Customs Exemption for Household Goods when Relocating to Germany
Global mobility is something typical nowadays. Mobility and world trade would stop when one’s goods and belongings were subject to custom duties. Nobody would want to spend so much money for used things. This is the reason why European customs law provides exemption of certain household goods under certain conditions.
What is this exemption all about?
It’s about not having to pay 19% import value added tax (Einfuhrumsatzsteuer) and custom duties (Zollabgaben). Custom duties are levied pursuant to a confusing and difficult tariff structure.
What qualifies as Household goods
Art. 2 II lit. c ZollbefreiungsVO determines this fairly easy:
- household effect, i.e. any personal things like linen, table clothes, furniture, gadgets for personal use for any family member,
- private motor vehicles of any kind, i.e. cars (with or without trailers), (motor) vehicles for aquatic sports, sporting airplane,
- goods, in as far as typically needed by the family. The typical need is determined by what is normal at their former place of living. What could this be? Check out: Checklist "What to Bring Back from Home to Germany"
- pets and mounts,
- portable instruments and devices for manual or professional activities in as far as they are needed.
That sounds cool! Being a proud wine drinker, I can bring a vast store of wine from my home village with me! That’s permitted isn’t it?
Nice idea but it is not going to work. Art. 6 ZollbefreiungsVO determines what does not count as household effects:
- Alcoholic products, i.e. beer, wine, liquor, spirits, etc.
- Tobacco and tobacco products,
- commercial vehicles,
Okay, what are the conditions for me?
The main thing is that a physical person or physical persons changing their domicile to customs territory of the European Union (art. 3 ZollbefreiungsVO). You have to have lived outside of Europe for at least 12 months (art. 5 ZollbefreiungsVO).
Gee, I wrapped everything up in Austria to follow my job to Australia but while there my employer down under went bankrupt after 10 months. I soon found a new job in Germany. Is there any chance for an exception?
Yes, exceptions are imaginable. You are supposed to have at least to have intended to remain abroad for one year. You will not only have to say this to customs but you also have to prove it actively! Such proof would be the first employment contract and the letter instructing you of your employer’s bankruptcy.
That does not sound complicated. What do I have to consider for my belongings?
Next to the general requirements for you as a person as shown above, these things have to belong to you. When it is not a consumable product, you will have to own it for at least a half year prior to relocation. Proof can be shown through sales contracts, invoices and the like. Make sure, if possible, that your name is mentioned. Nobody will question your everyday clothing. Proving your ownership will be typically important for valuables. Further the things must remain in your possession for the next 12 months. This is important!
Why do they have this 12 month rule, don’t they just believe me? What is forbidden to do with my things?
It is intended to prevent misuse and circumventions that only relocation goods enter customs free. Your effects have to remain in customs surveillance! Nobody but you or your family members may possess these imported things. These actions take your property outside of this monitoring:
- leasing or renting,
- giving away as a gift
What will happen if I do not keep the imported things for twelve months?
You have to pay customs, 19% import VAT, fines, default interest and all the like. Criminal or misdemeanor proceedings might be initiated against you (Art. 8 ZollbefreiungsVO). Nothing really special, right?
Anything special for vehicles?
Not really. If you want to prove that the registered (motor) vehicles are yours then have official documents to show that. In case they are not in German, then have a translation at hand.
Hey wait a second! My friend just had to pay a lot of money to have his car pass customs. Are you sure, you know what you’re talking about?
Yes, the above is true just as much as your friend had to correctly pay to have his car pass. What he paid was not customs but motor vehicle tax, which every car owner has to pay here in Germany. This tax is due at the border in as far as the car enters on its own axles. Motor vehicle tax law does not provide the possibility of driving your car home and registering it there. You will receive a receipt for this tax. Keep it among your car records!
I don’t know much of Germany, but what I have learned in the mean time, is this country loves formalities! What about them?
Wares that are to be exempted from customs are to be listed in writing and best on the form 0350. This form is the official one from German customs Zoll.