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Old 01.12.2011, 11:41
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Paying tax on gifts brought into Switzerland

Can anyone explain the situation with bringing gifts back into Switzerland after Christmas?

So let's say that we go back to the UK for Christmas; family and friends present us with gifts. A few days later we pack them in our luggage, board a flight, arrive in Zürich and walk out through customs.

This raises 4 questions:
  1. I'm aware that there's a 300CHF threshold per person before tax is demanded; does this apply to gifts?
  2. In the case of an allowance being made for (1), what if I happened to buy items (in the post-Christmas sales or otherwise) and included them with gifts in my luggage?
  3. Does this import tax also apply to duty-free items?
  4. Would all agree that it makes more sense, when buying in the UK, to claim the tax back at the point of departure, than go through the "Items to Declare" channel upon arrival?
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Old 01.12.2011, 12:36
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Re: Paying tax on gifts brought into Switzerland

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Can anyone explain the situation with bringing gifts back into Switzerland after Christmas?

So let's say that we go back to the UK for Christmas; family and friends present us with gifts. A few days later we pack them in our luggage, board a flight, arrive in Zürich and walk out through customs.

This raises 4 questions:
  1. I'm aware that there's a 300CHF threshold per person before tax is demanded; does this apply to gifts?
  2. In the case of an allowance being made for (1), what if I happened to buy items (in the post-Christmas sales or otherwise) and included them with gifts in my luggage?
  3. Does this import tax also apply to duty-free items?
  4. Would all agree that it makes more sense, when buying in the UK, to claim the tax back at the point of departure, than go through the "Items to Declare" channel upon arrival?
1. Yes, applies to gifts as well as purchased goods.
2. You must pay tax on all goods imported, gifts + purchases
3. VAT + import duties apply to all items, regardless of whether they were purchased duty-free or duty-paid
4. You can only claim back the UK VAT at shops that advertise 'tax free shopping,' and you'll need your Swiss residency permit and your passport when you pay. There are minimum thresholds and it's basically a pain unless you're buying something big.

Most people, in reality, do one of two things: take all the tags off clothing, shoes, etc and walk through 'nothing to declare' stating that they already owned the items before departure, declaring anything big and obvious (like the new 42" TV under your arms). Or they declare everything, pay the 8% VAT, and sleep well at night knowing they've done the legally correct thing.

I suspect that, while illegal, far more people opt for the former rather than the latter option.
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Old 01.12.2011, 20:58
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Re: Paying tax on gifts brought into Switzerland

Thanks for the informative response @Village Idiot.

I think I'll probably plump for the "What, those un-scuffed shoes? They're yeeeeaaaars old" tactic.

I plan on buying some electrical items while back in the UK, and I suppose I either have to risk getting through customs without being stopped, or discard the packaging.

Or, of course, declare everything.
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Old 01.12.2011, 21:05
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Re: Paying tax on gifts brought into Switzerland

Far be it from me to suggest 'hiding things in plain sight', but voluntarily declaring the electronics and paying the tax typically means that the rest of your luggage doesn't get scrutinized at all.

Not that I'd ever do that...
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Old 01.12.2011, 21:08
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Re: Paying tax on gifts brought into Switzerland

Depending on what it is that you bring paying the 8% often means you are still ahead. I recently got a bike in germany which was easily over the limit paid the tax which was only 65CHF but knowing the bike was close to 50% of the same bike in switzerland it meant I was happy.

You mention buying electical items which is interesting although my comment is more specific to computing electronics. I find these are as cheap in CH as anywhere in europe even with the VAT removed. Other electicals are probably cheaper such as general household items and remember to add the cost of adding a converter plug to be able to plug the crazy UK plugs in which are one of the most impratical plugs known to mankind.
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Old 17.11.2019, 11:45
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Re: Paying tax on gifts brought into Switzerland

And how can you declare if you don't know the price? In our tradition, the price of the gif cannot be disclosed with the gifted :P
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Old 17.11.2019, 12:00
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Re: Paying tax on gifts brought into Switzerland

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If the gifts are all open/unpacked then they form part of your personal belongings and could be classed as used goods.
The voice of inexperience.
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Old 17.11.2019, 13:51
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Re: Paying tax on gifts brought into Switzerland

My OH and I cannot remember the time when we brought anything exceeding CHF 300 in value. It's just too tasking: labels off/on, filling out forms, queueing to submit docs, rummaging for receipts, checking bank statements for refunds... There's simply too much stuff to note, read, digest, follow - it all goes beyond customs.

That said, we are a bit envious - the OP must have a very generous family in the UK...
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Old 17.11.2019, 14:37
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Re: Paying tax on gifts brought into Switzerland

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And how can you declare if you don't know the price? In our tradition, the price of the gif cannot be disclosed with the gifted :P
They'll be happy to make an estimate at the border. Downside could be for you that they look at Swiss prices instead of working with the most likely cheaper foreign receipts.
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