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Old 16.07.2013, 16:27
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Import tax on my own item?

I'm a visiting student here in CH, and I'll be leaving on Aug. 1 after a 3 month stay (on a tourist visa). A bit over a month ago, my phone was stolen, and my mom sent me a replacement phone (a new Galaxy S4 from my cell phone carrier at home in the States). I thought everything was all fine and good, but then I get a letter from FedEx demanding that I pay import tax, on an item that was already mine! I'm not a Swiss citizen/resident, and to my understanding, I can even have the VAT already paid refunded to me upon leaving Switzerland. So what do I do about this? I don't have the money to pay for it right now, even if I will "eventually" get it back. What are the penalties for just not paying it?
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Old 16.07.2013, 16:33
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

I dont know what the penalties are but it is normally not a good idea ignoring and not paying. If I was you I would call FedEx and explain the situation.

They probably cannot do anything as they just declared the item as they brought it into the country, you might have to get a hold of the customs.
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Old 16.07.2013, 16:39
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

Who sent the phone? What value did they put on the parcel?
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Old 16.07.2013, 16:42
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

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Who sent the phone? What value did they put on the parcel?
My mom sent it, but quoted a value of $400 (I guess thinking of it like insurance?) She also sent it in it's box.
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Old 16.07.2013, 16:46
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

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My mom sent it, but quoted a value of $400 (I guess thinking of it like insurance?) She also sent it in it's box.
To customs it appeared as if your mum sent a (new) $400 item to you - rather than shipping a pre-owned item. Did she label it as a gift?
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Old 16.07.2013, 16:48
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

Best to pay up your mum shold have not been so hasty she would have been best to send you money to buy one here where they would have been cheaper.

Import tax is something you should not avoid and yes they can enforce it.
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Old 16.07.2013, 16:50
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

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I'm a visiting student here in CH, and I'll be leaving on Aug. 1 after a 3 month stay (on a tourist visa). A bit over a month ago, my phone was stolen, and my mom sent me a replacement phone (a new Galaxy S4 from my cell phone carrier at home in the States). I thought everything was all fine and good, but then I get a letter from FedEx demanding that I pay import tax, on an item that was already mine! I'm not a Swiss citizen/resident, and to my understanding, I can even have the VAT already paid refunded to me upon leaving Switzerland. So what do I do about this? I don't have the money to pay for it right now, even if I will "eventually" get it back. What are the penalties for just not paying it?
The problem is this: common carriers other than the postal service use a customs broker (or their own customs service) and clear customs and obligate themselves to pay the duties and taxes, normally based on a quick reading of the customs declaration submitted with (or pasted to) the item. Normally there is no refund possible: the carrier has brought the item into the customs territory and their system is designed for speed, not accuracy. If you refuse the item, depending upon the country involved, there may be no refund possible. (And, as with a refused collect telegram in the olden days, perhaps the sender will be made to pay.)

Thus: some years ago when I was a US bankruptcy lawyer working out of London, I subscribed to the CD-ROM version of Collier on Bankruptcy from LexisNexis. (Today the subscription would be delivered online, but that was then.) Some clerk in the outgoing mailroom put a customs sticker that valued the shipment at the annual subscription cost of a few thousand dollars. UPS delivered it to me COD for 400 in duties and taxes, and I refused it and UPS rang me with all kinds of hostile argument. In the end, LexisNexis took it back, probably paid the 400, and re-sent the CD-ROM by Airmail, valuing it at a fraction of the subscription cost (because a new version was to be mailed every few months) and it was delivered duty-free.

Whether Switzerland would have forgiven the duty if the parcel had come by post, marked "Used mobile phone value $50" is beside the point. And, yes, I read that it's a new replacement. I know that with US Customs you can decline to pay duty as assessed and appeal the amount. Many years ago when I had a part-time job in NYC, a sample war-surplus P-coat arrived in the firm's mailroom and was assessed for $40 in duty and tax. I wrote to Customs and they refunded the excess.

Every country is different.

And as to the "refund" of 8% Swiss VAT: I can't say that the tourist refund system works like that, but what do I know.

I am aware that the reason people buy mobile phone insurance, and travel insurance too, is not that such cover is cheap but that it avoids or pays for many unforeseen hassles, including the payment of tax in cases like yours. (And, sometimes, legal defense when unexpectedly sued.) Payment of nonrefundable taxes is an understandable annoyance to tourists generally: such as sales tax in the USA.
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Old 16.07.2013, 16:50
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

So was the replacement phone new or used?

If it was new you were essentially importing a new item, and you need to pay tax for that.

If it was used, then you need to explain that to ups. Normally you don't pay tax on used items. It helps if you can produce some proof that it was used, so if you can show the call log and show it was used prior to being put back in its box and shipped to you.
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Old 16.07.2013, 17:01
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

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The problem is this: common carriers other than the postal service use a customs broker (or their own customs service) and clear customs and obligate themselves to pay the duties and taxes, normally based on a quick reading of the customs declaration submitted with (or pasted to) the item. Normally there is no refund possible: the carrier has brought the item into the customs territory and their system is designed for speed, not accuracy. If you refuse the item, depending upon the country involved, there may be no refund possible. (And, as with a refused collect telegram in the olden days, perhaps the sender will be made to pay.)

Thus: some years ago when I was a US bankruptcy lawyer working out of London, I subscribed to the CD-ROM version of Collier on Bankruptcy from LexisNexis. (Today the subscription would be delivered online, but that was then.) Some clerk in the outgoing mailroom put a customs sticker that valued the shipment at the annual subscription cost of a few thousand dollars. UPS delivered it to me COD for 400 in duties and taxes, and I refused it and UPS rang me with all kinds of hostile argument. In the end, LexisNexis took it back, probably paid the 400, and re-sent the CD-ROM by Airmail, valuing it at a fraction of the subscription cost (because a new version was to be mailed every few months) and it was delivered duty-free.

Whether Switzerland would have forgiven the duty if the parcel had come by post, marked "Used mobile phone value $50" is beside the point. And, yes, I read that it's a new replacement. I know that with US Customs you can decline to pay duty as assessed and appeal the amount. Many years ago when I had a part-time job in NYC, a sample war-surplus P-coat arrived in the firm's mailroom and was assessed for $40 in duty and tax. I wrote to Customs and they refunded the excess.

Every country is different.

And as to the "refund" of 8% Swiss VAT: I can't say that the tourist refund system works like that, but what do I know.

I am aware that the reason people buy mobile phone insurance, and travel insurance too, is not that such cover is cheap but that it avoids or pays for many unforeseen hassles, including the payment of tax in cases like yours. (And, sometimes, legal defense when unexpectedly sued.) Payment of nonrefundable taxes is an understandable annoyance to tourists generally: such as sales tax in the USA.
Thanks for the legal background! as for the 8% VAT, the refund is valid on purchases over 350-400 CHF (I can't remember the exact number atm), so I should be in the clear for this, if the tax was considered a VAT. (I think? Really, I'm a chemist, not a lawyer!)
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Old 16.07.2013, 17:07
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

You are even liable to duty on old items here if they are over the threshold which is around 62CHF ncluding the postage cost.

Plenty of people who have had used clothes posted and import tax imposed.

We are talking a huge sum I guess of around 32CHF plus an admin fee hardly going to break the bank
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Old 16.07.2013, 18:13
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

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To customs it appeared as if your mum sent a (new) $400 item to you - rather than shipping a pre-owned item. Did she label it as a gift?
Even gifts are subject to import tax and VAT so it does not make a difference wether it was labeled as a gift or not.
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Old 16.07.2013, 19:06
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

There is little doubt in my mind that a shipment of personal property - had he owned it prior to visiting Switzerland - would have been exempt from tax if important formally as air freight and cleared by a customs broker in the ordinary way as a shipment of personal goods to a temporary resident, or (as the case may be) a new migrant.

This shipment fails in two respects:

It was cleared as new goods (We all know people who have their family open the box of a new iPhone, etc., dirty it up and send it as used and pre-owned. But that's tax fraud and we would never do that.)

It was shipped via FedEx and cleared by them for speed based on the customs form supplied. To clear it formally through the OP's own broker would have cost far more than the goods are worth. The OP already knows that the goods were overvalued on the customs label, if one accepts that the minute they left the shop they were already "used goods" and so depreciated.

I've shipped used stuff (as I said in earlier postings) through a large UK moving firm and their Geneva customs broker: duty-free but there were substantial fees involved, but with the UK VAT on any new goods refunded. And I've shipped stuff using a shipper who has advertised on this forum and whom I use occasionally for shipments to and from London to the Continent and his stuff shows up mysteriously at its destination without papers of any kind. No VAT refund though.

"Duty free" was a game I played for years: after all I had diplomatic immunity once and could get a "franchise" through channels if I took the trouble. Or one could smile at Customs and the chances of them holding goods to await tax-free clearance was close to zero. On the other hand, my wife's expat friends told stories of having to bring meat back to the French supermarket because it exceeded the import limit.
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Old 16.07.2013, 19:23
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

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Even gifts are subject to import tax and VAT so it does not make a difference wether it was labeled as a gift or not.
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You are even liable to duty on old items here if they are over the threshold which is around 62CHF ncluding the postage cost.

Plenty of people who have had used clothes posted and import tax imposed.

We are talking a huge sum I guess of around 32CHF plus an admin fee hardly going to break the bank
Well, I'm sure that these are true for residents in Switzerland, but tourists visiting temporarily without swiss resident permit don't pay on things that they bring in, which they intend to re-export when they leave.

So in theory, no VAT will be due. Of course, the Post was correct to charge, as they cannot know or cannot check every name on the package to determine if they are tourists (plus, if tourists were exempt from post charges, everyone would use a made up name).

But you may be able to claim the VAT back when you leave, based on temporary importation rules (see below). Generally, if say you are driving through Switzerland with a car full of goods, the customs may ask you to pay duties when you enter the country, and they will be refunded on the way out (to make sure they don't 'stay').
Essentially this is what happened to you.

http://www.ezv.admin.ch/zollinfo_fir...x.html?lang=en

But Im not sure how/if this would work via postal goods. I suspect, at a minimum, it should have been declared as a temporary import from the start, eg. on the package. Plus, knowing how Switzerland works, to challenge anything, I'm sure there would be a fee to pay, which for the amount of VAT we are talking about ($30-50) is most probably not worth it.
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Old 16.07.2013, 19:27
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

It wasn't a postal item, which works differently. It was FedEx who import everything using their own customs channels and in effect prepay and bill the addressee, and take the risk that the addressee is fake, has gone away, etc.

Small postal packets (petits paquets) are handled differently and are subject to Universal Postal Union convention arrangements.
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Old 16.07.2013, 19:55
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

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It wasn't a postal item, which works differently. It was FedEx who import everything using their own customs channels and in effect prepay and bill the addressee, and take the risk that the addressee is fake, has gone away, etc.

Small postal packets (petits paquets) are handled differently and are subject to Universal Postal Union convention arrangements.
Whats the difference this is exactly how many normal postal packages arrive. The fact it came by FedEX means it is a postal package
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Old 16.07.2013, 20:07
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

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I'm a visiting student here in CH, and I'll be leaving on Aug. 1 after a 3 month stay (on a tourist visa). A bit over a month ago, my phone was stolen, and my mom sent me a replacement phone (a new Galaxy S4 from my cell phone carrier at home in the States). I thought everything was all fine and good, but then I get a letter from FedEx demanding that I pay import tax, on an item that was already mine! I'm not a Swiss citizen/resident, and to my understanding, I can even have the VAT already paid refunded to me upon leaving Switzerland. So what do I do about this? I don't have the money to pay for it right now, even if I will "eventually" get it back. What are the penalties for just not paying it?
seems like the import duties are correct and warranted. It's not a personal import you brought with you, it's something that was bought after you relocated and is really brand new.

I would not expect it any other way.
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Old 16.07.2013, 20:28
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

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Whats the difference this is exactly how many normal postal packages arrive. The fact it came by FedEX means it is a postal package
The critical differences are these: it is not handled as a UPU parcel and even if refused, the duty according to the declaration made by the carrier on the basis of the customs form filled out by the sender has to be paid by somebody.

What UPS told me is that they offer a speedy service and as a result they obligate themselves to pay the taxes come what may.

If you refuse a parcel post package, the duty is never paid and it just goes back to the sender.

Or so I was told by UPS at the time, And they were angry because I said I still wouldn't accept the parcel or pay the tax. In the end LexisNexis took it back (but still had to pay the tax) and sent me a replacement by US mail.

The OP has learned a lesson. There's no point in saying that the tax is correct - of course it is. But it is unexpected and in the normal course of events would be paid by an insurer if there were one. Or the OP would have elected to do without for a few weeks.
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Old 16.07.2013, 20:33
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Re: Import tax on my own item?

In other words irrelevant to the OP since they had a new item delivered and they already accepted it so therefore they simply need to pay the amount they are liable to pay
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