Declaring goods

Assessment of merchandise for final import

Merchandise refers to goods  whiche are intended for trade or business use (even in the one-man business of the traveller or of the receiver).

Goods intended for final import into Swiss customs territory must be delivered to a Swiss customs office and declared for customs clearance. The accompanying documents listed below must be presented along with the duly completed import customs declaration.

The party liable to declare and thus to pay customs duty is primarily the party taking the goods across the border (carrier) or arranging for them to be taken across the border (importer, recipient, shipper, client). 
Merchandise can be cleared for customs at specific customs offices only, during office hours (see below under "Opening hours and addresses of Swiss customs offices").

Carriers provide their clearance services according to the delivery terms (Incoterms).

For postal and courier traffic, transport companies (Swisspost, TNT, DHL, UPS, Fedex, etc.) produce the customs declaration for a fee and then issue an invoice to the recipient (in accordance with the respective agreement) (see also Receipt of letters and parcels in Switzerland).

Customs duties and other charges

Customs duties are based on the type, material, characteristics, use, and weight of the goods. They are calculated in accordance with the assessment basis (as a rule, gross weight). Customs duties are calculated primarily on the basis of the condition and weight at the time of customs declaration. The actual gross weight (including transport packaging) may differ significantly from the weight indicated on a delivery note.

If certain conditions are met, the goods may be imported duty-free or at reduced rates (see under "Free trade agreements/customs preference").

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

Apart from any import duty, goods are subject to value added tax (see under "Value added tax on imports"). Additional charges such as incentive fees (VOC, CO2, tobacco tax, beer tax, petroleum tax, etc.) may apply for certain goods.

The tariff numbers, current customs rates and information relating to other charges (VAT, incentive fees, tobacco tax, beer tax, petroleum tax, etc.) as well as information on bans, restrictions, or authorisation requirements are listed in the Electronic Customs Tariff at www.tares.ch.

Payment of duties

In principle, import duties are payable in cash directly at the point of entry.

Customs clearance agencies, freight forwarders or logistics companies charged with customs formalities generally pay the duties and then bill them to the client.
We have no influence on the processing fees of such companies. Before the goods are imported, clarify which party is to be handling customs clearance (see also for example the List of SPEDLOGSWISS members). We are unable to provide recommendations regarding firms or agencies.

Do you import goods on a regular basis? If so, we recommend the Customs Administration's centralised billing procedure (ZAZ). Details are available at: Centralised settlement procedure ZAZ.

Free trade agreement/customs preference

Goods originating in countries with which a free trade agreement is in place or in developing countries can usually be imported duty-free or at reduced rates (customs preference). The effective rate of duty is displayed for every country in the Electronic Customs Tariff www.tares.ch. For preferential importation, a valid certificate of origin must be presented and a corresponding preference request entered on the customs declaration. Questions concerning the issuing of certificates of origin must be addressed to the authorities of the exporting country.

Details can be found at: Free trade agreements and Developing countries

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.

Import restrictions and authorisations

Certain goods are subject to rules, which do not relate to the collection of customs dutiesĀ (called non-customs provisions NZE). Please obtain the required authorisations before you declare the goods at the customs office. You will find information in Customs tariff - Tares www.tares.ch.

Accompanying documents

For customs controlls, present the corresponding accompanying documents with the import customs declaration without being requested to do so. The most important accompanying documents are invoices, any certificates of origin, authorisations/certificates, official confirmations and analysis certificates. Depending on the circumstances, other freight documents such as delivery notes, cargo manifests, weight certificates or assessment instructions may be useful.

Production of customs declaration

Customs clearance agencies, freight forwarders or logistics companies can be charged with the handling of customs formalities. Before the goods are imported, clarify which party is to perform customs clearance (see for example List of SPEDLOGSWISS members).

Electronic customs declaration for import assessment purposes

The customs declaration may be submitted electronically via the e-dec Import customs clearance system if the party liable to declare is authorised for electronic customs clearance by the Directorate General of Customs. Information on electronic customs declaration for imports is available at the following link: e-dec Import.

Since 01/01/2013 we don't longer accept the form 11.010 (ED), the replacement is the e-dec web application. The application can be accessed by our home page: e-dec web.

Customs declarations may be recorded without registration. The use of the e-dec web application is free of charge and accessible in principle to all parties involved with customs activities.

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

Our opening hours and addresses

Please note the customs office opening hours for the declaration (customs clearance) of merchandise. Declarations can be made from Monday to Friday during clearance hours; some customs offices are also open on Saturday mornings.

The detailed opening hours are available in the list of customs offices.

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.

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