Customs | 26. May 2021

Trade in goods to and from a third country using the example of Switzerland

When sending goods cross-border, i.e. shipments from a non-EU country (third country) – such as Switzerland – to another EU country or a third country, customs duties, taxes, and customs clearance costs are incurred. Special requirements for the customs declaration must be observed. by

Post 1440x700
Post 1440x700

Switzerland forms a customs and VAT enclave in the middle of Europe. As it is not a member of the EU, special regulations apply here for the shipment of goods, similar to deliveries from the USA or the Far East.

E-commerce merchants, especially from Switzerland, do not have it as easy when exporting and making returns as they do when shipping between two EU countries and have to observe special regulations.

What has to be considered when shipping from a third country, in this case, Switzerland, to the EU?

These consignments must be declared, labelled and accompanied by valid delivery or customs documents. Here, the shipping method is crucial. A distinction is made between Incoterm DAP (Delivered at Place) and DDP (Delivered Duty Paid). With a DAP shipment, the sender only pays the transport costs. The consignee of the consignment pays duties, such as customs duties, import VAT and customs duties. In the case of a DDP shipment, these import duties are also borne by the seller and declared as “delivered duty paid”. However, a DDP delivery requires registration of the consignor in the destination country, which can be very complex due to the risks and expenses involved.

Dispatch of small consignments

The letter channel can be used when sending small goods up to 2 kg gross weight, which does not exceed the shoebox size. Here, a Harmonised Label from Swiss Post is used for customs clearance. Small consignments with a value of more than CHF 400 require the customs declaration CN23 and a commercial invoice. This is also provided by Swiss Post and must be filled in correctly.

Sending items as a parcel

Anything larger or heavier than a small consignment is sent via the parcel channel. This consignment must accompany a consignment note and a commercial invoice in triplicate. The amount of import duties (customs duties and taxes) depends on the transaction value. The cost of a customs declaration varies greatly, from EUR 6 at the post office to EUR 50, depending on the transport service provider. Here it is worth comparing the service providers more closely. As a merchant, all costs up to the front door and further costs, such as those incurred for returning the goods, should always be shown transparently to the customer.

Why a correct declaration is important

Those who deal with customs in detail and need to provide the correct and complete customs documents and inform customers accordingly run the risk of having goods blocked by customs or being refused acceptance of the goods by the customer. Some merchants even shy away from it and prefer to forego market share.

It doesn’t have to be because with the full-service customs solution ClearCustoms, especially for e-commerce, a shipment from or to a third country becomes as easy as a domestic shipment. All additional costs incurred are already displayed to the customer in the check-out process in the online shop, thus avoiding unpleasant surprises.

With ClearCustoms, e-commerce merchants can distribute their goods across borders without registration in the destination country and customs formalities and risks. From the classification of goods and payment options to customs and tax registration – everything is integrated into a “worry-free solution”.

ClearCustoms® – Border-free e-commerce


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Andreas Weidner
Vice President Customs
Andreas Weidner is Vice President Customs and Product Owner of eClear's customs solutions. He has many years of experience in leading global transport, customs and trade compliance organisations. In his previous position, he was Global Director Customs & Trade Compliance at Marquardt, where he and his global team contributed significantly to worldwide growth and internationalisation by successfully building and managing the import and export compliance process.
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