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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 borders on numerous EU member states: Germany, France, Austria, and Italy. In everyday life, therefore, there is much travel and goods traffic between Switzerland and the EU. However, as the Swiss Confederation is not part of the EU, there are customs consequences to consider. Here’s a brief overview:

What goods are private individuals allowed to import into Switzerland from the EU?

Individuals may import personal effects (including clothing, toiletries, mobile phones, and portable computers) duty-free. Personal travel provisions also remain duty-free. But other goods with a total value of CHF 300 are subject to VAT.

The value-free limit can be claimed per person (including children) once a day. This also applies, for example, to goods imported as gifts. To determine the value of the goods, the value after deducting foreign VAT is decisive (if VAT is shown on the receipt/invoice). If the value exemption limit is exceeded in total, VAT must be paid on all goods.

Customs duties also apply to certain goods and animals. Here, specific duty-free allowances must be observed, for example, for food, alcohol, and tobacco. You can find an overview of the applicable provisions for duty-free allowances here.

Certain goods may not be imported. These are, in particular, species-protected animals and plants, weapons, narcotics, and drugs. You can find an overview here.

Tip: easy processing with Quickzoll

Private individuals can use the app to make customs declarations to import goods and pay any duties directly. The application is simple, and registration is not required. In the app, private individuals can also find detailed information on entering Switzerland. You can find more information here.

Special transit regulations

If private individuals are merely passing through Switzerland, special regulations apply:

  • Personal effects and travel provisions are duty-free.
  • If the value exemption limit of CHF 300 is not exceeded for other goods, these also remain duty-free.
  • Up to CHF 5,000, no duties must be paid on goods (except if the exemption limits for alcohol, tobacco, and foodstuffs are exceeded) at the border as part of the customs assessment.
  • A security deposit must be paid for private goods with a total value of more than CHF 5,000.

Important: For the transit of goods, the customs declaration cannot be made through the Quickzoll app.

Gift consignments up to CHF 100

Suppose private individuals send gifts abroad to Switzerland. In that case, this remains duty-free up to a goods value of CHF 100 (except tobacco and alcohol). A corresponding note must be made on the consignment.

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What goods are Swiss private individuals allowed to import into the EU?

When private individuals travel from Switzerland to Germany, travel allowances and import restrictions must also be observed. Customs provides a duty calculator for this purpose. This lets you quickly determine whether the travellers’ allowances have been exceeded.

Note: The German customs authorities provide an overview of the travellers’ allowances here.

What applies to the movement of goods in e-commerce?

If goods are imported into Germany from a non-EU country, they must be cleared by customs. A written or digital declaration must be made for this purpose. The goods must be assigned a customs tariff number. The customs tariff is based on the internationally valid Harmonised System (HS) in the EU and Switzerland.

When do customs duties have to be paid?

Customs regulations in the EU

The import of goods from Switzerland must be declared. In Germany, the declaration is made electronically via the ATLAS platform. It can also be made by a representative (e.g. freight forwarder). No customs duties are payable for goods with a low value (but beware: import VAT must still be paid). Customs duties must be paid for consignments valued at EUR 150 or more. The German customs authorities provide extensive information on the possible costs and the procedure on their website.

Note: The former value exemption limit of EUR 22 has been abolished since 1 July 2021. This means that import duties must always be paid for all imports of goods.

Attention: When importing goods, in addition to customs costs, import VAT or VAT, excise duties if applicable and additional costs such as transport charges must be considered. For goods with a value of up to EUR 150, traders can use the import-one-stop-shop procedure. In this case, the turnover can be declared centrally, and VAT can be transmitted. Import VAT does not then have to be paid.

Customs regulations in Switzerland

In Switzerland, all commercial goods must be declared according to the customs tariff when imported or exported. Incidentally, this also applies to private goods not carried in personal luggage or private motor vehicles.

The declaration is made in writing or electronically. Many traders have the customs formalities taken care of by agencies, forwarding, or logistics companies. But this naturally incurs costs. An unusual feature is that Switzerland does not impose customs duties on goods according to their value, but their weight. In Switzerland, customs duties are, therefore, usually assessed according to the gross weight of the goods. Information on the customs tariff (Tares) is available on the Internet. This also shows whether imports are duty-free or reduced rates (so-called tariff preference) based on a free trade agreement.

Customs duties up to CHF 5 are not charged. In addition to customs duties, VAT and customs clearance costs are also incurred when a service provider is engaged.

You can find more information here.


Trade in goods to and from Switzerland

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 another third country. In these cases, special requirements must be set for the customs declaration.

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