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Importing goods: tips and advice

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Like export, the import of goods in the Federal Republic is subject to clear regulations. This includes a number of customs regulations, document obligations and also trade restrictions. In this article we offer a brief overview of the aspects to be considered when importing goods to Germany.

What is import?

The term import goes back to the Latin verb portare, which can be translated as carry. Importing means carrying in accordingly. Import describes the process To import goods to Germany.

The process must be differentiated according to the country of origin. While deliveries from the EU are treated almost like domestic deliveries in practice, this is different for goods from non-EU countries. Special ones take effect here Customs Regulations and Restrictionswhich can differ depending on the country of origin or delivery country, exporter, importer and type of goods. For example, a trade embargo or partial embargo may apply that prohibits imports from certain countries, or a special permit may be required for various goods or imports are based on special requirements or maximum quantities. This applies to weapons, textiles and some metal products, as well as food, among other things. Such restrictions can be temporary or permanent. The relevant ministry as well as organizations such as chambers of commerce and authorities such as customs can provide relevant information.

Who is allowed to import under what conditions?

In principle, every resident is allowed to import goods. However, requirements must be met. The person must have registered a suitable business and also have applied for an EORI number or customs number. This must be specified for all imports and allows assignment to the importer. A special additional requirement applies to non-EU citizens. These must also have a valid residence permit for an import business. In addition, their status must permit a trade.

Documents, customs, taxes: how does an import work?

The import of goods can be relatively complex. Of the required documents about taxes to customs clearance a number of points must be observed. Depending on the type of goods and the country of origin, processing can be complex or time-consuming, and in some cases it is also expensive. In addition, there are agreements between the trading partners and, if applicable, the contracted transport company. These include in particular the terms of delivery and payment (Incoterms, letter of credit). By the way: Post deliveries from non-EU countries also have to go through customs.

Necessary documents

Documents are required to import goodsfrom which all relevant data emerges. This includes the following documents.

  • Electronic import declaration or customs declaration: As with export, German merchants must submit a report via the ATLAS (automated tariff and local customs processing system) or the IZA (Internet customs declaration import). This digital document should help to better record and monitor the import. An exception is the import of goods with a value of less than 1,000 euros and a weight of less than one ton. In this case, a simplified reporting procedure applies. Details on the current requirements can be obtained from customs.
  • Commercial invoice: As with export, a commercial invoice is also required for import. This is essentially the same as a proper invoice, but it is only issued pro forma. It should help to better record tax data. Among other things, this makes it possible to waive sales tax. At the same time, the commercial invoice helps make VAT fraud more difficult. It also makes it easier to control the delivery.
  • Customs declaration: If it is an import from a non-EU country and the value of the goods is more than 20,000 euros, the importer must make a customs declaration for the delivery.
  • Certificates of origin and declarations of origin: Depending on the type of goods, certificates of origin or declarations of origin may be required. Depending on the export country, these documents may lead to lower taxes or customs fees or may be required.
  • Approvals and control reports: Certain types of goods require additional permits or control reports. This also applies to receipts of goods or declarations on the final whereabouts of commercial goods such as weapons, armaments, radioactive material or certain high-performance machines.
  • Compliance with EU standards: When importing, the goods must comply with EU standards. Otherwise they are not allowed to go on sale. This applies in particular to goods that are intended for the end consumer market. Compliance with such standards can be traced through symbols such as the CE mark. However, the importer is responsible for ensuring that these identifiers have not been manipulated and that the products actually meet the required standards.
  • Report for intra-trade statistics: The importer must report deliveries from other EU countries for intra-trade statistics. With this notification, the trading processes within the EU should be recorded. However, reporting is only mandatory for the company from a certain imported goods value per year.

Customs Duties and Taxes

Trade within the EU is duty-free. If goods are imported from a third country, the TARIC (integrated customs tariff of the European Union) applies. This means that the tariffs are the same in every country in the EU. Even more: If the imported goods that have already been handled by customs are transported across an internal border, they are considered a delivery from an EU country.

Processing at customs is therefore only required for all deliveries from non-EU countries. This involves an intensive check of the goods, their value, the quantity or weight and the required documents. Also, fall for different types of goods not only customs duties but also taxes at. All taxes and fees are due upon import. Customs collect them.

  • Customs fees: The importer has to pay import fees. These depend on the type, quantity and value of the goods. Current rates can be queried from customs using various tools such as EZT online or TARIC.
    • Reduced customs fees: If there is a preferential agreement or a trade agreement with the exporting country and the delivery is accompanied by a certificate of origin or proof of origin for the goods for the exporting country, there may be reduced customs duties. Often the savings ran at 50 percent, in some cases the fees are completely eliminated. Information can be researched online in the WuP database. However, certain documents are required in order to be able to exercise the benefit. These include EUR.1 and the special variants EUR.MED (Mediterranean countries) and A.TR (Turkey).
    • Punitive tariffs: The opposite is the case if the government has imposed punitive tariffs on the exporting country to compensate for market opportunities or for political reasons. In this case, the importer must expect additional fees.
    • Special duties: For some types of goods, such as certain agricultural goods, there are special duties. The importer must also pay this when importing the goods.
  • Import sales tax: The exporter often does not charge the importer any sales tax for the delivery of goods. This is based on international agreements according to which the importer pays the sales tax in the home country. So that the importer is not in a better position than a buyer of domestic goods and the state receives the statutory sales tax, an import sales tax is due. This corresponds to the legally applicable sales tax. However, the calculation is based on the complete delivery value including insurance and transport costs up to entry into the EU area.
  • Excise taxes: Some goods are subject to special consumption taxes. These include gasoline, mineral oil, tobacco products, coffee and alcohol, among others.
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