Customs regulations between
Switzerland and the EU
Customs regulations must be observed for the movement of goods between Switzerland and the European Union (EU). What goods may be imported? And what exemption thresholds apply?
Switzerland shares borders with EU member states such as Germany, France, Austria and Italy, resulting in significant travel and goods traffic between these countries. However, as a non-EU member, Switzerland is not part of the EU customs territory, which requires special customs procedures for cross-border activities.
Switzerland’s Relationship with the EU
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. Still, it maintains close ties with the EU through various bilateral agreements and partnerships.
Non-EU Member Status
As a non-EU member, Switzerland is not bound by EU regulations. It has its laws and regulations governing its economy and trade relations. However, its geographical location and close ties with the EU require Switzerland to align with some EU policies and practices.
Bilateral Agreements with the EU
Switzerland has established several bilateral agreements with the EU, including the free movement of people, goods, and services and mutual recognition of diplomas and certificates. These agreements facilitate trade and cooperation between Switzerland and the EU member states. The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) provides detailed information on Switzerland’s bilateral agreements with the EU: Bilateral Agreements with the EU.
Membership in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)
Switzerland is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), along with Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. The EFTA serves as a platform for its member states to negotiate free trade agreements with countries outside the EU. Switzerland’s membership in the EFTA enables it to participate in the European Single Market, providing access to the free movement of goods, services, capital, and people. More information on Switzerland’s membership in the EFTA can be found on the EFTA website: Switzerland and the EFTA.
Importing Goods from the EU to Switzerland
Importing goods from the EU to Switzerland involves several processes and regulations to ensure compliance with Swiss customs requirements. Critical aspects of the import process include the customs declaration, customs duties calculation, VAT on imported goods, and exemptions and relief for private individuals.
Customs Declaration Process
When importing goods from the EU to Switzerland, businesses must submit a customs declaration to the Swiss Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS). The declaration contains essential information about the goods, including their description, value, and origin. The declaration can be submitted electronically for most imports using the e-dec import system (e-dec will be gradually replaced by Passar from 1 October 2023 to 30 June 2025). Accurate declaration of the goods is crucial to avoid delays and penalties. For more information on the customs declaration process, visit the FOCBS website.
Customs Duties Calculation
Customs duties for goods imported into Switzerland from the EU are calculated based on the weight and value of the goods. The customs tariff provides the duty rates and the applicable nomenclature for classifying goods. It is essential for importers to correctly classify their goods to ensure accurate duty calculation.
VAT on Imported Goods
In addition to customs duties, most goods imported into Switzerland are subject to value-added tax (VAT). The standard VAT rate is 7.7%, with a reduced rate of 2.5% for essential items like food and medicines. Importers must declare and pay VAT as part of the customs clearance process.
Exemptions and Relief for Private Individuals
Private individuals importing goods from the EU to Switzerland may be eligible for exemptions and relief from customs duties and VAT under certain conditions. For example, goods with a total value below CHF 300 (including transportation costs) are exempt from customs duties if imported for personal use. Additionally, there are specific allowances for goods brought back by travellers, such as alcohol, tobacco, and souvenirs, up to certain limits. For more information on exemptions and relief for private individuals, visit https://www.ch.ch/en/ordering-goods-abroad/.
Exporting Goods from Switzerland to the EU
Exporting goods from Switzerland to the EU involves processes and regulations to ensure compliance with Swiss and EU customs requirements. Critical aspects of the export process include the export declaration, customs duties and preferential treatment under free trade agreements, and VAT considerations for exported goods.
Export Declaration Process
When exporting goods from Switzerland to the EU, businesses must submit an export declaration to the Swiss Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS). The declaration contains detailed information about the goods, including their description, value, and destination. The declaration can be submitted electronically for most exports using the e-dec export system (e-dec will be gradually replaced by Passar from 1 October 2023 to 30 June 2025). It is essential to accurately declare the goods to avoid delays and penalties.
Customs Duties and Preferential Treatment under Free Trade Agreements
Switzerland enjoys preferential treatment for its exports to the EU under various free trade agreements, which reduce or eliminate customs duties on qualifying goods. To take advantage of these benefits, exporters must obtain valid proof of origin, such as a movement certificate EUR.1 or a declaration of origin on the invoice. The proof of origin confirms that the goods comply with the rules of origin set out in the relevant free trade agreements.
VAT Considerations for Exported Goods
Goods exported from Switzerland to the EU are exempt from Swiss VAT. However, businesses must provide evidence of the export, such as the electronic export declaration or the customs receipt, to claim the VAT exemption. It is important to note that once the goods enter the EU, they may be subject to the destination country’s VAT and customs duties, depending on the specific regulations and thresholds.
Special Transit Regulations in Switzerland
Switzerland has implemented various special transit regulations to manage the impact of heavy vehicle traffic on its infrastructure and environment. These regulations focus on road and rail transit, promoting a more sustainable and efficient transportation system.
Road Transit Regulations
To mitigate the environmental impact of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), Switzerland introduced the distance-related heavy vehicle fee (HVF) in 2001. This fee applies to all domestic and foreign HGVs weighing over 3.5 tons to internalize the external costs of road transport, such as noise, air pollution, and infrastructure wear. The fee is calculated based on the weight, Euro emission class, and distance driven in Switzerland.
Additionally, Switzerland enforces an HGV transit ban on Sundays and public holidays. The ban applies to vehicles with a total weight exceeding 3.5 tons, with some exceptions for specific types of vehicles and situations. The ban lasts from 00:00 to 22:00 on Sundays and public holidays. For more information on the HGV transit ban, visit truckban.eu/Switzerland.
What goods are private individuals allowed to import into Switzerland from the EU?
Private individuals are permitted to import various goods into Switzerland from the EU, subject to specific regulations and limits. These goods include personal belongings, household effects, tourist souvenirs, and consumable items. However, Swiss customs regulations restrict specific categories of goods, such as alcohol, tobacco products, and food, based on quantity and value limits.
According to the Swiss Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS), private individuals importing goods from the EU to Switzerland for personal use or as gifts are exempt from paying duties and taxes up to a specific value and quantity limit. The value limit is set at CHF 300 per person per day, and goods exceeding this limit are subject to customs duties and taxes.
For alcohol and tobacco products, specific quantity limits apply. For example, individuals aged 17 or older can import up to 5 litres of alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content below 18% and 1 litre of alcoholic beverages above 18% without incurring customs duties. For tobacco products, individuals aged 17 or older can import up to 250g of tobacco or 200 cigarettes duty-free.
It is essential to note that importing certain goods, such as weapons, protected animal and plant species, and counterfeit products, is either prohibited or requires special permits. For detailed and up-to-date information on importing goods by private individuals into Switzerland from the EU, refer to the official Swiss Federal Customs Administration website: Swiss Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS) – Importation by Private Individuals.
E-commerce and Cross-border Trade
Switzerland, known for its robust economy, has experienced significant growth in e-commerce and cross-border trade over the past few years. Swiss Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS) oversees the regulations and implementation of customs duties and taxes for e-commerce transactions, ensuring that all imports are subject to proper customs clearance.
Customs Duties and Taxes for E-commerce Transactions
In Switzerland, customs duties are calculated based on the weight and value of the imported goods. In addition to customs duties, a value-added tax (VAT) is applied to most imported products. The standard VAT rate is 7.7%, with a reduced rate of 2.5% for essential items like food and medicines. For more information on customs duties and taxes, visit https://www.ch.ch/en/ordering-goods-abroad/.
VAT Registration and Thresholds for Foreign Businesses
Foreign businesses selling goods to Swiss customers are required to register for VAT if their annual turnover from Swiss customers exceeds CHF 100,000. Once registered, companies must collect Swiss VAT on their sales and submit VAT returns to the Swiss Federal Tax Administration. For detailed guidelines on VAT registration, visit https://www.ch.ch/en/taxes-and-finances/types-of-taxation/value-added-tax–vat-/
When do customs duties have to be paid?
Customs duties are essential to importing goods into Switzerland, and understanding when they must be paid is crucial for businesses and individuals. In general, customs duties are payable when goods enter Swiss customs territory. The amount due depends on factors such as the goods’ type, value, and weight.
Customs Declaration and Duties Calculation
Upon entry into Switzerland, goods must be declared to the Swiss Federal Customs Administration (FCA). Customs duties are calculated based on the customs tariff number, the weight of the goods (including packaging), and their value. The FCA provides an online tool, the e-dec web, which enables the electronic submission of customs declarations and expedites customs clearance. More information on customs declarations and the e-dec web can be found on the FCA website: Customs declarations for goods.
Payment of Customs Duties and Other Charges
Customs duties must be paid when the goods are imported into Switzerland. The carrier or customs agent handling the shipment typically facilitates the payment. In addition to customs duties, other charges, such as Swiss VAT and, in some cases, special taxes, may also be due. The standard VAT rate is 7.7%, while reduced rates of 2.5% and 3.7% apply to specific goods, such as foodstuffs, books, and hotel accommodations.
Customs Duties Exemption
Goods imported by private individuals may be exempt from customs duties and taxes up to a specific value and quantity limit. As of September 2021, the value limit is CHF 300 per person per day. Goods exceeding this value limit are subject to customs duties and taxes. More information on exemptions can be found here: Importation by Private Individuals.
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