Tax on gifts received from overseas - Germany

Info about import duty on presents sent to Germany

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trule
My stuff gets delivered to my door, usually by DHL, with lots of ZOLL tape on the package that indicates they already took a peak inside. I give the DHL man money for the Zoll.

Perhaps you want to try a different shipper? Or perhaps they have your name on a list as a "trouble maker" to be given the full treatment

Being taxed and inconvenienced should make you wonder what your tax is getting you. If every month we had to physically hand cash over to the finanzamt I'm pretty sure we would soon be getting better and cheaper governance.
HerrDinksbumps
I'm a freelancer!! I know all too well the pain of having to hand over money to the Finanzamt....

Funny, when I was a kid it was a family "thing" every year at X-mas or Thanksgiving to have my uncle over. Fishing captain.. And for years.. it was always the same procedure. Few beers, then the topic of Social Security would come up.. I was like eight years old at the time, and didn't even know what SS was.. But I knew my uncle had to pay the full %15 and not half like most employees to... For everybody else it was always a tiresome and exhausting, but somewhat humorous affair..

Thing is, after ten years of freelancing.., I'm starting to feel like I know exactly where he was coming from. Non-freelancers(like my wife..) have a point in that they have to pay an awful lot too. But the pain of a freelancer is just more real when you actually personally have to pay over all that money to the Finanzamt...

PS BTW, sometimes I have to pay the DHL guy too, sometimes not.. Seems random.. I suppose when I buy stuff off US ebay and there's no bill that's when I have to "go in" and show a bill so they know what to charge me..

I've actually had e-bay sellers package things to look like a X-mas present to improve the chances of getting past Customs. Worked one year, when this dude - hilariously - covered the whole outside of the package with Santa clippings from newspaper coupons..
bleater
I recently was hit for the first time by the Zoll on a packag. Deutsche Post included a bit of paper with an explanation of the law and charges when the package is sent from a non-EU country, some of which translates as:

Small non-commercial packages, sent from a private person to another private person, and which will be used in the household of the recipient (i.e. GIFTS), have a duty-free amount. For most items, the duty-free limit is 45 Euros, including postage. Even if the contents of the package are destined for different people in the household, the same limit applies. (So it makes sense, if someone is sending Christmas presents to different family members, to split them up and send them separately if possible and if that would save more in customs fees than the increase in postage.) A different limit of 22 Euros applies to tabacco, alcohol, perfume and coffee.

Note that any package carrying a commercial invoice or packing slip with a value cannot qualify for the above duty-free limit.

For all items that don't qualify for the duty-free limit, (including commercial shipments and/or shipments with an invoice), then up to 350 euros value a flat-rate of duty is applied to the value, and over 350 individual items have to be declared and are taxed at varying rates. Under 1000 euros value, Deutsche Post can collect the toll on your behalf. (Much simpler than having to go to the Zollamt and make fill out a form and pay the tax.)

So there you have it folks, in Germany, gifts over 45 euros value are considered excessive and will be taxed! ;-)
brokenm
You also have to be careful if the "gift" is being sent to you directly or through a third-party, i.e. the supplier. For example, if my brother mails me a gift under 40 euro in value, I will not be charged any duty or VAT tax. However, if he ordered it through Amazon.com and mailed it to me, regardless of the cost, I will pay 19% VAT and 8-20% duty. The kicker for me is that you will also be charged this tax and duty for the cost of shipping as well. If UPS or DHL clear for you through customs, then you will usually be charged a set fee of ten euros as well.

The summary of the above example is have your relatives send you something directly and always write on the exterior of the box, the price (under 40 euro), and have a note inside saying....hey you left this at our house when you came to visit, sorry it took so long to post it back to you.
westvan
However, if he ordered it through Amazon.com and mailed it to me, regardless of the cost, I will pay 19% VAT and 8-20% duty.
That's because it's then considered a Warensendung.
brokenm
But you left out the most important point, that the postage is also subject to these costs. It would be equivalent of charging me duty and VAT when I bring an iphone form the US and declare that the value is over 400 euro. Then I would be charged for my plane ticket and taxi charges as well. That is ridiculous.
Conquistador
Although it's not an official source, this comment on Amazon.de may be of interest:

http://www.amazon.de/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=13601071&qid=1262084836&sr=1-1
Zoll- oder Einfuhrgebühren für Lieferungen nach Deutschland
Lieferungen nach Deutschland im Wert von EUR 22,00 oder weniger sind von Zoll- oder Einfuhrgebühren befreit.
Looks like books and some other items besides those mentioned earlier also have a duty-free limit of 22 euros.
westvan
Yes, I've ordered books and music CDs from Amazon.com under the EUR 22 limit and they came by regular mail with no duty or taxes to pay.
gmtl
They recently increased the tax-free amount per shipment from outside the EU from 22 Euros to 150 Euros. See here.

The easiest way to avoid customs-related hassles when buying gifts for friends and relatives abroad is to simply order from an online store operating in the same country as the recipient. If someone from the US buys a gift for someone living in Germany on Amazon.DE, then since the goods will not be crossing an international border, no customs authorities will be involved. Same for the other way around. Of course, one can pay on Amazon.DE using a US credit card. Shipping is often free in this case, too.

Note that thanks to the EU single market, there are no customs due on goods purchased anywhere within the EU and shipped to another EU country. So if the friends and relatives back in the US are uncomfortable ordering over Amazon.DE, where everything's in German, they can order over Amazon.CO.UK whose British-English interface is hopefully more comprehensible ("dispatching" means "shipping").
YorkshireLad6
They recently increased the tax-free amount per shipment from outside the EU from 22 Euros to 150 Euros. See here.
But you still pay 19% VAT for shipments over €22....
AnswerToLife42
The VAT for books is only 7%
athomas27
First of all, why do Germans respond to these threads to antagonize the anglos who are already having stress adjusting to all the issues we experience here? Secondly, I concur it is not morally right to pay tax on gifts received from family members from the USA. This is a complete racket, "economic community" aside. I pay my taxes here like a German but do I really have to buy my own birthday and christmas gifts from my family? Does anyone know a way around this? The Zollamt staff told me it must be under EUR 40 and wrapped in gift paper with a card accompanying it but I can't find anywhere to confirm this. If I receive something expensive and the value is listed at EUR 40 will they trust the value or do they look up the item on the internet to determine their perception of true value? I've heard all kinds of different horror stories from Germans alike. If anyone has any friendly, sound advice I would appreciate it.
MunichMom
In my experience, stuff shipped airmail gets checked at the airport, and is more likely to be assessed a customs tax. Stuff shipped by sea is more likely to escape the tax. Also, keeping it below the magic limit helps, even if it means sending stuff in two packages instead of one. Always remember, as someone stated, that the postage is added to the value.

In my years here, I've been hit by a huge customs bill because a friend included included a small figurine with some books he sent to my daughter, but on the other hand, paid no tax on a huge trunk of stuff I inherited from my father in the U.S. In the latter case, I simply wrote a note stating that (in truth!) the stuff had originally been in Germany before my father emigrated to the U.S.

So, you just kind of cross your fingers and hope for the best when shipping stuff to Germany.
Rankersbo
First of all, why do Germans respond to these threads to antagonize the anglos who are already having stress adjusting to all the issues we experience here? Secondly, I concur it is not morally right to pay tax on gifts received from family members from the USA.
I don't see it like that. Not always.

You see it as unfair, but others could see it as perfectly fair and the emotive way you express your opinion as antagonistic.

Belligerent ignorance is even less nice than arrogance- at least arrogance is (usually) based on something nice- knowledge.

I do understand what you mean, it can be stressful being out of your depth and finding out that what you thought you knew was wrong. My head was in a spin the other day when I discovered I had to take action because I had been hit by new info that threw doubt on my reasearch. It can make people who just come on and blandly state the facts seem as if they are being antagonistic. But blaming the system, rather than our own lack of understanding can also look self-righteous and antagonistic, and maybe, just maybe people you think of as nasty are actually being nice by standing up to nastiness.

I mean my reaction when reading that someone thought €40 was low for a gift was "Wow, you have some generous friends and relations there!"
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