Customs privileges for diplomats

Based on the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, exemption from customs duties and VAT is granted on the importation of all items that:  

  • are intended for the official use of embassies, consulates, international organisations and missions
  • or are intended for the personal use of members of representations and organisations who have diplomatic status.

On account of their status, diplomats enjoy the privilege of running vehicles imported free of duties and taxes and also tax-free fuel. The scope of the privileges depends on the reciprocity granted by the sending state; these privileges are set out in the ordinances on the customs privileges of embassies/consulates and international organisations and missions (SR 631.144.0; SR 631.145.0 → available in German, French and Italian).

Procedure

When a carrier receives a package destined for a beneficiary of customs privileges, he must forward it in national transit from the border to the Genève-Routes, Port-Franc, or Bern customs office. The customs transit procedure is completed and the formalities for duty-free importation are carried out at either of these customs offices.

Since 1 July 2013, it is possible to have such goods assessed also at other customs offices which are open for commercial goods traffic, on the condition that the duty-free assessment is authorised by one of the competent customs offices in accordance with the appendix on form number 14.60. Authorisation is to be obtained by the recipient beforehand. Thereafter, the goods can be assessed for importation at any customs office open for commercial goods traffic, upon presentation of the authorised form number 14.60.

In addition, diplomats have a duty-free shop in Geneva to cover their "immediate personal needs".

No reimbursement of duties or taxes is possible in the case of goods imported via normal channels and subsequently sold to a diplomat. However, diplomats and non-profit organisations can obtain VAT exemption for articles and services purchased. Information about this may be obtained from the Federal Tax Administration (Main Value Added Tax Division → available in German, French and Italian).

https://www.ezv.admin.ch/content/ezv/en/home/information-companies/exemptions--reliefs--preferential-tariffs-and-export-contributio/importation-into-switzerland/duty-free-movement-of-goods--duty-free-arrangements-/customs-privileges-for-diplomats.html