Courier by post, online shopping, mail-order company

All consignments from abroad are declared to customs for assessment (customs clearance and payment of duties).

In the case of parcels and letters, this is carried out by the carrier, e.g. DHL, UPS, Swiss Post, etc., using the details provided by the sender when preparing the customs declaration. The sender must provide a complete and accurate description of the contents of the postal item.

The customs declaration forms the basis for the collection of duties and taxes (customs duties, value added tax, etc.).

Customs duties

The customs duties are generally calculated according to the gross weight (including packaging), and are often less than CHF 1 per kilo. Particularly alcoholic beverages, tobacco goods, foodstuffs, textiles and jewellery items are subject to higher customs duties and/or other high duties (e.g. beer tax or monopoly duties for alcoholic beverages). The current customs rates per tariff heading can be found in the Electronic Customs Tariff - Tares: www.tares.ch.

For administrative reasons, customs duties under CHF 5 are not levied.

Value added tax (importation tax)

Value added tax amounts to 8% of the assessment basis. A reduced rate of 2.5% applies for certain goods (e.g. foodstuff, books, magazines and medications). Details can be found in Article 25 of the VAT Act.

Tax amounts of up to 5 Swiss francs are not levied. This tax amount corresponds to the assessment basis of CHF 62 at the 8% VAT rate or CHF 200 at the 2.5% VAT rate.

The assessment basis generally comprises the consideration paid for the items in question. This applies also for items purchased online. The invoice or contract of sale forms the basis. In certain cases, the market value is taken into account, e.g. in the case of a gift. The market value corresponds to the sum that another buyer would have had to pay for the item.

All costs up to the destination in Switzerland (e.g. postal forwarding service) as well as import duties (e.g. customs duties) are added to the assessment basis.

Foreign VAT is not part of the calculation basis, provided it is shown separately on the invoice or contract of sale by the supplier.

Value details in foreign currencies are converted into Swiss francs using the exchange rate (forex sell rate) listed on the last trading day before the import tax liability arises, generally the preceding day, Exchange rates (sell).

If value details are not provided or if there is doubt concerning the value information, we can estimate the value of the goods.

Special provisions

Special provisions apply for the re-importation of items on which customs duty has been paid following processing abroad.

Goods purchased online are subject to duties and tax in accordance with the general regulations.

Special import regulations (non-customs legislative instruments)

The importation of certain goods is restricted or possible only with authorisation, and complete import bans are even applicable in the case of some products. The following goods in particular are subject to restrictions or bans (not an exhaustive list):

  • Weapons (e.g. fire arms, knives, electric shock instruments, tear gas sprays, truncheons, etc.)
  • Radar warning devices
  • Narcotics and medications containing narcotics
  • Medicines, doping substances (see Swissmedic)
  • Goods containing depictions of pornography or violence
  • Pirated products
  • Counterfeited trademarks and designer articles
  • Cultural property
  • Direct imports of animals and animal products from non-EU countries, as well as animals, animal products and plants in accordance with CITES species protection

Claiming a refund of foreign value added tax

We cannot refund your foreign VAT.

Kindly contact the foreign supplier for any questions on claiming a refund of foreign value added tax. The supplier alone can refund the foreign value added tax or bill you directly without value added tax. The supplier's own tax authority can provide information on this

Foreign customs administrations

We are not able to provide you with any information on foreign regulations. Please direct your query to the foreign customs authority.

Refund of import duties and tax due to re-exportation

Information on this can be found in publication no. 18.86; Publications.

Free trade agreements / customs preference

Original goods from countries with which Switzerland has concluded a free trade agreement or from developing countries can usually be imported duty-free or at reduced rates (customs preference). The reduction is listed for each country in the Electronic Customs Tariff http://www.tares.ch/. Valid proof of origin is mandatory for the importation of so-called goods of preferential origin. Questions concerning the issuing of certificates of origin must be addressed to the authorities of the exporting country.

Details can be found in (in french):  D.30 Free trade agreements, Free trade agreements, Certificates of origin and Validity of certificates of preference.

Customs clearance costs

Courier firms and Swiss Post levy various charges for their services associated with customs clearance. These customs clearance costs differ from one company to the next. Sometimes they are named as "customs clearance costs", but Swiss Customs has no influence on them. If you have any questions on customs clearance costs, please contact the corresponding company directly.

Postal procedure

  • Parcels sent by post: The sender fills in the customs contents declaration CN 23 (available from the post office) beside the postal address, and encloses a copy of the invoice or another document which certifies the value of the goods (internet print-out, contract of sale, etc.). Information on customs clearance can be obtained from Customer Service at Swiss Post International (SPI) at tel. 0041 848 639 639, postverzollung@swisspost.com, www.swisspost.com; information on the whereabouts of your parcel can be obtained by calling 0041 804 888 888.
  • Letters with goods sent by post: The sender affixes the completed green label CN 22 (available from the post office) on the envelope. Regarding value details, an invoice placed in a self-adhesive transparent envelope and attached to the postal item is sufficient.
  • Courier procedure: In order to clarify the procedure with a courier firm and the precise costs, we recommend checking online or in a telephone directory (e.g. www.directories.ch).
https://www.ezv.admin.ch/content/ezv/en/home/information-companies/declaring-goods/importation-into-switzerland/courier-by-post--online-shopping--mail-order-company.html