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Import Regulations and Customs

Customs procedures in Germany are governed by the laws of the EU and the Federal Republic of Germany.

Except for minor procedural regulations, customs law in the EU is completely harmonized in the form of a customs code which is legally binding on all the EU member states. The same customs law therefore applies in all EU countries. Amendments and additions to the customs code can only be made at EU level.

Goods traded within the Community are not subject to any customs duties. However, this is only the case for so-called Community goods which are evidenced as being in customs-free circulation in an EU member state, i.e. goods which are not under customs supervision (e.g. under the Community transit procedure ) or are being transported accompanied by an international customs document (e.g. Carnet TIR).

The internal Community transit procedure (T2) applies when Community goods are to be transported to an EU country via a non Community country.

With completion of the Single European Market , since 1 January 1993 goods in free circulation in the Community (Community goods) can be moved freely within the Community without any customs formalities on the part of the member states. Such transports of goods are no longer defined as imports or exports but as intra-Community deliveries or purchases. The abolition of customs controls at the internal borders within the EU has simplified goods handling enormously.

Goods imported from non-EU countries (non Community countries) into the customs area of the Community must still undergo customs clearance. The most usual customs procedure

is for goods to be brought into free circulation under customs and tax law by paying the necessary import levies on them.

The import levies to be paid (customs duty, VAT, excise duties) are specified in the customs tariffs or excise laws. Most of the rates of duty contained in the ?Common Customs Tariff" of the EU are ad valorem rates.

The basis for calculating the amount of customs duty to be paid on dutiable goods is the customs value . This is derived from the so-called transaction value.

This is the selling price, which may be adjusted by the addition of all transport, insurance, loading and handling costs up to the point of entry of the goods into the customs area of the EU, provided these costs are not already included in the price (cif value).

The duties on agricultural products are made up of several partial amounts, i.e. a variable amount and a seasonal amount, and they also take account of the price to be paid at the time of import.

Goods imported into the Federal Republic of Germany are generally subject to VAT . In the case of farm products, the rate is 7% and in the case of most industrial goods it is 16% of the customs value together with the customs duty and the costs incurred up to the first domestic place of destination (e.g. the freight costs). Under the VAT exemption rules, no VAT is levied on sample and specimen goods, advertising materials for goods, and goods which are only temporarily imported (exhibits at fairs).

Excise duties are levied on mineral oil, alcohol and alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and roasted coffee (including coffee extracts). The rates are identical both for imported and domestically produced goods.

Besides the customs rates under the Common Customs Tariff, there are also special arrangements in the form of customs preferences . These are either regional preferences arising from special agreements with the countries or regions concerned, or they are granted unilaterally by the EU under the General Preference System.

The EU has, for example, agreed mutual freedom from customs duties with the other countries in the European Economic Area (EEA: Norway, Iceland) as well as Switzerland and Lichtenstein for all industrial goods and many agricultural products provided these are of origin in the partner countries. Other unilateral arrangements on regional customs preferences exist with the countries of the Mediterranean region as well as with the ACP states (countries in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions) and the OCT states (Overseas Countries and Territories).

Under the General Preference System , the EU also grants unilateral customs exemptions to the developing countries. These countries therefore have advantages when selling to the EU market.

The precondition for application of the preferential customs tariffs is that the goods originate from one of the relevant countries. This may mean that the goods are completely produced in the country of origin or at least undergo further processing there to an extent that satisfies the rules. The origin of the goods must in all cases be evidenced by the presentation of special certificates of origin or movement certificates.

Non-Community goods imported into the Federal Republic of Germany must be presented at the responsible customs office to undergo the necessary customs procedure . Imported goods may be cleared for

•  free circulation

•  inward processing

•  processing under customs control

•  transit

•  customs warehousing

•  entry for temporary use.

The customs declaration needed for customs clearance must be submitted within a period of 20 days (or sea freight: 45 days) after the arrival of non-Community goods. The customs declaration must be accompanied by all other documents needed for customs clearance.

When goods are intended for free circulation , it is possible to use simplified customs procedures (e.g. collective customs declarations).

Where import levies are due, these are requested from the importer either orally or in writing in the form of assessment notices.

When being put into free circulation, goods may be exempted from duties. However, certain requirements must be met for this to be the case.

Non-Community goods which are intended for export after processing can be cleared for inward processing (production, conversion, repair) without import levies being charged. Non-Community goods intended to be converted into goods of another kind and then to remain within the customs area can be cleared for processing.

The transit procedure which allows goods to be imported for forwarding duty-free to an inland customs office, is used for purposes of transit transport, and so some extent for the monitoring of exports. Legally, the transit procedure is governed by the Community transit procedure within the EU or the common procedure for the transit of goods between the EU and the EFTA states. However, other international procedures (e.g. Carnet TIR in road transport) are valid as well.

Under the customs warehouse procedure, imported goods can be cleared for entry to a customs warehouse without the imposition of customs duty and taxes. Customs warehouses are approved by the customs authorities and classified as types A to F. There is no general limit on how long goods may be kept in a customs warehouse, though time limits may be imposed in particular cases. When non-Community goods are taken into a customs warehouse, their quantity, nature and customs value are recorded.

The most common form of customs warehouse is the type D. This is a private warehouse where non-Community goods can be stored free of duty and taxes and from which they can be subsequently removed without the involvement of the customs authorities. The warehouse is only monitored on the basics of the books.

Import levies are charged only when the goods are removed from the warehouse   and put into free circulation. In warehouses of this kind simple processing procedures (e.g. for protecting the goods) are permitted.

There are hardly any bonded warehouses in Germany. There are custom-free zones in the form of free ports in Germany at Bremen, Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven, Deggendorf, Duisburg, Emden, Hamburg and Kiel.

If freedom from customs duty or the application of a reduced customs tariff depends on non-Community goods being used under customs supervision, they are subject to the procedure of entry for temporary use. This is frequently the case with samples, exhibits for fairs and exhibition items. In general, a deposit has to be paid in the amount of the import levies. This is not necessary in the case of goods for which a Carnet A.T.A. is provided. The deposit is returned when the goods are re-exported.



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