printed matter is 7%. If the shipping cost isn't stated on the customs form (SAL, air) it is usually ignored.
Flat fee: If your package is valued above 22€ there is a flat fee of 6€ for the post, unless you get called to a customs office (see below).
Tax: Based on the type of stuff you are importing, usually 4.5% for figures. It's calculated if value+shipping is above 150€. If you have to pay taxes, you have to add EuST in.
Package value+shipping = 25€ --> You only pay a 19% EuST --> 25*0.19 = 4.75€. Package value = 160€, Shipping = 20€ --> You have to pay additional taxes, if you are buying figures you are at 4.5% --> 160*0.045 = 7.2€ --> EuST is calculated on top of it, so additional 19% --> (160+20+7.2) * 0,19 + 7.2 = 42,77€ tax+EuST.
If a package isn't labeled correctly (i.e. shipping cost missing, suspected for undervaluing), you may have to go to your customs office, show a proof of purchase and pay. There is an option to send in the proof per mail and let DHL handle the rest, but since 2015, this costs 28,50€ + the taxes you have to pay.
Using SAL or Airmail will normally get through if the package is undervalued to ~2000 yen. SAL parcel most of the time gets caught, same with EMS, but this depends on your customs office. Using USAL to sneak past customs does not seem to work if the package is not undervalued. Keep in mind that RSAL is not available anymore if you're ordering from Japan.
Packages above the threshold are opened by cutoms and can take several weeks to process. Undervalued packages aren't opened and take only a few days.
Shipping also gets added to the value and included for taxes. So if your package costs 20€ + 30€ shipping, you'll have to pay 9,50€ taxes. EMS and DHL packages always include shipping costs on the customs declaration, SAL and Airmail usually don't.
Furthermore, you will only be taxed if the amount would be greater than 5€, which means anything lower than 27€ won't be taxed. For printed matter, this would be 70€.
German customs use their own exchange rate for calculating, which is changed at the beginning of each month. The current exchange rate can be found here.
Packages above 22€ will be subjected to 27% VAT and an extra customs fee which varies. If marked as a gift, the threshold will increase to 45€. Shipping fees are not included. If you do not undervalue then you will need to email a specific document and then pay the postman at your door, the post office will inform you of the procedure in detail. Using EMS or SAL makes no difference in whether or not customs will charge you, so feel free to use whichever. Loli seems to be fine, even if opened at customs.
EMS is usually spotted at customs and charged 22% import tax, there is also a 7.50€ fixed fee. You will pay the postman when the package is delivered. It is therefore recommended to undervalue your package. SAL may be able to help, but this is not guaranteed - it seems to be quite random as to whether or not your parcel will be hit. Porn and loli items are fine to ship.
Latvia will charge at 21% of the value of the package as long as the value is over 23.5€. However undervaluing seems to work very well no matter what type of delivery you use, so feel free to use EMS to get your package quicker.
Packages under 22€ are exempt from VAT, those between 22€ and 150€ are exempt from tariff duty but VAT of 21% will have to be paid. Packages above 150€ will have an addition 4.7% tariff duty. You also have to pay clearance charges, these are 17.50€ for packages shipped by EMS and 13.50€ for packages shipped by other methods. Usually you will just be able to pay the postman with cash in order to receive your package. Undervaluing will help avoid this but if they suspect it's not the actual price, they'll send a letter saying they don't know the price. Just send them the actual invoice (Paypal invoice works), with the actual price on it. You'll get taxed for that price, but you won't get into trouble for committing fraud. If you are willing to risk it, you could try to change the Paypal invoice, but this is not recommended. It is better to just pay the tax once as getting caught doesn't mean your next packages are sure to get caught, so continuing to undervalue will still help. Customs rarely open parcels, so it seems porn and loli items are fine.
All packages valued over 22€ should be charged with 23% VAT. All packages valued over 150€ should be charged with 23% VAT and customs fees (exactly which fees they use is anyone's guess - you may be looking at fees on toys, art, scale, non-scale, RC models, etc. - there is no way to contest incorrect fees unless you want your package to be returned to sender in the meantime). There are also handling fees, but they are negligible and will usually be below 2€ in total. The VAT and customs fees will be calculated from the total value including shipping costs. VAT for books is actually only 8%, but no one cares, you're gonna pay 23% anyway. That is, if your package gets caught - this depends on the shipping method (surface mail and USAL have the lowest chance to be caught with EMS being basically 100%), the declared value (packages valued over 22€ have a higher chance to be caught), the forwarding and distribution department your package ended up in (there are five) and how lazy the customs people are that day.
Even packages valued under 22€ may be held in customs. In this case, you will receive a letter asking you to declare the contents of the package, their value (if a translated invoice is not available they seem to favor screenshots of the website and payment confirmation documents - you will need to send both), intended purpose (sale or personal use), your PESEL and delivery address. This can be done by email. VAT and fees are paid to the mailman upon delivery. In some cases you will need your ID to confirm your identity. You might not be notified that a package valued over 22€ is in customs - if the customs declaration is complete and not suspicious, or it was inspected by a customs officer, it will just get delivered to your door and you will have to pay the VAT and fees to the mailman. In reality, evading VAT/customs fees is highly dependent in which region you live, with some regions taxing pretty much every single package, and some rarely if at all.
On evading VAT and customs fees: The customs office can open any and all packages, but they're generally busy with large transports, so most packages are processed by Polish Post employees. They will not open packages unless they have a good reason to believe the material inside is hazardous or law-breaking (they will call for a customs officer in those cases), unless the package has been considerably damaged, or it's getting taxed and they don't know how to translate the list of goods from the customs declaration (even a collectible figure may be ambiguous to them). Use this to your advantage as you don't need to declare the specific name of the item. It is possible to send them shooped website screenshots and Paypal payment screenshots. The more stuff is written in moonspeak on them the better your chances are. The important part is to know what value was declared by the sender. A difference of ~1k yen will not be suspicious, but if you declare 10k less than the sender they might call for a customs officer to inspect the package. Remember that VAT evasion is a crime - if you get caught, blame /v/.
2D loli is grey area (more info), so far there has been no "guilty" verdicts for purely fictional drawings.
All packages over 22€ should be charged with 21% VAT, including the cost of shipping. There will also be a transaction fee of between 15-25€ as a result. If the package's value is about 22€ but below 150€ then you are able to pay the courier or go to a post office to receive your package. However, if the value is above 150€ then you will need to send an invoice to customs and wait for them to tell you how much you need to pay, which will be paid by bank transfer and should take around a week. EMS is very likely to get caught by customs which will add a 1-4 week delay, while SAL shipments which are under 2kg are very rarely caught. It is recommended to undervalue using one of the above shops. Porn and loli should be fine to ship to Spain.
Note: Lately there have been increasing reports of SAL shipments getting caught nonetheless, so be warned.
VAT (moms) is 25% on item(s), shipping and insurance cost except on food (12%) and printed matter (6%).
VAT is paid on everything over 300 SEK total and over 500 SEK total if marked as gift. Import tax (tull) is paid on over 1500 SEK total. However small packages usually get through no matter value (for example 1-2 Blu-ray(s)) and bigger packages somewhat rarely get taxed no matter the value or if it's marked as gift (for example one figure ~0,75 kg, undervalued to 240 SEK total).
EMS is free from import declaration fee (PostNord is handling EMS). Import declaration fee is 125 SEK for PostNord on anything that isn't EMS, 145 SEK for FedEx and ~60 SEK for DHL.
Note: Starting March 1st 2018 every single package from outside the European economic area will be subjected to an additional 75 SEK fee (125 SEK if package value exceeds 1500 SEK) paid to PostNord, including packages going directly to your mailbox and packages marked as gifts. When your packages arrive they will hold them hostage until you have payed this extra fee.
No tax unless a single package contains 200,000 yen (~$2000) worth of goods. Books and printed matter are generally duty free. Customs & Border Protection state that they check all packages valued at over $200 ($100 for gifts) to fill out necessary paperwork for processing; occasionally, this will result in duty being charged, even for packages under $2000. EMS and Airmail are the most likely to get hit by customs. If an item is sent via Fedex, then they may phone in order to clarify the declaration as Japanese companies have a tendency to simplify the materials into groups which are not accepted by their database.
Generally, figures and other plastic articles that you're likely to buy fall into a duty free category for customs and tarrifs, as do printed works, posters, and music and video disks. Bedcoverings, however, fall into a dutied category. Pillowcases carry up to a 14.9% duty rate, depending on material. Wallscrolls probably fall into a separate dutied category, with a maximum 11.3% duty rate, so plan accordingly. You are technically liable for any duty on any import transaction, but for total shipment values under $2500, your transaction is considered an "informal entry" ("goods for personal consumption or enjoyment"). Most of the time, even if there's stuff that is taxed, you won't have to pay because customs has bigger things to do, but if it does get stopped, you are liable for the duty, so plan accordingly.
Importing loli/porn is illegal. Some states like Utah classify it as CP. Other states, like California, do not classify it as such, but you will be charged for obscenity instead. It's unlikely you will get caught unless someone outright reports you, as customs/police often have better things to do than to look through your mail.
If you're shopping for lewds, buy at your own risk. Unlike the US, customs tend to be very strict about checking international packages. Canada considers any pornographic material that depicts characters under 18 to be CP – this includes both loli (a Canadian from /jp/'s Onahole threads went to court for importing a loli hole) and material that isn't technically loli but that depicts ambiguously underage characters. Customs additionally have broad powers to seize pornography of all types deemed to be "obscene", even if said pornography is freely available domestically.
Taxes technically must be paid on anything marked over CAD$20 ($60 for gifts), but it's possible that you may avoid tax so long as there is no individual item in the package valued at over $10K. RSAL tends to be the most successful option for missing customs, even with high value packages (+200K Yen), whereas items sent through private couriers are virtually guaranteed to be taxed. Shipping costs are not taken into account when determining whether or not to tax something, though proxy fees and any domestic shipping within Japan are. If your package does get caught by customs, then you just have to pay the mailman in any way you want.
SAL shipments are no longer tracked by Canada Post . The item will still be traceable through Japan Post or some third party trackers after it has left Japan.
As of July 2019, all packages with a value above $50USD will be taxed. SEPOMEX will send you packages to the SAT office where they'll check the value of contents and tax you the 16%. You need to call SEPOMEX to ask how much you need to pay. Because of all the packages arriving, they take a lot of time to move, so expect times of more than 1 month before being in it's way to you. DHL and FedEx will tax you when the value of the package is over USD50 and will open your package and the contents. In theory, Porn and loli should get to you perfectly fine. Sarcasm (it is actually illegal to mail pornography into and within Mexico)... Unless you know, it is Mexico... Money talks.
There is a limit of five purchases per year through courier mail, and no purchases limit using state mail/EMS, though Correo Argentino won't send your package home if it's heavier than 2kg, more expensive than USD $200, or the box is too big. You can pick it up at the distribution centre for your area, instead. Packages over USD $999 and 20kgs require importation permits. You can't buy more than 3 of the same item at a time.
Taxes are 50% of the total cost of items + shipping. Every single package is retained by customs so don't count on avoiding taxes. Additionally, you have to pay an extra ARS $120 fee per package under the excuse of "management costs", so buying in bulk is a good idea. There is a tax exemption of USD $25, applied only to your first package of the year. Use it wisely.
Tax declaration and payments aren't in-person so undervaluing might work, just be sure to keep it believable and ask the declared price to the seller so there are no discrepancies. You need an AFIP's Clave Fiscal level 3 to declare your taxes. Gifts pay taxes too. Books don't pay taxes and loli is legal.
Be warned that Correo Argentino is known to lose and steal packages so order without tracking at your own risk. Also, be prepared to wait a long time for your stuff to arrive since mail services are saturated as hell, EMS is pretty much useless.
It is advisable that you track your package every single day, and bother Correo Argentino to send you your telegram. If for some reason they fucked up and you didn't get it, nobody will care and your package will be sent back to origin without notice.
Brazil has a 60% import tax for international mail shipments. Depending on your State (i.e. Minas Gerais), you will also pay ICMS (sales tax), which may go as high as 18%. As from 2015, all taxed shipments will also pay a R$ 15,00 (roughly USD 3.50) custody tax to the Correios (post office). Some items, like books/printed stuff have constitucional immunity to taxes (although that is sometimes ignored, and you will have to resort to the Judiciary). Also, if you use your credit card or paypal in an international purchase, you will pay 6,38% IOF. This comes in your credit card bill and is completely unavoidable.
The Receita Federal (Brazil's IRS) has a no tax rule with the following requirements: a) the item must be shipped from a physical person to a physical person (no legal entities like stores or companies); b) the item must be a gift; c) the item must be valued under USD 50.00. With a lawsuit, you MAY get this limited set as high as USD 100.00, due to old legislation that the Receita Federal ignores. Asking the store to undervalue the item below USD 50.00, marking the package as a gift and signing customs form as a physical person, avoiding any store labels, will greatly help at avoiding taxes. Be aware, though, that officers have legal powers to ignore the declared value and estimate one, and all packages are x-rayed. Ordering an iphone and marking it as USD 50.00 will most certainly go wrong.
There are 3 customs offices for shipped items: Curitiba, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. São Paulo handles couriers (DHL, EMS etc), and tax probability is close to 100%. Only order by couriers if you are prepared to pay taxes. Rio de Janeiro handles bigger packages, and taxation of figures and games is very rare. Curitiba deals with small packages (anything labeled petit packet) and is much more aggressive, with taxation probability as high as 70%. There have been cases in Curitiba of taxation of tissue packages, towels, pillow covers and soaps. There's a famous case where a father mailed his daughter spare keys to his apartment from the US and Curitiba taxed it. They also like to overvalue items (in one case, I payed USD 11.00 for an amiibo and the officer estimated it at USD 30.00).
Obviously, you want to make your package go through Rio de Janeiro, and the most sure way of guaranteeing that is using SAL PARCEL. I personally have a history of almost 20 SAL PARCEL orders and only 1 got taxed, and even so the items were evaluated at a much lower price than what I actually payed. Registered SAL, Economy SAL, Air Mail and other methods will almost always go through Curitiba.
The customs office offers a tax revision service, but it takes months and almost never gets approved. If you think the taxation was illegal or the items were overvalued, it is highly recommended you pay it and try a refund with a lawsuit (you can go to the Juizado Especial Federal, where you don't even need a lawyer).
So, as a general rule: use SAL PARCEL always (AmiAmi is great for this), but always be prepared to pay 60% + R$ 12,00 taxes. Do NOT buy an item if you can't afford the tax. And, please, don't let items be returned; this only contributes to staining Brazil's images among international stores.
Packages above 7000 yen, excluding the shipping cost, will be taxed at approximately 30% of the total value of the package including shipping. The fee will be in USD. Therefore it is recommended to undervalue. Using EMS or SAL will make no difference to customs, so use whichever you want. EMS will take one week to arrive, SAL will take two to three. There are no problems with loli and it is rare for porn to be caught.
Customs only apply if a single product is valued 200$ or more, shipping included. Undervalue if necessary. Books and printed matter are immune to taxes. There will be delays during holidays.
Serpost is known to steal packages, so make sure your package is registered, Otherwise you risk losing your package. SAL packages can get caught by customs, but taxation isn't probable. As a rule of thumb call Serpost for the estimated delivery date and track your registered packages as often as possible. Avoid letting packages be stolen/returned, it only makes Peru and Serpost's reputation worse.
As of 1st July 2018 all online purchases will be taxed the 10% GST on top of both product cost and shipping cost. Currently most major stores are incorporating the GST for all Australian orders. However, since the Australian government is rather incompetent when it comes to implementing an effective tax policy, it can be easily avoided by choosing a retailer from the List_of_shops that doesn't charge GST at all (Mandarake does not at the time of writing).
All packages over $1000 will be taxed 10% GST as well as a processing fee AND duty rates depending on the type of item. A savvy user should be able to get most imports duty free, however the other fees will remain. Loli material is ILLEGAL to import however possession laws vary by state/territory. Customs is pretty lazy though so the chances of anything being intercepted is slim. However, if you are caught, the chances of you avoiding jail time are even slimmer. You will need ID when picking up packages.
15% GST (goods & services tax) has been introduced as of December 2019 on all imported goods from overseas companies which ship more than $60,000 NZD per year to New Zealand. Some stores have started charging this online such as Amiami and HLJ, this also extends to proxy services like FromJapan and Tenso. Other sites have yet to bother (highly recommend adding a list of stores that don't charge online GST here). Actual declared value does not matter if it's under $1,000 NZD total, all that matters is whether the store charges GST online or not. It's up to the store if they want to impose this.
Amazon Japan has stopped shipping to New Zealand as a result of the introduction of GST on imports, and recommends using a proxy service at your own risk. 
Loli material (at least, figure/daki/doujin) has been imported without issue through RSAL, EMS and DHL.
Packages above 500€ (since 2018) or above 31kg will be subject to tax of 30%, this is very unlikely which means undervaluing is unnecessary. Customs do not seem to check packages, except to attach a paper if the weight of the package is listed incorrectly (happens all the time with AmiAmi orders) but it only results in slower delivery. As a result of this, porn and loli seem to be fine.
As of 2019, there's no longer any exemption and you'll have to pay an import tax of 20% + fixed customs check fee for everything you buy from Japan. The tax is calculated over the value of the item, shipping is not included. Only books "for personal use" which cost less than 150€ are exempt from customs duty, so mangafags can rejoice. It seems like customs inspections have gotten stricter since the exemption limit was removed, so you'd be extremely lucky to avoid paying. You can pay your tax either to the postman or at the post office. Scratched figure boxes are a common occurence because the customs guys are wild with their knives, be mentally prepared for it. Loli status is currently unknown.
The following is written based on the new rules that came into force on January 1st 2021 when the UK left the Brexit transition period. While stores adjust to the new rules and start collecting VAT at checkout, it is very likely anything under £135 will slip in tax free as HMRC and Royal Mail have been very explicit that they will no longer be sending bills for anything under this amount. This has been confirmed by a few /a/nons.
For orders of up to £135, you will pay VAT (usually 20%) at the store's checkout. When it arrives in the UK there should be no additional processing and it will proceed straight to delivery.
If the order exceeds £135 you will not pay any tax at checkout and instead will get a fee to pay notice in the post. You will have to pay VAT (again usually 20%) as well as pay a customs duty. The percentage for duty this depends on what it is you are importing, but is generally less than 2.5%. This is waived if the customs duty total is fairly small. If you receive a fee to pay notice then you will also pay an additional handling fee of £8 if the package goes through Royal Mail or £12 if it goes through Parcelforce. SAL Small Packet and Air Small Packet go through Royal Mail whereas EMS and SAL Parcel go through Parcelforce.
Strictly speaking, the cost of shipping should be included in the VAT and duty but this is often ignored as it's not always printed on the shipping slip. If you are trying to work out how much you'll have to pay, err on the side of caution and include the shipping cost in the calculation.
Some items, like books, are exempt from VAT, so you will not be taxed, regardless of their value.
In the event that you get a fee to pay notice due to your order being more than £135 with either Parcelforce or Royal Mail, they will hold the package at the local depot and send you a letter. For Parcelforce, you will be sent a letter with the amount due and how to pay this. If the tracking page says that it has arrived at the local depot then you can just go to the depot without having received the letter and pay customs immediately, which is usually faster as Parcelforce's letter will take a day or two to arrive once your package has reached the depot. At this stage you can also pay via phone without the customs reference number by speaking to someone from their customer support team. For Royal Mail, if your tracking shows up as "Held with fee to pay" you can expect a fee to pay card to arrive also in a day or two, which you can either pay online or in person. You can also pay for this online immediately without waiting for the card by clicking the pay online link on your item's tracking page.
If you send your package by SAL Small Packet or Air Small Packet then there is a slightly higher chance of it missing customs.
While EMS should in theory be much faster, the customs process for items that go through Parcelforce tends to take much longer so a lot of the time picking SAL Small Parcel or Air Small Packet is both faster and cheaper.