Customs and import tax on personal belongings

68 posts in this topic

Posted

So I am about 2 months out from arriving in Germany. I just talked to the moving company and they said we can't ship any drugs, food, or alcohol over. Anything that is New or looks New is subject to an import tax.

Has anyone been stuck with a bill moving in on goods?

We have been upgrading some of our items we want to take and now I fear we are going to have to pay extra for them on arrivial. How well do they go through all of your goods? Do they unpack everything and repack it, and who covers the damages. Any horror stories out there? Or has everything gone smooth for most people?

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Posted

What kind of stuff are you buying new? Towels would be good from Bed Bath and Beyond etc., as soft towels here are really hard to find and even harder to pay for. Make sure all the stuff has been used, that's all. No tags, obviously worn / washed, etc. This applies to textiles. Same story with sheets, but be aware that the sizes are all different and if you're getting a bed once you arrive and you've brought standard US sizes they may be hard to match up.

If you've just bought a new sofa, you may be sunk, but I do hope you're not talking about furniture when you say you've been upgrading things -- you can get furniture here too and save your shipping fees. I see from your other posts you have a two-year-old -- he can help you make anything look used in the next two months. Not so much fun for the furniture though.

You shouldn't need alcohol (cheaper here than there), drugs (you'll bring like what, a bottle of cheapo generic aspirin and ibuprofen in your regular luggage not your moving boxes, maybe some Children's chewable orange-flavored aspirin and Sudafed) or food -- see http://www.toytowngermany.com/munich/Briti..._American_Foods for a good idea of what's available and what's harder to find bzw. more expensive here than at home.

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Posted

The are unlikely to go through all your belongings with a fine-tooth-comb. If you have anything new, then simply remove all packaging before shipping and knock it around a bit... (doesn't apply to newborn babies or recently married wives, of course...:) )

YL6

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Posted

Thanks for the replies. Work is paying to move most of our stuff so we took the time to get obvious things we knew we would need in the near future. Like a new bed for the little one since he is moving into a "real bed". I had to turn my computer back into work, so I bought myself a replacement. I just need to take everything out of the original packing, are really it isn't "new" everything has been used at least a couple weeks or so! :blink:

Thanks again, looking forward to arriving.

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Posted

I'm shipping 10 cubic feet (.285 cubic meters) of personal belongings to either Amsterdam or Hamburg. The company handling the shipping has told me that they do not pay destination taxes or customs fees. Everything I'm shipping is personal and used and I will likely assign a value of less than $500. How much should I expect to pay in additional fees?

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Posted

While we are on this subject: Does anyone know what paperwork needs to be filled out before shipping my personal belongings here from California?

On page 41 of The Business Guide to Germany, it says:

"Household objects can also be imported to Germany freely if the owner moves place of residence from abroad to Germany. A customs exemption of this kind must be applied for in writing beforehand."

I tried calling the Customs Info Center at at +49 (0)69 46997600. I pressed "2" to speak to someone in English. I was then on hold for 39 minutes and 49 seconds without anyone answering before I decided to hang up. I called at 1:29 PM and hung up at 2:10 PM. I sent an e-mail to info@zoll-infocenter.de and am patiently awaiting a reply.

In the meanwhile, any advice from old hands out there with previous experience is much appreciated.

REFERENCE: Maier, Gerhart (2006). Business Guide to Germany: How to access and set up business in Europe's biggest market. Berlin: Invest in Germany GmbH

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Posted

I would guess the folks with the moving company should have any paperwork you require.

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Posted

I've read through a number of threads, but can't seem to find a consistent answer to the following questions:

If I'm moving to Germany (for the foreseeable future) do I have to pay import tax / VAT on my personal belongings? Does it depend on how long ago I purchased them, or the type or value of the items?

It would be great if someone could point me to a thread or post that discusses the official policy (in English), as I've been unable to find it myself. People's posts seem to contradict each other, with one person saying if you're emigrating you don't have to pay tax on personal belongings, and others say that's only true if the items are over a year old.

I'll be flying into Frankfurt airport with 3 suitcases. The suitcases will contain clothes, some kitchenware, books, camera, rollerblades, and miscellaneous household items. I might also be bringing a few months old laptop.

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Posted

No you do not pay tax on personal stuff when moving to germany. Just write on the boxes "personal/household" and they cannot tax you on anything. My family shipped 24 boxes (50lbs) each and did not pay 1 cent

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Posted

You don't need to pay if it is clear you are moving to Germany to live, and these are your personal effects. Principally all goods should be used (6 months or older) and owned by you, but in practice, so long as you don't bring in 5 laptops in new boxes, most new(er) things can pass through To avoid any issues at customs you should prepare the paperwork mentioned in the earlier thread and be prepared for delays on arrival or consider an agent to handle the clearance

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Posted

Thanks. According to that webpage, the limit is 6 months (as YorkshireLad6) says, not 12 months as others have suggested. It seems to say any and all personal belongings are exempt from import tax, as long as you've been out of Germany for a year, and the items are all purchased more than 6 months ago. There may be a clause about the exemption not holding for items required to carry out your work, but I didn't quite understand that part. It also said that the items you bring over have to be credibly for your personal use: 10 new bicycles in their boxes would not be considered personal belongings. It also said you can't sell or give away any of the items you brought within the first year of residence, I think, although I'm not sure how they track that. The exemption seems to be good for anything you ship within 1 year of starting your residency in Germany: it's not a one-time exemption as I saw suggested elsewhere.

As I'm flying into Frankfurt with just 3 suitcases, I'm guessing the "hire an agent" suggestion is not relevant. I've actually done this three times already this year and no one stopped me or asked me anything about how long I was staying or what I was bringing with me, either at passport control or after I picked up my suitcases. I imagine I can fill out any forms at customs, if they stop me? I don't have enough German to fill out the form linked to above.

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Posted

Excuse me if this is redundant but I cannot figure out the correct way to word what I am searching for.

I would like to have my rollerblades and Xbox shipped from the states so I have something to do. What do I need to do in order to ensure that I do not pay duties on them? Or do I have to regardless(despite the fact I have had the skates since I was 16 and the Xbox from launch).

Thanks alot

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Posted

My understanding is that it is that you don't have to pay the VAT if you have had your things for more than 6 months. Sounds like it won't be a problem.

Check this consular website out for some further info.

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Posted

Skate around the block and the wheels will say it all.

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Posted

If it looks used and its not in its original packaging you should be ok..

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Posted

check into what airline regs are for extra luggage Might be cheaper to overload your suitcase (we could do an extra 9 kilos for $75).

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Posted

Its about 50´-60 to ship it (USD) so I am not worried. Good to know about overloading for when my father comes to visit

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Posted

Big lad is he?

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Posted

Hi Djlowballer, here's what I did - it was recommended on the German consulate website. . So you have to keep the value under 45€ per box, regardless of it if is used or new, you still are stuck with the VAT if the box is over the 45€.

So the BEST way around this is to make your own bill of goods, ie Rollerblades, used (1996 purchased) 10€ then total the whole thing up and make sure the value is under the 45€. Put this on a piece of paper on the outside of the box or in with the Customs forms you fill out in the US when you mail the box.

Good luck..as I said all this info is also on the German Consulate website.

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Posted

OK I used search and couldn't find a thread on this (maybe I was using the wrong search terms...)

I have to fill out a Packing List for all my items (that's fine), but they also want a value for each item. How in the world am I supposed to assign a value to things like individual items of used clothing, books, etc? I don't have receipts for most of it since I've had it for years, nor do I remember what I paid for most of the items... quite a few weren't even purchased, they were given to me.

Any advice from anyone who's already had to do this?

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Posted

You could try scouring eBay and Amazon for comparable products, or just be creative - books for a buck a piece, clothing 2-5, depending on condition.

The important thing is that you write "personal goods - used - relocation" on the customs declaration form, as such goods are exempt (within reason). My dad neglected to do this when he sent me my meager CD collection once I got settled and I ended up having to pay DM 105 duties for 33 CDs (this was way, way back in 1990). In contrast, when he sent me my trusty college Mac Plus - plus hard drive - a month later, it came through duty-free, although it was worth much more than the fecking CDs.

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Posted

We just guesstimated. The moving company wants to know what the value of the contents is if they lose or damage a box, so you have to declare a value in advance.

It's got nothing to do with customs, in this case. You'll have to do it again when you move stuff back to the US.

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Posted

Hi Jeff and Cinzia, first of all, thank you both for your replies, that's pretty much what I was planning on doing, just declaring a low value on most of it, since that's probably not too far off the mark of what I actually paid for most of it anyhow! I just wanted to make sure this wasn't going to cause any problems with me just guesstimating and valuing most things of the same type at the same price...

I'm actually hoping to never have to move back to the US. Hell, after this move I'm hoping to not have to move anywhere for a long time... my boyfriend and I are planning on buying a house somewhere around Stuttgart in about 7 or 8 years, and with any luck, that's going to be the last time I move. Ever. I absolutely hate doing this.

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Posted

Definitely just put estimates for everything. When all my stuff was shipped here from the US via USPS, I think 5 out of 7 boxes were kept at the Zoll. I received a note in the post saying I needed to bring invoices, etc. to pay tax. I had written "Personal Goods - Relocation to Germany" on everything. So I went to the Zoll, told them it was for relocation, they photocopied my passport, asked me to open the box, they looked inside for approximately 2 seconds, then sent me on my way. I had to go back 1-2 more times for more boxes, and they didn't even ask me to open the boxes the other times. Stressful when you first get here, but as long as everything looks used (as in not a box of 20 freshly sealed iPods) you shouldn't have any problems.

One issue I did have was using UPS to ship a box of stuff from my office here, they automatically paid taxes based on the estimates and sent me the bill. I was pissed, but since my company was paying for it I didn't waste the time to try and fight that.

Good luck, and just remember to take a deep breath everytime you want to scream as many of us have been thru this fun and it's well worth it!

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