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Old 30.09.2010, 11:30
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Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

This was probably asked before, but I searched and didn't come up with really relevant stuff, so here goes, sorry.

I just moved to Switzerland, very close to the German border, and would like to do some shopping there and reclaim the VAT. Now I understand the process: go to store, buy stuff, get form, go to german customs, get stamp, go back to shop, get vat, go to swiss customs and pay swiss vat.

But i have two other questions:
1. Are there any minimal/maximal limits in the amount of money spent for which you can get the tax back? For example, you don't get the tax back if you buy for less than 100eur or more than 500eur?
2. Are there any restrictions/limits in what you can buy and get tax back? For example I'd like to buy food for a couple of weeks from Germany, am I allowed to just buy whatever and get the tax back from it?
3. Some colleagues from Switzerland told me that they just go past the Swiss customs and don't pay the Swiss vat ever. What happens if I do this and get caught?

Thanks!
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Old 30.09.2010, 12:04
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions

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

Hi, This link should help with some of your questions. There are certainly limits, especially on grog and fresh meat.
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Old 30.09.2010, 13:58
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions

Thanks, that helps somewhat. However, it's still not clear to me what the limits for meat/milk are:

"For other goods in tourstic traffic there is a total value limit of CHF 300 per person.

This limit does not apply to alcohol, tobaccos and sensitive agricultural products such as meat and meat products, milk and milk products (not including cheese and curds), oils and fats exceeding a certain maximum amount."

They say "limit does not apply for...exceeding a certain maximum amount". But they don't say that maximum amount. Also, I'm not sure what happens if you're over that maximum amount...
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Old 30.09.2010, 14:02
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions

I found this: http://www.ezv.admin.ch/zollinfo_pri...x.html?lang=en which details each category. Since I'll be going with my wife and the limits are per person, they seem pretty reasonable
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Old 30.09.2010, 14:10
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions

The final thing which is not clear to me: if what I bought is within these limits, do I still have to stop at the Swiss border and pay Swiss VAT? Or not?
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Old 30.09.2010, 14:24
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions

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The final thing which is not clear to me: if what I bought is within these limits, do I still have to stop at the Swiss border and pay Swiss VAT? Or not?

1) I'm not sure VAT is applied to food.
2) No maximu8m, butn often a minimum
3) Unlikely to be worth it as importing food stuffs to CH (meat, dairy, etc) is limited anyway.
4) You reclaim German VAT at the border where you stop to get your form stamped (which you then post to your retailer who refunds you...) by stopping at the German border the Swiss see you and stop you, so difficult to avoid, so you have to pay 7.6& VAT. If you avoid, i think the fine can be up to 10 x the amount avoided, plus the amount avoided.

By the time you finished screwing around with all the forms, stamping, mailing awaiting a refund in Euros on your CHF credit card, being cheated on the exchange rate....unless it is over Chf30-40.-- it really is hardly worth doing it.

Also if you do do it, you stop at the Swiss customs and maybe searched. The customs officers' brother is a butcher in Switzerland having a hard time and you got 600grms of beef which is 100grms too much.......You get my point.

Npow for expensive items, clothes home appliances, cars etc, then it is worth reclaiming VAT, but for food ?
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Old 30.09.2010, 14:49
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions

We do our weekly grocery shop in Germany and pretty much always claim back the VAT. As we are always under the CHF limit we dont have to pay the CH VAT. Its not much, but worth the 2 minutes it takes. (I think Aldi has a card that can automate this process at the tills, my wife was investigating. ). You then take the stamped form back with you the next time you go shopping and get the money back -- no hassle.

If you are over the limit (on some expensive item), we first go to the Swiss side and pay the VAT and then go to the DE side and get the stamp for reclaiming the DE VAT.

If you are under the limit you dont have to declare (thats my understanding).

Last edited by LondonKiwi; 30.09.2010 at 14:51. Reason: Omission
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Old 01.10.2010, 16:21
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions

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1) I'm not sure VAT is applied to food.
2) No maximu8m, butn often a minimum
3) Unlikely to be worth it as importing food stuffs to CH (meat, dairy, etc) is limited anyway.
4) You reclaim German VAT at the border where you stop to get your form stamped (which you then post to your retailer who refunds you...) by stopping at the German border the Swiss see you and stop you, so difficult to avoid, so you have to pay 7.6& VAT. If you avoid, i think the fine can be up to 10 x the amount avoided, plus the amount avoided.

By the time you finished screwing around with all the forms, stamping, mailing awaiting a refund in Euros on your CHF credit card, being cheated on the exchange rate....unless it is over Chf30-40.-- it really is hardly worth doing it.

Also if you do do it, you stop at the Swiss customs and maybe searched. The customs officers' brother is a butcher in Switzerland having a hard time and you got 600grms of beef which is 100grms too much.......You get my point.

Npow for expensive items, clothes home appliances, cars etc, then it is worth reclaiming VAT, but for food ?
Well hmm, I don't know, this will be my first time shopping over the border

But looking at the Swiss prices even at Aldi, I think the trip will be well worth it, I just have to be careful to buy chicken (for which the limit is 3.5kg) not pork or beef lol
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Old 01.10.2010, 16:44
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions

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Well hmm, I don't know, this will be my first time shopping over the border

But looking at the Swiss prices even at Aldi, I think the trip will be well worth it, I just have to be careful to buy chicken (for which the limit is 3.5kg) not pork or beef lol
Don't forget to price in your time and the travel costs of going to Germany when you do your calculations.
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Old 01.10.2010, 16:47
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

VAT is applied (at a lower rate) to food in both CH and Germany.

The limit is 3.5kg per person for processed meat. So pork sausages are part of that particular allowance.

The way the limits work is that you must not exceed each individual limit, and the limit in total. If your total shopping exceeds (once German MWST is deducted) 300CHF, then you must declare and pay duty on the whole lot. Note that if there are two of you, you can't buy a single item of 400CHF and split the allowance. Though the customs around Basel allow you to aggregate your meat allowance - i.e. 1kg if there are two of you. And I'm told you can take 3 bottles of wine, even though that 2.25 litres, and the limit is 2.0l.

The way the refund works is (usually) as follows. Go to shop. Buy stuff. Get MWST recovery form filled in by shop, and have receipt stapled to it. Go to the border, get the German customs to stamp the form - you should have your residency permit and passport ready. Then, and this is important, enter Switzerland. If you are over a limit, tell the nice border guard. You can then pull over (if you're in a car), and go into the customs office, and give them some money - or pay by card. They give you a receipt to show you've paid Swiss MWST. Then take your shopping home.

Do not go back to Germany without having unloaded your car. If you do, then you've not exported the goods, and they could get quite upset. Absolutely, you do not get your form stamped, then go to the shop for refund. You do that after you've unloaded the goods at home.

If you are able to, and you are close enough, it is definitely worth shopping across the border for staple foods. They're much cheaper in Germany, even without the tax advantage. We do a weekly shop. When we take the kids with us, that's 2.5kg of meat, which takes care of the leg of lamb for sunday lunch.

One more point. If you are under the limits you do not have to declare.
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Old 01.10.2010, 21:51
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

Great post NotAllThere, thanks a lot! The "do not go back without unloading" part is esp cool, since I would have done exactly that

I live about 27km from the border so I guess the trip should be worth it. The only thing is I don't yet have the residency permit, just the official "assurance" for it and the future permit number and also the renting contract for the place i live in Switzerland. Hope that'll be enough at the border.
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Old 02.10.2010, 13:07
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

Does customs here really stop you at the border and charge you for a bootfull of weekly shopping ?

I've driven through customs a dozen times or so, never been stopped. And I struggle to imagine that they would want to bother with grocery shopping in the boot? Counting the number of packs of butter - thats a farce. Especially as the vat is higher in surrounding countries, so its actually cheaper for you to claim it back and pay swiss vat - if you can be bothered.

For wine the limit is 2 litres, but surely thousands of people drive through customs with boxes of wine brought from France or Italy while on holiday...?? I certainly have done so - just opened a bottle last night, that was brought from Italy last year summer.

Surely this is just a case of worrying too much...
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Old 02.10.2010, 13:10
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

It is irrelevant how many times how many people have been across the border without being stopped. The rules are there and one fine day some official is going to see someone he thinks might have more than his quota and Bingo - a hefty fine.
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Old 02.10.2010, 13:20
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

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Great post NotAllThere, thanks a lot! The "do not go back without unloading" part is esp cool, since I would have done exactly that
Many of the shops will refund in cash. If you get in the habit of doing your weekly shop over the border, you just get in the habit of taking the VAT-reclaim form with you and cashing it at the beginning of your shop.

All the stores near the border are set up to handle this, and it's very painless. The trick is to stay under your limits on $$$ and controlled goods (meat/alcohol) to maximise your savings.
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Old 02.10.2010, 13:22
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

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Does customs here really stop you at the border and charge you for a bootfull of weekly shopping ?
The duty on red meat is CHF20- per kilo. It doesn't take a lot of meat to end up with a healthy fine.

And yes, in my experience, the Swiss border guards are pretty keen on controlling the cars that come across the border. Coming into Basel, the main motorway entrance from Germany seems particularly aggressive about their inspections, less so from the French side.
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Old 02.10.2010, 14:29
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

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I've driven through customs a dozen times or so, never been stopped...
but this one time when you actually have a car full of wine and meat, you will be..
I cross the border daily and during this time, have been asked about my shopping, even if only a few times. Definitely more on weekends, when they often have guards even at the small French border crossings around Basel, which are almost always empty during the week nowadays.
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Old 02.10.2010, 16:00
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

Well shopping went well today, I was only stopped and checked at the German border going in, with an empty car , on the way back the Swiss were like "meh"...

Unfortunately, looks like my L-permit isn't valid for getting VAT back, only the other ones are. That's a bummer. Fortunately I was with a friend who has a B one and shopped on him

Anyway, I was pretty shocked at the amount of stuff I bought for 100euro, I mean in Switzerland I would've bought maybe half of that. So even without the VAT return i'd say it's still a pretty good deal.

Word of warning: the Aldi shop in Tiengen won't return VAT on the spot, you have to get some kind of Aldi card, and then they don't even return it all. Don't know about the Aldi in Waldshut, could be the same. But Kaufland should work just fine and it's pretty huge
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Old 02.10.2010, 16:20
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

Remember there is a difference between fresh red meat (500g per person) and processed meat (2.5 Kg per person for ham, salami, sausage, ready meals etc) There are also separate limits for milk, flour, fruit, butter, cheese, none for fish. If you go above theses limits then it can be tricky. I bought 1 Kg of beef bones for soup, they were deemed a part of my meat allowance, and now I had too much. The Swiss wouldn't confiscate them, the meat had to be destroyed at my expense, so I had to go back into France and give them to the Douanier's dog.

If you have a family of four or more it is well worth driving there and even not claiming the tax back. We used to go every Saturday and also have a family Pizza in a nice local restaurant.

When you next go to Germany or France you can pick up the booklets at the customs post that advise you on the amounts allowed for meat and alcohol and other goods. The officers will also advise you. I don't think there is any tax-paid limit, otherwise you wouldn't be able to import a foreign car.
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Old 02.10.2010, 17:04
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

The allowance for processed meat is 3.5kg.
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Old 08.11.2010, 11:29
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Re: Tax refund limits/conditions [Vat on food purchases over the border]

I was wondering if someone could answer my question
Are the limits for a day or for a year or do we have a time period...

Thanks
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