Re: Is German MWST refund optional?
I think we need a discussion on basic import and export - the customs value of goods is price + postage - otherwise you could buy a kilo of grade A diamonds for 1 pound, pay no customs but get charged a couple of thou for postage. C&E has been around for a couple of thousand years watching people trying to pull fast ones ....
This has nothing to do with Switzerland just standard international trading practice.
Where you are getting shafted is the charges from the Post, they jacked the up a couple of years ago and they really are a bit*h. If I get things directly delivered I see to it that the total price (goods + postage) is under 65 CHF (for instance Amazon.de) or, if necessary, have it delivered by courrier, their ancillary charges tend to be much cheaper. Having the total cost under 65CHF is the only way to avoid the Post handling charge. I do this quite sucessfully with US and GB companies as well. I always start off with - I need to keep this order below xy USD. What occasionally happens with the Brits and Yanks is that they will put an insurance value on the package, or the full cost on a sales item despite having this conversation with them ....
For most goods the Swiss charge C&E by weight. There is an international customs identification number which has at least five digits. Countries are free to add further digits for finer categorisations. The Swiss have a total of eight, the Germans a total of 12, anyone surprised? Most charges are passable, spices are noticably high, leather shoes also cause the odd eyebrow to be raised - but still cheaper than buying in England.
VAT ought to be deducted for any delivery that crosses a border. So if a German sends you something per post there should be no VAT on it. Amazon.de does this automatically.
German web shops are by and large not geared to dealing with international customers, if they are they generally decide you can charge the Swiss more and jack up the prices but still keep the crappy customer service. Many companies will divert you automatically onto a Swiss version of the site or, what is becomming more common, refuse a Swiss credit card - the real bastar*s will charge you Swiss prices on a Swiss credit card in such a way you barely notice. Even if you get around all that many will not refund VAT on principle
If the smaller company does not show removal of VAT on a Swiss delivery address I generally try telling them how the system works. I do this with an email that goes - "I am interested in purchasing XYZ and just wanted to make sure than when you send the goods you will remember to take off the VAT." 30% of web shops will think you are trying to cheat them, 20% get pissed off because they dislike having their ignorance shown up, 20% will keep the price but remove the words VAT and the rest might be convinced. If they get on my nerves I generally tell them they are comitting tax fraud by keeping VAT on, works with some of them after a panicked call to their accountant.
I have consistently bad experience with Swabian firms - regardless of the value of the brand name - they seem to regard pulling a fast one on you as a sport.
If I'm prepared to swallow German VAT then I have it delivered to a postal address in Konstanz, who have made a business out of it, and collect it there and navigate customs myself. I buy a lot of German wine and occasionally have Italian and Austrian wine delivered to this address and its easier to do this than to have it officially imported. You can bring a half case over the border without being liable for C&E.
I'm pretty sure I wrote all this about 5 years ago ... excuse spelling mistakes - every word I write is red-lined and it makes it hard to read
Pot Kettle Black