New customs charges from December 1, 2008 - Germany

Increased duty-free limits in time for Christmas

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December 1st this year signalled a relaxing on the rules and charges for importing goods into Germany and the EU from foreign parts. With immediate effect the "duty free" personal allowance for international travellers arriving at German sea and air ports from non-EU countries is increased to €430 - previously the limit was €175. Travellers entering into Germany or the EU by train or car have an allowance of €300 per person. The allowance for children under 15 years old is €150 irrespective of the method of entry. Travellers arriving as couples or in groups cannot accumulate allowances - so a couple arriving with a new laptop worth €800 can't combine their individual €430 allowances to bring the system in duty free. Items exceeding the limits must be declared at the port of entry If a customs officer suspects any goods to be illegally imported or over the duty free limit then additional fines may be applied and in extreme cases the goods confiscated. It is up to the traveller to prove that goods they have with them were legally bought in an EU-country, not the customs officer to show they were bought outside. Customs officers can be pretty hot on people arriving in new-looking jeans or with shiny cameras slung around their neck!

Mail-order customers or people receiving packages from friends and relations abroad also have increased allowances for customs duties but not for import VAT (German: EUSt) - if you are receiving goods by post or courier the duty-free limit is raised to €150 (previously €22). Declared items between €22 and €150 are still subject to 19% import VAT (as before). Once the declared value exceeds €150 then both import VAT and additional customs duties are applied on the whole value. These duties vary between 0% and 17% depending on the type of goods (see list below), are in addition to the 19% VAT (7% on books) and are on the total package value including shipping costs. It does not matter whether the goods are a commercial purchase, used, or a present.

As an example - you purchase a pair of jeans by mail order from the US. Declared value is $39.95, shipping cost $20. Total US (declared) value is €59.95. The current (December 2008) exchange rate is 1.2634, so the package is valued at €47.45, and 19% import VAT - €9.01 would normally be charged on the shipment (in actual fact charges under €10 are not collected!). If you had bought 5 pairs of jeans and paid $40 for shipping the declared value is now €189.77 ($239.75) so 12% customs duty (for textile clothing) and 19% VAT are applied, making a total of €63.15 in charges to pay.

Packages arriving from non-EU countries require a customs declaration of value which may be checked for validity. If charges are levied then they are normally collected from the recipient when the package is delivered. If there are any questions as to content or value the recipient may be invited to he customs office to clarify them. There is often a small administration fee from the courier company or post office to administer and collect the charges applied. No-one is under obligation to pay the charge to receive the package, but if they are not paid then the package is simply returned to the sender.

For general information on the new rules see "Changes in rules for travellers and post import from December 1st" (in German!)
For further detail on package import see "Questions on packages from abroad" (in German!)

Customs duties payable in addition to import VAT for imported goods valued over €150 (€430 for personal import):
Leather clothing 4 %
Textile clothing 12 %
Leather shoes 8 %
Shoes from other materials 17 %
Gold and silver jewellery 2,5 %
Other jewellery 4 %
Photographic equipment (analogue) 4,2 %
Photographic lenses 6,7 %
Video/Digital cameras 0-12,5 %
Computer, Notebooks, Handhelds 0%
USB-Sticks 0-14 %
Computer monitors 0-14 %
GPS systems 3,7 %
Bicycles 14 %
Sport equipment 2,7 %-4,7 %
- e.g Golfclubs 2,7 %
- e.g Tennis rackets 4,7 %
Decorative items made from:
- Wood 0%
- Plastic 6,5 %
- non-precious metal: 0%
Books, pictures, photos and posters 0%
Cassettes, CDs, Videos, DVDs 3,5 %
- cars 10 %
- Quadbikes 10 %
- Motorcycles up to 250cc 8 %
- Motorcycles over 250cc 6 %
Furniture 0-5,6 %
Cosmetics 0-6,5 %
CD-Player 9,5 %
DVD-Player 13,9 %
MP3-Player 0-14 %
Where did you find this? Can you post up the link?
I did...
Sorry, I was reading too fast (or skimming it) and didn't even see the links.
The links are the underlined text that stand out when you skim an article...
I have a question for other people. When I have had to pay customs they have never added shipping costs on to the value for the VAT calculation. Is that normal? Because what I read above says they added shipping or have I just lucked out so far?
That's the official line and the formal method of calculation. It's always used for commercial imports. Private imports are treated gently. Unless there are suspicious signs they will usually abide the the formal declaration of value on the package which normally does not include shipping charges. Customs officers are human too
Wow, what an informative post. That merits not only a 6 month extension of your Supporters subscription but a beer.
I discovered the new customs limits the other day when I went out to the Stix (aka Garching Zollamt) to pick up a package...from my experience the shipping charge has ever factored into the calculation of the Import Duty/taxes...this time I was only 71c over the EUR 10 threshhold they have for minimum VAT payment (as YL6 clarified and as quoted below)

10 Euro - Small amount import VAT
If no customs or excise duties but only import VAT is payable and if the importer can write off the import VAT against tax at his Internal Revenue Service the import VAT up to an amount of 10 Euro will not be collected.
For those who want to check out the info in English, the Zoll site is available in English too, and the FAQ is handy!
The increase from €175 to €430 was a huge relief when I arrived back from a ten-day vacation in Florida this past Saturday. Although I will admit I was almost a bit disappointed I didn't get a chance to try out my Shatner-esque acting skills ("Of course these Hilfiger shirts and Levi's jeans aren't all brand-new, officer. I just change clothes every 25 minutes.") had the customs people asked me to "come with us for a moment, sir".
I just want to know who in their right mind would bother mail ordering a pair of $39.95 jeans from the US.
The question is not who, but why.
I would absolutely order jeans from the US, because petite sizes do not exist here and the already expensive jeans here have to be tailored (more €), so why not rather just order tried and true brands that fit when the exchange rate is good. Having said all that, I never have ordered any, because I do all my shopping on trips to the US.
I just want to know who in their right mind would bother mail ordering a pair of $39.95 jeans from the US.
The question is not who, but why.
A pair of Levis in the USA cost 30 or 40 dollars. Here they cost 80 to 120 Euro. I never mail order jeans, but I can understand why somebody might want to do it.
Oh, really? I didn't know. I thought that changed around the end of the cold war. Clever of Levis to keep the price elevated here.
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