Customs | 26. May 2021

Trade in goods to and from a third country using Switzerland as an example

Customs duties, taxes, and customs clearance costs are incurred when shipping goods cross-border, i.e., shipments from a non-EU country (third country), such as Switzerland, to an EU country or to another third country. In these cases, special requirements must be set for the customs declaration. by

Switzerland forms a customs and VAT enclave in the middle of Europe. As a non-EU country, special regulations apply in Switzerland for the shipment of goods – similar to deliveries from the USA or the Far East.

For e-commerce merchants, especially from Switzerland, it is more difficult to export goods and arrange returns than it would be when shipping between two EU countries because special regulations must be observed.

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

The consignments of goods must be declared, labelled and accompanied by valid delivery or customs documents. In this case, the shipping method is a key factor. There is a difference between Incoterms DAP (Delivered at Place) and DDP (Delivered Duty Paid). In a DAP shipment, the shipper pays only the transport costs. Charges related to the shipment itself, such as customs duties, import sales taxes and customs fees, are paid by the recipient. In a DDP shipment, these import duties are also borne by the seller and declared as “Delivered Duty Paid.” However, a DDP shipment requires registration of the shipper in the country of destination, which can be very complex due to the risks and expenses involved.

Consignment of low-value shipments

When shipping small goods up to 2 kg gross weight and smaller than a shoebox, the letter channel can be used. In these cases, a Harmonized Label from the Swiss Post is used for customs clearance. Small consignments with a value of over CHF 400 require a commercial invoice along with a CN23 customs declaration. This is also provided by the Swiss Post and must be filled in correctly.

Sending shipments as a parcel

Anything larger or heavier than a low-value shipment is sent via the parcel channel. These shipments must also be accompanied by a bill of lading and a commercial invoice, preferably 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. Therefore, it is advisable to take a closer look and compare service providers. As a merchant, all costs up to delivery at the front door and other costs, such as those incurred for a return of the goods, should always be transparently displayed for the customer.

Why a correct declaration is important

Those who are not familiar with the subject of customs in detail and fail to provide the correct/complete customs documents and inform customers accordingly run the risk of goods being blocked by customs or having the customer refuse to accept the goods. Some retailers shy away from this altogether and would rather forego market share.

This doesn’t have to be the case. With the full-service ClearCustoms customs solution designed for e-commerce, a shipment to or from a third country is just as easy as a domestic shipment. All additional costs incurred are already displayed to the customer in the online shop check-out process – which avoids any unpleasant surprises.

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

ClearCustoms is complemented by the VAT solution ClearVAT. With ClearVAT, your sales of goods to B2C consumers are VAT-free in all EU-27 as well as Switzerland, the UK, and Norway, enabling merchants to expand even faster into European markets and outsource VAT risks and declaration obligations.


Andreas Weidner
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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