Questions about parcels from abroad
- Gift parcels from abroad
- Duty on transport costs
- Customs handling charges
- Repairs abroad
- Return of goods on which duty has already been paid
- Import duty on software
- Overdue and delayed parcels
Even gifts imported from the USA or other third countries (i.e. countries not belonging to the European Union) into Germany are normally subject to customs duty and import VAT as well as any excise duty that may be applicable.
There are, however, exceptions to the rule. For example, no duty/tax has to be paid on goods sent from one private
person outside the customs territory of the European Union to a person within the customs territory provided that it is
an occasional, non-commercial consignment (i.e. not sent in return for payment) and has a total
value not exceeding € 45. Additionally, in the case of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages as
well as perfume and eau de toilette, certain quantity limits must also not be exceeded.
The value limit relates to the value in euros, not US dollars or any other currency.
These customs handling charges are not levied by the customs authorities. The customs authorities only levy the import dues that are payable on the goods (customs duty, import VAT, other national excise duties, if applicable). The nature and amount of these dues can be taken from the statement of tax/duty ("Abgabenbescheid"), in particular the section on how the levies have been calculated ("Berechnung der Einfuhrabgaben") If the customs authorities should, in exceptional cases, levy any other fees (e.g. if, on application of the person/party declaring the goods, the customs clearance process is carried out outside of the regular opening hours or away from the premises of the customs office, the so-called "official place of business"), an additional and detailed statement of charges is issued.
The customs handling charge is, therefore, not made by the customs authorities but by forwarding agents, courier
services or similar service providers who regularly take care of customs clearance on behalf of the consignee.
These firms then bill their service to the consignee on whose behalf they have acted. They usually have their own individual name for this charge (e.g. customs handling charge) to indicate that the costs relate to the process of handling customs clearance.
Re-imported goods of this kind are only free of import duty/tax in the case
of repairs carried out free of charge under warranty. Corresponding evidence
(e.g. certificate of warranty) must be submitted to the tax
office on re-import of the item after repair so as to enable import under the
"outward processing" customs procedure.
To initiate this customs procedure, the following formalities must be observed:
Before being exported for repair, the defective item must be presented to the local customs office and registered for the outward processing procedure. The relevant document is Form No. 0749 (available from form dealers). This is part of the standard EU "Single Administrative Document", which also includes the "entry outwards", or export notification. In return for this form, the customs office issues the person/party dispatching the item with a "Veredelungsschein" or temporary processing form. If this form is then presented to the customs office when the article is re-imported following repair, duty and taxes are calculated only on the basis of the repair costs and not on the total value of the item. If evidence is provided that the repair was carried out free of charge under warranty, no import duties/taxes are levied at all. Whether the work and expense involved in the outward processing procedure is worthwhile in relation to the potential savings in duty and tax is a question that has to be decided in the individual case. Many goods are duty-free or carry only low rates of duty, and import VAT can often be offset under the prior turnover tax system.
Where the repair has no commercial character, i.e. where it is of a kind that occurs only occasionally and relates exclusively to goods that are intended for personal use or consumption by the importer, a simplified customs procedure can be used. It is then not necessary for a "Veredelungsschein" to be issued in advance. The outward processing procedure can be applied for and granted at the time of re-import. However, also under this simplified procedure, the importer must submit all documentary evidence as the customs office may consider necessary for assessing the matter on re-import. This may include, for instance, the certificate of warranty, correspondence relating to the repair claim, the repair invoice or the original purchase invoice.
For mail order goods, customs law allows the possibility for the customs declaration on the basis
of which the import duty/tax etc. was levied to be declared void even after the goods have been released. In all other cases,
this is possible only to a very limited extent or indeed not possible at all.
A corresponding written application must be made within three months from acceptance of the customs entry to the main customs office in whose district the customs clearance procedure took place. The address can be taken from the statement or calculation of duty/tax ("Abgabenbescheid" or "Abgabenberechnung").
To ensure speedy processing, the written application should be accompanied by all documents proving that the goods have been returned to the mail order firm. These may include the following:
- Receipt issued by the post office or
- Similar receipt issued by a courier service and/or
- Acknowledgement of receipt by the mail order firm together with the credit note for the purchase price.
The same also applies if only part of the original delivery is returned.
Please state your complete bank account details.
In the case of software imports, it depends how delivery is made.
The customs authorities only become involved if and when an item physically crosses the external borders of the European Union. This means that if programs are downloaded from the Internet, the customs authorities are not responsible, since no goods have been moved, but "only" data. The situation is different, however, if the software is stored on a CD and the CD is imported. In this case, the provisions of customs law apply.
Data carriers with software were formerly subject to special regulations with regard to calculation of the dutiable value. This meant that provided the value of the data carrier was stated on the invoice as a separate item from the value of the program or the stored data, the dutiable value was only calculated on the value of the data carrier, i.e. the CD blank. The value of the data or programs stored on it was not included, so that in the case of import of software on a data carrier, only the value of the data carrier was subject to import VAT at the rate of 19 %.
It should be noted, however, that this preferential treatment never applied to data carriers containing sound recordings,
cinematographic image recordings or video recordings, e.g. computer games or music.
By Commission Regulation (EC) No. 444/2002 of the Commission of 11 March 2002, Article 167 of the Implementing Regulations for the Customs Code, which governed the valuation of data carriers, was deleted without replacement.
This change came into force on 19. March 2002. Today, all data carriers are subject to the normal regulations relating to assessment of the dutiable value. Therefore, in calculation of the customs duty and import VAT payable on imported data carriers, the value of the stored programs or data must also be included, with the result that now these, too, are subject to import VAT at a rate of 19 %.
The time it takes for your parcel to arrive depends first of all on the mode of transport
(i.e. by air, sea or land). Most parcels from distant countries are today carried by air
freight. As soon as the goods arrive in Germany, they are presented to customs by
Deutsche Post AG or a courier/express service for clearance.
The customs clearance procedure itself takes two days at most, though it can take longer at Christmas, Easter or Whitsuntide because of the increased volume.
When Deutsche Post AG takes care of import clearance, it pays the import duty/tax on the consignment and then bills these costs on to the consignee on delivery of the parcel, together with the customs assessment notice. In cases where Deutsche Post AG does not have all the necessary particulars or where essential documents are missing, it will forward the consignment to the customs office responsible for the consignee's place of residence. The Post will notify you accordingly and request you to take care of customs clearance yourself at the relevant customs office.
Courier/express services present deliveries for clearance at the customs office responsible for their
handling depot. Deliveries are not usually forwarded to the customs office at the consignee's place of residence.
Some courier/express services submit their invoices, and sometimes also the customs documents, only after the delivery has been delivered.
The customs authorities have no influence on the time at which the goods are presented or the customs declaration is submitted, nor on the onward transport of parcel deliveries.
Violations of prohibitions and restrictions
Should an import be in breach of legal provisions relating e.g. to the protection of
species, brand piracy or weapons law,
the goods will be confiscated by customs and a seizure notice issued. Deutsche Post AG or
the courier/express service will notify the consignee of the seizure, together with a registration number.
The reason for the seizure and the relevant legal regulations are also indicated.
The regulations relating to "Prohibitions and Restrictions" are extensive and varied. Besides the loss of the ordered goods, the import of prohibited items can have other unpleasant consequences as well.
Who should I contact if I am missing a parcel?
The customs authorities have no possibility to conduct inquiries concerning incoming parcels.
Information on the whereabouts or fate of parcels can only be provided by Deutsche Post AG or the courier/express services.
The customs authorities cannot influence the time at which goods are presented or the application for clearance submitted, nor the onward transport of parcels.
Nor do the internal tracking numbers of Deutsche Post AG or courier services provide any indication of the handling customs office.
Deutsche Post AG and the courier/express services provide service hotlines in Germany for information about parcels. The consignee should therefore contact the carrier concerned, stating the tracking number.
Should your delivery have been forwarded to a customs office, e.g. because important
documents needed for customs
clearance are missing, the carrier will normally send you a notification card containing all the necessary information.
If you have not received a notification card of this kind but are informed on inquiry that your delivery is in the hands of customs, please ask the office/department providing the information for the registration number of the customs receipt.
In cases in which the goods remain untraced, it may be possible to put in a private-law claim for the loss against the carrier.