Import: Customs/VAT

 

Why must I pay a fee for the delivery of a consignment from abroad (VAT, duty)?

Every consignment from abroad is liable to customs duty and VAT as a matter of principle. As the recipient of a consignment from abroad, you pay the necessary value added tax (VAT) on the value of the goods and customs duty on the gross weight. These costs should not be confused with the shipping costs paid by the sender when the consignment is posted.

 

What mail items must be registered?

As a general rule, all items must be registered, with the following exceptions:

  • Postcards which contain only personal or business communications
  • Letters which contain only personal or business communications
 

Above what value will I have to pay customs and/or value added tax (VAT) on import items?

In principle, every item sent from abroad is subject to customs duties and VAT.

There is no special value exemption limit as with passenger traffic; only a fee exemption limit.

Accordingly, customs duties and VAT are not charged if the amount calculated is less than CHF 5.00 per customs declaration, whereby customs and VAT fees considered separately.

Furthermore, gifts mailed from individuals living abroad to individuals in Switzerland are duty-exempt up to a value of CHF 100.

Goods purchased on the Internet do not satisfy these conditions and are subject to duty in accordance with the general provisions.

The upper limit of the goods value (including shipping costs) for an import exempt from VAT is:

  • 8% VAT (the majority of items sent): CHF 62
  • 2,5% VAT (e.g. books): CHF 200
 

What are the components of the value of the goods on which VAT is charged?

The value of the goods has a number of components: Example with a shipment from Germany:
Invoice amount 123.50 CHF*
- Foreign VAT - 23.50 CHF
- Rebate -
- Discount -
- Deposit on packaging -
+ Credits -
+ Commission -
+ Licence rights -
+ Shipping costs + 15.00 CHF
+ Import/customs duties, border veterinary controls, precious metals controls, etc. (calculated automatically) -
+ Customs clearance + 14.95 CHF
= VAT VALUE of the shipment = 129.95 CHF rounded to 129.00 CHF

*The amount invoiced is converted from a foreign currency to Swiss francs using exchange rates provided by the customs office and updated daily (always on the basis of the previous day's exchange rates).

 

How does the customs clearing agent know the shipping costs which are part of the VAT value?

The customs clearing agent has two means of determining the shipping costs:

  • If the shipping costs are indicated on the shipping documents, they are included in the calculation of the value of the goods.
  • If the shipping costs are not indicated on the shipping documents, they are determined using the stamp value.
  • In the case of gifts sent by private individuals to other private individuals up to a value of CHF 100.00, the transport costs are not included in the VAT amount.
  • If the shipping costs are indicated on the shipping documents as part of the value of the goods, no additional shipping costs will be included in the VAT amount.
 

What are stamp values and how are they calculated?

Stamp values are average shipping costs calculated by Swiss Post for a consignment sent to Switzerland from abroad. Stamp values are different for letters and parcels.

 

What is the VAT rate in Switzerland?

Since 1 January 2011, the following VAT rates apply:

Type

VAT rate

Normal rate on taxable deliveries and services 8 %
Reduced rate on taxable deliveries and services (e.g. books) 2.5 %

Generally, all services relating to an import consignment are liable to VAT. This includes transport and customs clearance. All services which are provided before and during effective customs clearance are to be taken into account in the VAT amount in accordance with customs regulations and are therefore to be taxed (e.g. the customs clearance itself). Cf. also VAT law, Art. 76). Services which arise during the customs clearance process and which cannot be foreseen are taxed on the Swiss Post International bill at a rate of 8%.

 

Charging VAT; with a few exceptions, Swiss Post International invoices list the individual components without Swiss VAT. What is the reason for these differences? Why do I have to pay VAT at 8% on some components?

As a general rule, all services relating to an import item are subject to VAT, whether they relate to shipping costs or customs clearance. All services which are provided before and during effective customs clearance are to be taken into account in the VAT amount in accordance with customs regulations and are therefore to be taxed (e.g. the customs clearance itself). See also VAT Act, art. 52. Services which arise during the customs clearance process and which cannot be foreseen are taxed on the Swiss Post International bill at a rate of 8%.
 

Do gift items have to be cleared through customs?

No customs clearance on gifts from one individual to another

  • For personal / private use
  • Value of up to CHF 100
  • Declared as a gift or evidently a gift

Customs clearance is, however, required in the following exceptional cases, regardless of the above:

  • Tobacco products
  • Alcoholic beverages
 

Does Swiss Post charge for registering a customs and VAT-free mail item?

There is no cost involved in registering a duty-free postal item for customs.
 

Exchange delivery; the item being delivered is in exchange for an item which has already cleared customs. Do I have to pay VAT twice?

There are two possible scenarios:

  • If the recipient is a business which can claim the deduction of input tax, VAT paid twice will not be refunded. A refund can be claimed as part of the input tax payment process (Article 80(2) of the Swiss VAT Act). The recipient has this right if he will be using the imported items for business-related purposes (Art 38(1c) + (2) + (7c) of the VAT Act).

As the customs clearance service has been provided twice, it is payable twice. Consequently, both invoices must be paid in full.

  • If the recipient is a private individual, he must prove to the customs authority that the item has been imported, then exported, then re-imported. A corresponding import customs clearance document and proof of the export (export customs clearance document, waybill specifying contents or similar) will be accepted as proof. A VAT refund can be claimed on the basis of these documents. Please send all the documents (i.e. import documents, export documents and proof of re-import), with a covering note.
 

Repair; the parcel contains a repair, on what specifically do I have to pay VAT?

  • Active repair traffic: an item imported into Switzerland to be repaired here.
    • Items of Swiss origin imported for repair can be cleared as duty-exempt provided the VAT value is no higher than CHF 1,250.
    • Items of foreign origin for repair should be processed as normal or with an exemption.
    • VAT can be reclaimed or claimed in pre-tax allowance after re-export (subject to a fee)
  • Passive repair traffic: item was repaired abroad and is being returned to Switzerland. VAT is only charged on the new material and the labour costs. However, these must be clearly stated on the commercial invoice.
 

Why was my import item blocked by Swiss Post International?

  1. Import items with incorrect or inadequate declarations are blocked in Switzerland by Swiss Post International. As the recipient, you will be issued a notification card on which to provide the missing information. With regard to delivery, you can then choose between the following two options:
  2. You provide Swiss Post International with the information required to release the item and you pay the additional processing charges directly when the item is delivered to you.
  3. You do not want to pay for the sender’s mistake and refuse delivery. The item is then returned to the sender.
 

What happens with multiple parcel shipments (MPS), i.e. consignments comprising several parcels?

Swiss Post does not recognize collective consignments and is also not in a position from a logistics point of view to process parcels in a series and identify them accordingly.

The sender is required to enclose a correct commercial invoice with each parcel in which the exact value of the parcel is indicated.

Provided that the postal customs authorities acknowledge that the consignment is an MPS, the value of the goods will be adjusted accordingly. e.g. 1 of 5 parcels the commercial invoice is divided by 5.

 

What happens if an MPS is not recognized?

Swiss Post applies to the customs authorities for reimbursement of the fees. What is important is that the number of pieces be recognizable on the commercial invoice.

 

How can I have import duties charged to my monthly Swiss Post invoice?

Only legal entities which have a billing relationship with Swiss Post can take advantage of this option. In order to have import duties charged to your monthly bill you must register with Swiss Post.

You can register online at  www.swisspost.ch/import

 

Can the import charges be booked directly to the recipient's ZAZ account?

You can indicate your ZAZ account or VAT customs account on the Internet at   www.swisspost.ch/import. Import customs charges and VAT will be charged to the respective accounts, while the customs clearance fees will be billed on your Swiss Post monthly bill.
 

How is the customs clearance fee calculated?

The customs clearance fee depends on the origin and the VAT value of the consignment (the consignment’s taxable value). To find out how the VAT value is calculated, read the corresponding question in this FAQ.

For consignments from Germany, France, Austria and Italy, the basic fee is CHF 11.50 while for consignments from any other country, the basic fee is CHF 16.00.

A supplement corresponding to 3% of the taxable value of the goods is then applied (not including import duty and customs control).

Examples:

Parcel from France with a value* of CHF 100.00:
Basic fee: CHF 11.50
Supplement: CHF 3.00 (corresponding to 3% of the value of the goods)
Customs clearance fee: CHF 15.00

Parcel from the USA with a value* of CHF 300.00:
Basic fee: CHF 16.00
Supplement: CHF 9.00 (corresponding to 3% of the value of the goods)
Customs clearance fee: CHF 25.50

*Value; VAT value

 

Why do the customs clearance fees depend on the country of origin and the value of the consignment?

Swiss Post, together with the Swiss federal price watchdog, has agreed a simple price model which makes it possible to offer as many customers as possible (in particular private customers) attractive customs clearance rates. Furthermore, the customers clearance fees should be commensurate with the complexity of the operation involved.

These considerations generally mean that a higher basic fee is applied to consignments which require more time-consuming operations on the part of the customs office than to consignments from neighbouring countries which are easier for the customs office to process and which account for much more than half of all import consignments.

The Swiss Federal Customs Administration requires that Swiss Post pays any customs clearance fees and VAT directly. This means that Swiss Post pays the Swiss Federal Customs Administration in advance on behalf of the recipient. Any account and interest fees are covered by the goods value supplement of 3 percent.

 

On what value is the variable element of the customs clearance fee (3% of the value of the goods) charged?

The variable element of the customs clearance fee totalling “3% of the value of the goods” will be charged on the basis of the value of the goods (including or plus shipping costs) declared on the commercial invoice or other customs forms.

 

When is the "inspection, value clarification and storage" supplement charged?

The supplement is charged,

  • if a consignment cannot clear customs due to missing, unreliable or incomplete customs documents and must therefore be opened;
  • if, due to missing or incomplete customs documents or due to the contents, a consignment must be placed in storage until the missing information is received or until the recipient or customs authorities take the decision concerning customs clearance.

The inspection, value clarification and storage supplement is only charged once per consignment.

The supplement will cost CHF 13.00.excluding VAT.

No supplement will be charged for duty-free consignments.

 

How can I avoid the inspection, value clarification and storage supplement?

Advise the sender that the postal item must be adequately declared. The contents of the consignment and the declaration of the value of the goods, including shipping costs, for customs clearance purposes must be indicated on the consignment either in the form of a customs declaration CN22/CN23 or as a commercial invoice. The customs documents must be affixed on the outside of the consignment.

 

When is the "import customs clearance prior clarification" supplement charged?

The import customs clearance prior clarification covers the prior provision of additional information necessary for the actual customs clearance (only on a mandate basis, notification by postal customs clearance customer service), and the provision of any missing authorisations necessary for customs clearance (weapons/medicines etc.)

The supplement will cost CHF 13.00.

 

When is the supplement charged for the "customs clearance of consignments which are subject to an order not prescribed by customs law or a surcharge?

The supplement is charged if the import of a good is subject to an order not prescribed by customs law (e.g. precious metals, CITES) or a surcharge (alcohol, tobacco).

The supplement will cost CHF 13.00. 13.00 excluding VAT

 

What are orders not prescribed by customs law?

The customs office cooperates in enforcing federal orders not prescribed by customs law. These orders not prescribed by customs law exist in numerous fields of law. These include:

  1. Security
    munitions, weapons, blasting material, nuclear energy, goods for civil and military use, seditious propaganda material, etc.
  2. Intellectual property
    precious metals, trademarks and indications of origin, design right, copyright, lotteries and wagers, etc.
  3. Economic and financial measures
    restriction and monitoring of imports and exports
  4. Health
    food, doping, narcotics, corpses, medicines
  5. State monopolies and monopolies
    alcohol, tobacco, mail, coins, bank notes, salt
  6. Environment
    epizootic diseases, animal welfare, fisheries, plant protection, refuse, etc.
  7. Cultural property / antiques, more than 100 years old
    Due to provisions in federal law (CPTA/CPTO), stamps, postcards, coins, pictures, sculptures, cartographic goods, antique books and other items that are demonstrably more than 100 years old must be registered with the Customs Administration or the Federal Office of Cultural Affairs (FOC) when they are brought into the country.
    This process involves additional cost-related customs clearance fees.

     http://www.bak.admin.ch/kulturerbe/04371/04386/index.html?lang=en
 

When is the "customs inspection" fee charged?

The customs inspection fee is charged when the Swiss Federal Tax Office orders an inspection of the consignment in question.

The customs inspection fee can also be charged on duty-free consignments.

The fee costs CHF 13.00 including VAT.

 

When is the "additional customs tariff number" supplement charged?

The additional customs tariff number supplement is charged if a consignment covers more than 5 customs tariff numbers. The customs clearance of between 1 and 5 customs tariff numbers is included in the customs clearance fee. From the sixth customs tariff number onwards, a supplement of CHF 10.00 is charged per additional customs tariff number.

Example:
Customs clearance of a consignment with 8 customs tariff numbers: Supplement of CHF 30.00 (excluding VAT)

 

When is the EMK (precious metal control) presentation fee charged? When is the CITES presentation fee charged? When is the plant protection presentation fee charged? When is the GTU (border veterinary examination) presentation fee charged?

This fee is charged if the Precious Metal Control Office demands delivery of a parcel.

This fee is charged if the consignment has to be delivered to the CITES control office due to applicable regulations.

This fee is charged if the consignment has to be delivered to the Plant Protection Control Office due to applicable regulations.

This fee is charged if the consignment has to be delivered to the border veterinary surgeon due to applicable regulations.

 

Who should I contact if I have any questions concerning customs clearance?

For questions concerning customs clearance of all types of postal consignment: +41 848 639 639