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Customs clearance for Switzerland is usually done electronically through a system called Model 90 that provides a link between Customs and the importer's customs broker. (Manual entry is normally used only for goods that accompany a person entering Switzerland.) A formal entry is required for all non-document shipments. Although entries are submitted electronically, a waybill and a commercial invoice are required for all goods except for a few goods that are classified as documents and are non-dutiable.
Prior to submitting the entry electronically to Customs, the customs broker reviews the shipment information and uses the description and weight of the goods to calculate the amount of duty and tax and to determine if any of the contents are subject to regulatory controls such as licenses or inspections. The customs broker also arranges payment of duties and taxes since Customs requires payment prior to customs clearance. The presence of the importer's Value Added Tax (VAT) number and Centralized Customs Clearance (ZAZ) number on the customs documents helps the broker determine if the importer will pay Customs directly through a deferment account or whether the broker will need to submit payment on behalf of the importer.
Customs reviews the electronic entry and responds with one of the following clearance messages, usually in 60 minutes or less.
- Free / without (Entry is complete using electronically submitted information.)
- Free / with (Entry is permitted, but additional documentation must be submitted within regulatory deadlines.)
- Blocked (Entry is not permitted until the documents and/or shipment contents are examined and approved.)
Free without & Free with = ca. 80.0%
Blocked = ca. 20.0%
Examination of all imports = ca. 2%
Shipments which are designated "free" or as "free / with" are eligible for immediate release. For shipments designated as "free / with" or "blocked", the customs broker will submit any required documents in their possession. For "blocked" shipments, if Customs or one of the regulatory agencies set additional conditions (such as an inspection or a license) that must be accomplished prior to customs clearance, the customs broker will assist their client in fulfilling the requirements.
Switzerland allows entries to be submitted prior to arrival of a shipment and is able to release a majority of those shipments before arrival.
Swiss importers are required to retain commercial documents relating to a transaction for five years from the date of entry. These documents may be required for Customs audit purposes. Importers who fail to keep records may be fined.
When imported goods are subject to regulatory controls and an import license or permit is required, the importer is responsible for requesting import permission from the appropriate department or agency. Although very few goods require that a license be obtained prior to import, shipments lacking required licenses are subject to clearance delays.
Some regulated goods are eligible for a weight tolerance exemption that allows importation of shipments of low weight without a license or permit. Although tolerance limits are generally based on gross weight, Customs does authorize tolerance exemption for some goods based on net weight.
Customs Authorities are obligated to perform extensive and/or random review of all goods. They are obligated to process the full handling of the investigation of the goods selected for examination. They are to insure consistency in application of all necessary restrictions and exercise reasonable care in their determinations. If upon examination, goods are determined to be of a pornographic or violent nature they are subject to detainment and/or confiscation. Customs Authorities are obligated to immediately notify the public prosecutors office in the Kanton (province) where the addressee resides or the public prosecutors office having jurisdiction over the community in which the addressee resides. Films requiring an import permit/license are not subject to these measures. The final determination and enforcement of these detained goods are made through the government regulations and processes of the Kantonal Government and punishable by their laws. The lodging of complaints regarding these measures taken by customs authorities is not permissible.
Customs duties for most goods are based on the gross weight of the item (weight of the good plus the weight of its packaging) so it is important that the weight of each commodity be provided for Customs purposes. It is also beneficial to include the net weight because certain commodities subject to high duty rates (such as tobacco, watches, jewelry, etc.) have duty rates based on the net weight.
An air waybill (naming the importer or exporter for customs purposes)
Required for all import and export shipments. The gross weight of the goods is required including the net weight may benefit the importer by reducing duty or taxes on certain goods and may exempt certain low weight shipments from license or permit requirements.
Certificate of Origin
Certificates of Origin are used by Switzerland to determine shipments eligible for preferential duty treatment. The EUR1 form is required under trade agreements with certain European trade groups. The GSP Form A is required when preferential treatment under World Trade Organization agreements is requested for shipments from developing countries. It should be produced at the time of entry and must be in the possession of the importer at the time of entry. Copies are not acceptable. The country of origin of the goods must also be detailed on the commercial invoice.
The ATA (Admission Temporaire - Temporary Admission) carnet is an international customs document that may be used for the temporary duty-free importation of certain samples, trade show goods, and professional equipment that will be re-exported in the same condition by the same party within a limited amount of time. The carnet is usually issued by a Chamber of Commerce in the owner's country and is valid for one year. The carnet serves as a guarantee against the payment of duty which would be due if the merchandise is not re-exported. It must be validated by Customs, beginning with Customs in the owner's country, at time of import and re-export in order to qualify for duty-free treatment. Improper validation may lead to fines and penalties in addition to assessment of normal duties and taxes. Shipments subject to a carnet are not acceptable on any of FedEx's International Priority Services.
Declarations / Notifications
Certain goods require that the importer or exporter provide the government with particular shipment information after customs clearance of the goods. These goods may be exempt from license or other regulatory requirements.
Certain goods require import approval from one or more government ministries. The importer must submit an application form to the regulating ministry, which will apply its stamp/seal to the import approval application form when it grants approval. Although there is one primary import approval application form, certain commodities (textiles, whale products, food, plant products, animal products, etc.) require a form specific to the commodity.
This is certification from the appropriate government agency in the country of export that certifies that the plant or plant product is free from disease. Swiss regulations may also require that the foreign agency certify that the area in which the plant was grown or processed is free from particular pests or diseases.
This is certification from the appropriate government agency in the country of export that the animal or meat product is disease free and/or that the area where the animal lived or the product was processed is free from particular pests or diseases.
While there are several methods of valuing goods for Customs purposes, the method most applied (transaction value) is based on the price actually paid (or payable) for the imported goods subject to certain adjustment.
A major condition for using the transaction value is that there is no relationship between the buyer and seller, which may influence the price.
All goods entering or exiting Switzerland must clear Customs. Imports are subject to customs duty, value added tax, and excise duty except for those exempted under law. In some circumstances imports may also be subject to anti-dumping or countervailing duties, which result in the imposition of additional rates of duty. Duties and taxes must be paid before Customs will release goods for import.
Customs duties are assessed at a "specific" rate (i.e. a set amount) and are usually based on the gross weight of the imported product (inclusive of weight of packaging). However, because Customs may use their discretion and base duty on the net weight instead of the gross weight for certain goods (tobacco, watches, jewelry, etc.) that have very high duty rates, it is recommended that the exporter include both net and gross weight of each product on the commercial invoice and waybill whenever possible. Rates of duty vary based on the specific commodity and are available in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of Switzerland. Although the rate is as high as 3,999 CHF/kg gross, import customs duties usually are between 0 and 40 CHF/kg gross. In some circumstances, anti-dumping or countervailing measures, which result in the imposition of additional rates of duty, may also apply.
Switzerland does observe the GATT rules under article VI with reference to antidumping measures as well as the WTO standards for complying with these measures.
Switzerland does apply excise taxes on tobacco and tobacco products, mineral oils, automobiles and their parts.
Switzerland reserves the right to apply additional duties to some goods including agricultural goods used for animal feed.
Value Added Tax (VAT/TVA)
Value Added Tax is levied on imported goods. The normal VAT rate is 7.6%, but some goods are exempt from VAT or are eligible for a reduced rate. VAT is calculated on the transaction value of the goods, plus all charges to the port of entry (including freight and insurance) plus the amount of customs duty, if any.
Most importers have a VAT number. Although supplying the VAT number at time of entry or export is not a requirement, having it on the shipment documents can assist Customs and the importer's customs broker in the customs clearance process.
Importers may be eligible for VAT refund on goods that are re-exported from Switzerland within 60 days of import. (For example, the goods do not meet order requirements and are returned to the foreign shipper). The importer must be able to provide proof that the goods were imported and re-exported within the 60 days period for them to be VAT-free. Proof that the goods arrived in the shipper's country may also be required. Some goods are also eligible for refunds on customs duties depending on the circumstances and providing that the refund claim is submitted within regulatory deadlines.
Switzerland imposes additional taxes on certain commodities. A monopoly tax is applied to most alcoholic products. Products subject to veterinary and/or phytosanitary controls are subject to tax. Tobacco, mineral oils and lubricants, vehicles, and volatile organic chemicals are also subject to additional taxes at time of import.
There are additional fees assessed when examination of goods is required, this applies to many commodities made of and or containing animals, plants and their products.
Switzerland has no exchange controls in place.
Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT's)
Switzerland does use control measures and has specific agencies assigned to enforce these controls for Precious Metals and Mineral/Fuel Oils. For controls on oils and fuel products contact; Swiss Group of Lubricating Oils and or Carbura. For controls related to precious metals see contact information for the Agency for Precious Metals Control (EMK) located at the end of this document.
Switzerland has no consular fees.
Make sure to browse the FedEx International Resource Center for more information about Shipping & Mail Forwarding to Switzerland.