Customs Information for Private Customers

Answers to frequently asked questions regarding customs clearance of import shipments.
The text below provides you with answers to frequently asked questions concerning customs clearance and VAT charges.
Whether a shipment is a gift or not, it must still go through an import procedure as determined by custom’s law in the destination country. As a rule, every shipment from abroad is liable to customs duty and VAT. As the recipient of a shipment from abroad, you pay the value-added tax (VAT) on the value of the goods (incl. freight/customs costs) and customs duty on the gross weight. These costs should not be confused with the transport costs that are paid when the shipment is posted.
You can find further detailed information on the website of the Swiss Customs Administration (EZV): http://www.ezv.admin.ch/
As a rule, every shipment from abroad is liable to customs duty and VAT.

The tax-free limit of CHF 300.00 only applies to tourist traffic. The Swiss Act on the Movement of Goods (Warenverkehr-Gesetz) applies when importing goods. Customs duties and value-added tax are not charged if the amount calculated is less than CHF 5.00 per customs declaration, whereby customs duties and VAT charges are considered separately.

Gifts sent from private individuals living abroad to private individuals in Switzerland are duty-free up to a goods value of CHF 100.00.

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

The upper value limit (goods value, incl. transport costs and customs duties) for an import exempt from VAT is:
  • 7.7% VAT (applicable to majority of all shipments) => CHF 65.00
  • 2.5% VAT (e.g., books) => CHF 200.00
The taxable goods value is calculated on the basis of numerous elements: Example of a shipment from Germany:
(Deutsches Postpaket Intl. excluded)
Invoice amount (Goods value) CHF 119.00*
- Foreign VAT - CHF 19.00
+ Transport costs
+ Customs duties

+ CHF 15.00

+ Informal clearance/Formal clearance** + CHF 19.00 / CHF 39.50
=- Total taxable goods value*** = CHF 134.00 / CHF 154.50

 

The taxable goods value is calculated on the basis of numerous elements:

Example of a shipment from Germany:
Deutsches Postpaket International (Eco)

Invoice amount (Goods value)  119.00 CHF*
- Foreign VAT - CHF 19.00
+ Transport costs
+ Customs duties
+ CHF 15.00
+ Customs clearance fee + CHF 11.50
+ Processing fee 3% of taxable amount + CHF 3.80
=- Total taxable goods value*** = CHF 130.30

***VAT is calculated based on this amount (rounded to the nearest franc).

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

** Informal clearance at CHF 19.00 (VAT value < CHF 1,000 / weight < 1,000kg / no ancillary laws / import duties (without VAT) do not exceed CHF 5.00) or Formal clearance at CHF 39.50 (VAT value > CHF 1,000 / weight > 1,000kg / ancillary laws).

The customs agent has several means of determining the transport costs:
  • If the transport costs are indicated on the accompanying documents, they are included in the calculation of the value of the goods.
  • If the transport costs are not indicated on the accompanying documents, they are determined using the freight table agreed with the customs authorities.
  • 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 value-added tax amount.
  • If the transport costs are indicated on the accompanying documents as part of the value of the goods, no additional transport costs will be included in the value-added tax amount.
Since January 1, 2018, the following VAT rates apply:
Type VAT rate
Normal rate on taxable deliveries and services 7.7%
Reduced rate on taxable deliveries and services (e.g., books) 2.5%
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 to be taxed accordingly. Services which arise during the customs clearance process and which cannot be foreseen are taxed on the DHL Express invoice at a rate of 7.7%.
 

Whether a shipment is a gift or not, it must still go through an import procedure as determined by custom’s law in the destination country.

Gift shipments are exempt from duties and tax under the following conditions:

  • shipment from one private individual to another
  • value of goods < CHF 100.00

The term "gift" must be clearly visible on all customs documents.

Customs clearance is always required for the following exceptions:

  • Tobacco products
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Other goods that are subject to an “order not prescribed by customs law”
There are two possible scenarios:
  1. If the recipient is a company that can claim the deduction of input tax, VAT paid twice will not be refunded. The company can claim it as part of the input tax payment process (Article 80, paragraph 2 of the Swiss VAT Act): https://www.admin.ch/opc/de/classified-compilation/20081110/index.html). The recipient has this right if he will be using the imported items for business-related purposes (Article 38, paragraph 1c, paragraph 2, and paragraph 7c of the VAT Act: https://www.admin.ch/opc/de/classified-compilation/20081110/index.html).
    As the customs clearance service has been provided twice, it is payable twice. Consequently, both invoices must be paid in full.
  2. If the recipient is a private individual, he must prove to the customs authorities the existence of an import, a subsequent export, and another import. A corresponding import customs clearance document and proof of export (export customs clearance document, waybill specifying contents or similar) will be accepted as proof. With this proof, the VAT can be claimed back. Please provide all the documents (i.e., import documents, export documents and proof of re-import) with a corresponding note.
  • Active repair traffic: goods that are imported to Switzerland for repair.
    - Goods imported for repair originating abroad are cleared for customs as normal or with free passage.
    - VAT can only be claimed as an input tax deduction after re-exportation. No refund is possible.
  • Passive repair traffic: the goods have been repaired abroad and are returning to Switzerland. VAT is only charged on the new material and the labor costs. However, this must be clearly stated on the commercial invoice.
False or incorrectly documented import shipments may not be cleared through customs by DHL Express Switzerland and are thus blocked. The recipient is sent a letter of advice asking them to provide the missing information. With regard to delivery, you can then choose between the following two options:
  1. You provide DHL Express Switzerland with the information required to release the shipment and you pay the additional processing charges directly when the shipment is delivered to you.
  2. You do not want to pay for the sender’s mistake and therefore refuse delivery. The shipment is then returned to the sender.
Deutsche Post does not send collective shipments. Each parcel is cleared through customs individually. The sender is instructed to enclose a correct commercial invoice with each parcel indicating the exact value of the parcel.
The Postpaket service from Germany is an individual parcel product. It is not possible, for IT reasons, to recognize these parcels as such, and goods are therefore often cleared through customs on multiple occasions. The multiple payment of duty can only be corrected by submission of a request to the federal customs administration. As this process entails a charge, applications will only be submitted if the refund amount exceeds CHF 100.00.

The costs shall be borne by the recipient of the goods.
DHL Express offers three products: DHL EXPRESS WORLDWIDE, DHL ECONOMY SELECT and Weltpaket (import of a parcel from Germany)

For DHL EXPRESS WORLDWIDE shipments, the customs clearance fee is included in the transport fee. Disbursement of CHF 19.00 are incurred if there is no ZAZ account stored at DHL Express Switzerland (you can find more detailed information on the subject of the “customs account in the centralized settlement procedure of the FCA” here: http://www.ezv.admin.ch/zollinfo_firmen/04203/04305/index.html?lang=en

For DHL ECONOMY SELECT shipments, the customs clearance fee is calculated as follows:
Informal clearance costs CHF 19.00 (VAT value < CHF 1,000 / weight < 1,000kg / no ancillary laws/ import duties (without VAT) do not exceed CHF 5.00).

Formal clearance costs CHF 39.50 (VAT value > CHF 1,000 / weight > 1,000kg / ancillary laws).

For Deutsches Postpaket International PREMIUM (Weltpaket Prio) shipments, the customs clearance costs are paid by the sender.

The following fees are invoiced to the receiver of Deutsches Postpaket International ECONOMY (Weltpaket Eco) shipments:
  • Processing fee: 3% of value of goods (max. CHF 60)
  • Customs clearance fee CHF 11.50
  • More than 5 customs tariff numbers: additional CHF 12 for each number
Clearance Authorisation CHF 20.00
Bonded Transit CHF 45.00
Handover to Broker CHF 30.00
Temporary import/export (ATA/free passage) CHF 80.00
Permits & Licences CHF 50.00
Bio/Phyto/veterinary controls CHF 50.00
Post Clearance Modification* CHF 20.00
Multiline Entry (above the 5th line) CHF 12.00

*At customer’s request

The Multiline Entry supplement is charged if a shipment covers more than five customs tariff numbers. Customs clearance of between one and five customs tariff numbers is included in the customs clearance fee. From the sixth customs tariff number onwards, a supplement of CHF 12.00 is charged per additional customs tariff number.

Example:
Customs clearance of a shipment with eight customs tariff numbers: a surcharge of CHF 36.00
The customs administration cooperates in enforcing federal orders not prescribed by customs law. These orders exist in numerous fields of law. These include:
  • Import customs duties
  • Security
  • munitions, weapons, blasting material, nuclear energy, goods for civil and military use, seditious propaganda material, etc.
  • Intellectual property
  • precious metals, trademarks and indications of origin, design right, copyright, lotteries and wagers, etc.
  • Economic and financial measures
  • restriction and monitoring of imports and exports
  • Health
  • food, doping, narcotics, corpses, medicines
  • State monopolies and monopolies
  • alcohol, tobacco, mail, coins, bank notes, salt
  • Environment
  • epizootic diseases, animal welfare, fisheries, plant protection, refuse
  • Cultural property/antiques more than 100 years old
  • stamps, postcards, coins, pictures, sculptures, maps, antique books and other items which are clearly more than 100 years old must be registered upon import with the customs administration and the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) in accordance with the provisions of the federal law (KGTG/KGTV). Additional cost-related customs clearance fees apply as part of this process. www.bak.admin.ch/kulturerbe
Questions regarding shipments that have already cleared customs: vatquery.ch@dhl.com
Questions regarding import shipments that have not cleared customs: cccg@dhl.com
If the customs/VAT invoice was issued on the basis of the information in the commercial invoice, any change incurs a charge and the recipient is automatically billed CHF 30.00 for this in the new invoice. A written enquiry to Vatquery.ch@dhl.com is required.
The Advance Payment fee is 2% and at least CHF 3.00.

This fee is charged for the use of the DHL Express Switzerland ZAZ account (deferred payment account) and the associated risk of prepayment of customs duties and VAT.

These costs are only charged to customers without a ZAZ account. An application for a ZAZ account can be requested from the Directorate General of Customs (DGC) in Bern. http://www.ezv.admin.ch/zollinfo_firmen/04203/04305/index.html?lang=en
In the majority of cases, only the transport costs are paid by the sender. The customs duties and the customs clearance fees are automatically charged to the recipient unless the sender has clearly indicated other corresponding commercial conditions on the waybill. The information on the invoice is not relevant here and cannot be taken into consideration. Subsequent acceptance of costs by the sender can take place within two months provided you send us the commitment to cover costs. You can contact us about this by e-mail at Vatquery.ch@dhl.comThis applies to all DHL Express services apart from parcels from Germany.
You can check on the website of the Swiss Customs Administration (Eidgenössische Zollverwaltung, EZV) whether the goods are liable to customs duty: http://xtares.admin.ch/tares/login/loginFormFiller.do?l=de
The import invoice from DHL Express Switzerland for customs duty/VAT must be settled. If you export the goods again, the import duties (customs clearance fees + VAT) are not cancelled automatically.

Please contact the carrier with which the goods were returned. The exact procedure can be found under the following link: https://www.ezv.admin.ch/ezv/en/home/information-companies/exemptions--reliefs--preferential-tariffs-and-export-contributio/exportation-from-switzerland/foreign-returned-goods--returns-.html
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