Customs at Munich airport

106 posts in this topic

Hi TTers,

 

Yesterday we landed in Munich from USA and were held on by the customs at the exit.  Initially we thought it would be just a random check.  However we were wrong. It turned out to be a detailed item by item check.  They inquired if we bought food, clothes, bags, jewelry and asked for the bills.  Although we didnt have the bills, we had few clothes (with price tags) and 3 packs of Hershey's chocolates - all worth less than 50 USD .  The only other newly bought item was an ipad, which we had purchased there in USA and for which we paid the respective sales tax; we were flying out of JFK and were informed that tax refund was no longer possible at this airport.  

 

After all the checks we were shocked to receive an invoice for 274 Euros - to be paid immediately :(.  The reason being that we have to pay German sales tax of 137 euros plus a fine of 137 Euros for non-declaration. Although the ipad is for personal use by a family of 4, we were informed that per person the limit is 430 euros & the ipad's value is definitely greater than 430 euros.  We were totally unaware of such a thing ... 

 

I really dont understand the logic: For the food and other goods, the limit can be counted per person, but however for an electronic item which will be used by more than one person, the limit is per person? How is it to be considered?

 

Has anyone had similar experience? Is there any possibility to get a refund?

 

Any leads / tips will be highly appreciated..

 

TIA

 

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They can and do check arrivals from outside the EU, for items, taxes due, and will check prices on Internet. Just because you paid US sales tax does not mean you can avoid German taxes. Not sure what your allowance is for items bought while away, but there are limits.

(Anyone watched Achtung Kontrolle at Frankfurt Airport?  " Not more food"!!!!)

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So they were right to check you...

 

If the value of 1 single item exceeds the limit, you pay tax on the total value of that item. No chance for a refund, them the rules...

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33 minutes ago, Horizon said:

I really dont understand the logic: For the food and other goods, the limit can be counted per person, but however for an electronic item which will be used by more than one person, the limit is per person? How is it to be considered?

 

You haven't included your location in your profile. If you are resident in Germany you are subject to German customs limits. 

 

There are different rules for visitors (i.e. no German residence permit) who can prove they are taking the goods with them when they leave Germany (at the end of their visit).

 

 

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So, what is your point? You tried to evade sales tax and were caught, end of story.

 

41 minutes ago, Horizon said:

I really dont understand the logic: For the food and other goods, the limit can be counted per person, but however for an electronic item which will be used by more than one person, the limit is per person? How is it to be considered?

I have noticed that many Americans appeal to the so called logic as if the US is a paradise of common sense and is ruled by the laws of logic. But if it is so, why Kinder eggs are banned? Not much logic to me. It's called the law, it has to be followed.

 

You deliberately went through "nothing to declare" green channel, self guilty. If you don't know what to declare and what not (I also do not have a full knowledge), just ask.

Because there are certain items for bringing which you can land in jail, customs is not a game.

 

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Not sure why the OP has such a big problem here - I am a Brit and a non-traveller, but even I know that there are limits to what you can import from the US (and other countries!), and if I by any chance were to plan a trip there, I would most certainly make sure to find out what those limits are before making a purchase!

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I don't know what's your problem. This WAS a random check. Random check means that they check random people and then check them carefully because they can't do this with every single person. It doesn't matter if the ipad is used by 4 person, there is a  value limit of how much you can import and that's it. To the US you can't even bring a bar of good chocolate. 

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It may not even have been random.

Customs have vans at MUC with x-ray machines in them and scan all luggage from selected flights to see what's being brought in. That's before the luggage gets to the carousel.

Maybe yours was one of the selected flights.

Maybe it was just random. Who knows but as others have said you tried to defraud the German government.

 

You already paid sales tax?

Tax is not charged on a world-wide basis but country (or State) by country (State).

You need to pay German tax on initial import of any item.

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Next time you want to smuggle contraband into the country you have to try a bit harder. New clothes with tag prices on it? Everything you had to do was removing the tags. And if you had the chance, wash the clothes at least once. An iPad? First why do you import an iPad? They sell them here and they are only slightly more expensive here, due to ... higher taxes. Then an iPad is the easiest thing to smuggle, you only had to throw the packaging, put it in a case and carry it in your hand.

Not that I am promoting smuggling things, but come on.

P.S., Food items can be a danger to local agriculture and/or transport diseases.

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Thanks everyone for your comments!

 

I would like to clarify that we were ignorant of the permitted limit ... there was never an intention to evade taxes or defraud .. 

 

Anyways, we are now better informed ..

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9 minutes ago, Krieg said:

...Then an iPad is the easiest thing to smuggle, you only had to throw the packaging, put it in a case and carry it in your hand.

...

 

That approach does not work all the time any more.  If they are suspicious then they read the serial number and then through the manufacturer trace where in which country it has been sold.  (Not always possible, but more so now than before).

 

 

 

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The clothes weren't the problem, @Krieg, it was the iPad.

 

Not to pile on, but every country has duty-free customs import limits. The German limits are much more generous than the U.S. limits, BTW. But it's crucial to remember that a family's individual exemptions cannot be combined - which means if the value of any single item exceeds €430, it has to be declared and the import VAT/customs duties paid.

 

 

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If you had iPad in the unpacked box, then yes, it looks like new item. But why couldn't you throw away the box, insert your sim and then the only answer to customs guys - "it's my ipad, I had it before"? I don't see any sense in charging you the VAT just because the item is not from Germany. It's for your personal use and it's not some unusual stuff like antiques or something like this. What if tomorrow you'll leave Germany forever? Will they reimburse you this "tax"? No. So I completely do not understand guys from previous post saying "defraud", " contraband"...

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9 minutes ago, lega4 said:

It's for your personal use

Yes, and I carry this machine gun for my suicide. I do not intend to kill other people, believe me.

 

VAT is 19% in Germany, while in the US there are states where sales tax is 0%. So, when you visit relatives, what prevents you to buy iPad, resell it on eBay in Germany with 10% profit. All local sellers cannot avoid paying VAT, you could, your price is unbeatable. This is called "unfair competition".

 

14 minutes ago, lega4 said:

What if tomorrow you'll leave Germany forever? Will they reimburse you this "tax"?

If you reimburse money for all the infrastructure you used in Germany during your stay, the state will reimburse tax, of course.

 

VAT is a tax which is paid by people who reside in Germany, while non residents do not need to pay it. If you buy iPad in Germany and bring it to the US, you can get the VAT back at the customs. The procedure is pain in the ass and requires the seller to fill in the tax free form, but it is possible. In other countries like Israel you get a paper at the immigration which you then show to hotels, car rentals etc, and you do not pay local VAT.

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1 minute ago, yourkeau said:

This is called "unfair competition".

No, this is called "commercial goods". We're talking about personal usage.

1 minute ago, yourkeau said:

Yes, and I carry this machine gun for my suicide. I do not intend to kill other people, believe me.

You're changing the topic. There are forbidden items, yep, sure, but how is it related to iPad? iPads are not forbidden. 

 

3 minutes ago, yourkeau said:

If you reimburse money for all the infrastructure you used in Germany during your stay, the state will reimburse tax, of course.

You're changing the topic again, because infrastructure tax is completely different from this one given iPad tax.

 

Imagine the situation: I'm citizen of Russia, I bought laptop in Russia, then I moved to Germany, but after couple of years I decided to return back to my home country. If i didn't pay anything for the laptop to German customs, than it's perfectly fine. But what if I payed "tax" for my own laptop? Will they reimburse it when I will go back? Probably no. So actually I just made a "donation" to German government. Do you think this is "fair"?

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40 minutes ago, lega4 said:

No, this is called "commercial goods". We're talking about personal usage.

I told you: I carry gun for my suicide. Not for shooting at others. Believe me. This is a suicide gun, not a murdering gun.

 

40 minutes ago, lega4 said:

You're changing the topic. There are forbidden items, yep, sure, but how is it related to iPad? iPads are not forbidden. 

So, you accept there is a law regarding guns but do not want to accept there is a law regarding iPads. Well, you can't choose which laws apply and which don't.

I tried to explain the logic, your choice to understand it or not.

 

40 minutes ago, lega4 said:

I'm citizen of Russia

I knew it without looking at your profile.

 

40 minutes ago, lega4 said:

Imagine the situation: I'm citizen of Russia, I bought laptop in Russia, then I moved to Germany, but after couple of years I decided to return back to my home country. If i didn't pay anything for the laptop to German customs, than it's perfectly fine. But what if I payed "tax" for my own laptop? Will they reimburse it when I will go back? Probably no. So actually I just made a "donation" to German government. Do you think this is "fair"?

What is so difficult to understand that you pay taxes if you are a tax resident of the country? It's the same as living in a hotel: you pay for the room and you pay for the meals. Once you checkout, nobody is going to reimburse you for unused services.

 

Well, if you think you are being treated unfair you can choose another country to live in.

 

The bad news is that rent in tax havens (Hong Kong, Monaco etc) is much higher than any taxes you will pay here.

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6 hours ago, lega4 said:

Imagine the situation: I'm citizen of Russia, I bought laptop in Russia, then I moved to Germany, but after couple of years I decided to return back to my home country. If i didn't pay anything for the laptop to German customs, than it's perfectly fine. But what if I payed "tax" for my own laptop? Will they reimburse it when I will go back? Probably no. So actually I just made a "donation" to German government. Do you think this is "fair"?

 

Thats not exactly how it works. 

 

My work sent me a laptop for ...work.  It still belongs to them.  In canada.  I went through this with zoll extensively about how it would work - temporary imports are allowed to be exempt.  I could have that allowance but we decided i would pay the import taxes and if i sent the laptop back within a set amount of time, yes, I could get it reimbursed.  However, the laptop reached its maximum depreciation value (effectively 0) while i was using it, here in Germany, so while its still a very usable laptop, and I could easily sell it on eBay.de here for probably what it cost at original value in Canada, i can't apply for that money back.  That is very fair, because the amount time i used it exceeded the time that it had value and could be resold here, and the purchase of it preempted me or my company from having to buy a laptop here and pay Vat on it.    

 

Look at it this way: if this didn't exist, we would ALL be ordering our apple and computer products from the US.  Even better, in Canada, you can actually buy apple products from Native Reservations and not have to pay any taxes on either end.   Then there would absolutely no market here whatsoever, because we would all just be ordering from Amazon.com rather than Amazon.de and getting a hell of a deal on certain items.  The idea of getting dinged by zoll for such shipments is enough of a damper so we just don't bother with the idea. 

 

We may not like it, but its fair.  The OPs biggest mistake was not being efficient at getting his sales tax back when he left the US.  That would be the proper way to "import" an item from the US.   When i buy any electronic over there, its the first thing I do, and prepare myself that i will have to pay Vat on it when i come here.    If i'm lucky, there won't be anyone standing at zoll to pay, but technically, even that is kinda illegal, its your duty to NOTIFY them. 

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