Import VAT

Import VAT

The import VAT is the VAT that is regularly levied on the import of non-Community goods into the German part of the customs territory when a customs debt is incurred. This is the case when goods are released for free circulation or in the event of irregularities leading to the incurrence of a customs debt. The import turnover tax (EUSt), which is currently 19 percent, is levied on imported goods in order to place them on an equal competitive footing with goods produced or sold domestically.

The significance of import turnover tax in terms of the amount of evasion of import duties is regularly higher than that of customs duties, since the customs duty rate is usually significantly lower than 19 percent.

1. time and place of accrual

The obligation to pay import turnover tax normally arises when the goods are released for free circulation, Section 21 (2) sentence 1 UStG in conjunction with. Article 77 (1) of the Union Customs Code [Article 201 (1) (a) of the Customs Code]. The import VAT liability arises at the time of acceptance of the customs declaration by the customs office. The collection of this tax amount is also governed by the relevant customs regulations.

Details of tax crimes relating to import VAT are therefore presented on the smuggling page.

In addition, the import VAT arises at the time and place when the goods are

  • either were not presented at the first customs office in the customs territory of the Union, although they had to be presented, or
  • are no longer in temporary storage or in a free zone
  • or are no longer subject to a customs suspensive procedure, provided that the goods are still in the EU tax territory at that time.

In the case of a regular import, goods are no longer subject to one of these suspensive arrangements if the goods are released for free circulation as a result of a declaration for release for free circulation (Art. 201 Union Customs Code [Art. 71 Customs Code]).

Example: Goods brought into the EU in the Netherlands are brought into Germany under the external transit procedure. Accordingly, the place of importation is Germany if no other of the above-mentioned arrangements follows, i.e. if the goods are released for free circulation in Germany following the transit procedure or enter the market in an irregular manner, or if the suspensive arrangement has been settled by payment of the customs duty.

In the case of irregular importation, the import VAT arises in the place and at the time when the customs regulations are violated, provided that this has the effect that the goods are no longer subject to the relevant customs suspensive regime and provided that this place is located in the tax territory of the Union.

Storage in a tax warehouse may postpone the incurrence of an import VAT debt (Article 157(1)(a) of the VAT Directive).

2. the person liable for import VAT

It follows from the VAT Directive that "VAT shall be payable by the person or persons designated or accepted by the Member State of importation as liable for payment of the tax" (Art. 201 VAT Directive). Accordingly, the Member States may regulate the group of persons liable to pay the tax for the case of importation regulated in Art. 30 VAT Directive themselves. In doing so, the Member States generally use the following alternative:

  • The debtor of the import VAT is the customs debtor and thus the declarant.
  • The recipient of the goods is the customs debtor.

Germany has made use of the first option, according to which the customs debtor is also the debtor of the import VAT.

3. payment of import VAT

Art. 211 VAT Directive states: "Member States shall lay down the detailed rules for the payment of VAT on the importation of goods. In particular, Member States may provide that VAT due on the importation of goods by taxable persons or persons liable for payment of VAT or certain categories thereof shall not be payable at the time of importation, provided that it is indicated as such in the [regular] VAT return."

In Germany, import VAT always arises together with customs duty, and the person liable for customs duty is also the person liable for import VAT. If deferment of payment has been granted under Article 111(6) of the Union Customs Code [Article 227(3) of the Customs Code], this also extends to import VAT if - as in Germany - both types of duty are levied together. In Germany, however, import VAT may already be claimed as part of the input tax deduction in the month in which it was incurred (Section 16.1 (2) UStAE).

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