All information on customs clearance

What is customs clearance?

Customs clearance refers to the application of a customs procedure.
The term customs clearance is used, for example, when goods are released for free circulation under customs law.
We have compiled all the information on customs clearance for you and also
We have answered the most frequently asked questions on this topic for you in detail.

Commercial import

Whenever you want to export goods commercially from Switzerland or import them into Switzerland, they must be declared under customs law. The same applies to goods that are to be exported from the EU to a non-EU country or imported into the EU from a non-EU country. Commercial goods must always be declared under customs law, even for very small quantities. There are therefore no exemption limits here as there are for private travel.

Private import

Goods imported into a country by private individuals are completely exempt from import duties or at least duty-free up to a certain limit. However, if you wish to import goods requiring authorization, you must also make the corresponding customs declarations for these goods. The same applies to the import of motor vehicles and trailers. For these, import customs clearance must always be carried out and a clearance certificate issued. The reason for this is that customs collect the duties (customs duties + VAT) directly upon import and must confirm payment of the duties so that you can later register the vehicle for road traffic.

Customs clearance Switzerland

If you wish to have goods transported to Switzerland, you must declare them to customs by means of a customs declaration. In Switzerland, all customs clearance is carried out via the e-dec system. A list of all Swiss customs offices, their opening hours and contact details can be found directly on the website of the Federal Customs Administration FCA.

Our customs office in Thayngen is at your disposal for customs clearance to or from Switzerland:
Zollstr. 77
8240 Thayngen

Tel. +41 44 512 14 35
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 07:00 – 17:30

Customs clearance in other countries

Depending on the country of destination and the transport route of the goods to the destination country, we have to apply different customs procedures. For transports within Europe by land, it may make sense for us to issue a T1 or T2 transit document. We can then carry out customs clearance in the destination country.

However, if the country of destination belongs to the EU and the other requirements for EU customs clearance are met, we can also carry out so-called EU customs clearance, see“What is EU customs clearance“.

If you wish to transport goods to the country of destination using several means of transportation, e.g. by car and then by ferry, different documents may be required. It is also possible that we will have to reissue documents several times. This would be, for example, a T1 document to the EU external border and a connecting T1 from the country where the ferry arrives to the country of destination.

How is customs clearance structured?

A customs clearance or customs declaration is always structured according to a scheme. The principle is similar to a questionnaire. We have to answer all the questions in the questionnaire for each customs clearance. However, only the answers to the questionnaire and the associated documents differ for each process.

Economic operators

In every customs clearance, we must at least state the importer (sometimes also called the declarant). In addition, customs usually want to know the details of the consignor of the goods. If the actual recipient of the goods differs from the importer or declarant, customs will also want to know this.

EORI number

Every economic operator in the EU has had to register in the European Union Customs system for several years. This is always necessary if he wishes to carry out import or export transactions. Registration takes place via the so-called EORI number. You can find out more about this directly in our technical article on the EORI number.

Type of business

The type of transaction is also important for customs. Is it a return of goods or a normal purchase / sale. Have you only rented the goods? Are they possibly even relief supplies or other free services? This data determines the customs procedure on the one hand and the duties on the other. This data also flows into the statistics of the German Federal Statistical Office DESTATIS and the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.

Customs tariff number

In addition to the type of transaction, the details of the economic operators and, if applicable, their EORI numbers, we must also declare information on the goods. This is done in the first step with the correct customs tariff number. The customs tariff number represents the unique classification of the goods in the customs tariff. Depending on the material and, if applicable, the intended use of the goods, we classify them in a different chapter of the harmonized system (HS). However, each item can only be assigned to one customs tariff number. The harmonized system therefore comprises a total of 21 sections with 99 chapters and over 5000 subheadings. This ensures that each item has exactly one customs tariff number.

The customs tariff number also determines the prohibitions and restrictions that must be observed for this type of goods when exporting/importing. The customs tariff number also determines the amount of import duties and VAT, if applicable. In addition to the customs tariff number, customs would also like to know the exact description of the goods incl. of all relevant information.

Incoterms 2020

Incoterms are defined terms of delivery between the seller and buyer of goods. Click here to go directly to ICC Germany and the current Incoterms 2020. We must also state the Incoterm of the commercial transaction in the customs declaration.


For all goods, acc. customs law and the Union Customs Code. Even if the goods are worthless from a subjective point of view, they still have a statistical value. For example, if you want to import a defective car to Germany, it will never have a value of EUR 0. It always has a certain scrap value. This is the case for all goods from a customs law perspective. Customs law therefore does not recognize zero values. Some premiums or discounts are also applied to the statistical value. Depending on the Incoterm, this may be for freight costs, insurance costs, etc. These costs influence the amount to be taxed and duty paid.

Frequently asked questions about customs clearance

We have listed and answered the most frequently asked questions below. This involves a wide variety of related topics. These are self-customs clearance or customs clearance from a legal perspective (customs clearance authorization + terms of payment). However, we also often receive questions about the costs, the duration and the various customs procedures. You are also welcome to contact us if your question is not listed here.

What types of customs clearance are there?

There are many different customs procedures depending on the type of transaction and the treatment of the goods. A classic customs procedure is the “procedure for the release of goods for free circulation”. This is probably the most commonly used. However, there are also other circumstances and constellations. This can mean, for example, that a company processes (“finishes”) goods abroad. This means that we have to use the passive / active finishing process.

Different procedure codes are also specified for import and export. From an EU perspective, the classic import (release of goods for free circulation) is attributed to procedure 40 00, for example. For example, if there is a preceding procedure such as an export from the EU (procedure 10 00), the import procedure changes accordingly. It becomes: 40 10 (import = 40, with previous export from the EU = 10).

If a company processes goods abroad, we in turn have to apply different procedure codes. The same applies if goods are returned later in an unchanged condition, i.e. without having been processed.

Talk to us about your individual case and we will be happy to explain the appropriate procedure to you.

Can I do customs clearance myself?

Under certain conditions, you can also carry out customs clearance yourself. The German customs administration, for example, offers a tool called IZA(Internet customs declaration) that makes this possible. With“e-dec web“, the Swiss authorities also offer a solution for carrying out the most common and simplest procedures without a customs agent. However, sophisticated procedures, in which a particularly large number of errors can be made, are only possible with a commercial solution at German and Swiss customs.

What is a customs clearance authorization?

In various cases and depending on the constellation, it is necessary for you to complete a customs clearance authorization. Only then can a customs agency carry out a customs procedure for you. An example is when you have to make a declaration in your own name, but the customs agent is supposed to represent you. In this case, they will need a written power of attorney from you authorizing them to submit the application/declaration on your behalf.

How does customs clearance work in Switzerland?

There are special regulations for the import of goods into Switzerland compared to imports into the EU or other countries. There is no Union Customs Code here, as Switzerland does not belong to a customs union. Instead, Swiss customs law applies. Its provisions apply in conjunction with the free trade agreements concluded by Switzerland. This allows you to import goods into Switzerland duty-free. At the same time, you can also import goods duty-free from Switzerland to Germany, for example, under certain conditions. You can find out more about this under Customs clearance in Switzerland.

What is a customs clearance order?

In order for a customs agent to carry out customs clearance for you, they need a customs clearance order from you. As a rule, this is done by means of a written request from you, e.g. by e-mail. In some cases, such as the import of postal consignments, German or Swiss Post may also carry out customs clearance automatically. The reason for this is that no goods may be imported into the country of destination without customs clearance.

How long does customs clearance take?

The duration of customs clearance depends on many different factors. This means that simple customs clearance can be completed in less than an hour. However, this is only possible without different types of goods and with all the specified information. This includes the customs tariff number and all necessary documents and evidence. On the other hand, customs clearance can also be very time-consuming. For example, if we have to make clarifications in advance, obtain export licenses or import permits. Or if there are many different types of goods and there is also no list of customs tariff numbers.

What is a proof of customs clearance?

Proof of customs clearance is proof that goods have been properly entered into a customs procedure. This can be, for example, the release for free circulation. This is therefore an import duty notice / tax assessment notice. When importing goods into Switzerland, there is also talk of the so-called electronic assessment decision eVV VAT / customs. Especially for direct deliveries from Germany to Switzerland, many companies require proof of customs clearance at the time of delivery. This proves that the driver has brought the goods across the border in accordance with the law. However, as the electronic assessment decision is usually only available after a few days, a (stamped) import list is usually sufficient. All goods are listed there. This is therefore proof that the data has been transmitted to the customs office.

How much does customs clearance cost?

The cost of customs clearance depends entirely on how complex the customs clearance of the shipment is. Are there many different types of goods that the customs agency employee (the so-called customs declarant) has to record? If he even has to research the customs tariff numbers, the effort involved is high. The customs agency must pass these costs on to the customer. However, if the customer is proactively involved in the preparation of customs clearance, the workload can be reduced. For example, if the customer provides the customs tariff numbers, the customs agency can work more efficiently. It can pass this cost advantage on to the customer. You can get a good first impression from our price list.

What is a customs clearance event?

Have you seen the status “Customs clearance event” in the tracking or shipment tracking of your parcel shipment? This means that the shipment is currently being cleared through customs or is awaiting customs clearance. Swiss Post will contact the sender/recipient if it requires further documents or information. Please bear in mind that Swiss Post has thousands of consignments to clear every day. Depending on how complex and urgent the shipment is, customs clearance can sometimes take several days. This also depends in part on whether all documents and information are available.

Who pays for customs clearance?

Depending on the Incoterms agreed between the seller and buyer when the transaction is concluded, either the shipper or the importer pays the costs of the customs agency. If nothing has been agreed and you collect the goods yourself, for example, you can always assume that you will have to pay customs clearance for the goods yourself as the buyer. In some cases, the seller does not want to have anything to do with customs clearance and therefore sells with the delivery condition EXW “ex works”.

What is a T1 customs clearance?

T1 is a customs procedure. This is used, for example, if you want to bring goods through a country duty unpaid. The T in “T1” therefore stands for transit and for the authorization to transport the goods without having to pay customs duty. For example, you can move goods from Switzerland to Poland in transit through Germany, i.e. duty unpaid. This has the advantage that you do not have to pay German and Polish import duties but only Polish VAT and, if applicable, Polish customs duties.

A colloquial “T1 customs clearance” is therefore about creating the T1 (i.e. no customs clearance) so that you can drive the goods in transit through the relevant area. We can then carry out customs clearance for you in the country of destination.

Where does customs clearance take place?

Depending on the customs procedure, customs clearance can take place at different locations. On the one hand, it is possible for us to clear goods coming from Germany to Switzerland at the Swiss airport, as this is the first customs office where the goods arrive in the country. It could also be the Swiss highway border in Basel, for example, if the goods are brought into Switzerland via this border. Once again, this would be the first customs office in the country. The same applies to import customs clearance to Germany. When the goods arrive at the port of Hamburg, we can clear them directly there. On the other hand, it is also possible that you drive goods through a country duty unpaid “in transit” and we only clear them for you at the customs office of destination at the recipient’s location. This is referred to as a “transit procedure”, e.g. T1 or T2.

However, the customs clearance service can be provided regardless of location. This means that we can carry out customs clearance for you from Zurich at any Swiss or German customs office.

What is provisional customs clearance?

So-called “provisional customs clearance” only applies to imports into Switzerland. Provisional means provisional (source: Duden). You or your customs agent can therefore change this customs declaration at a later date. More precisely, this procedure is used if, for example, you import goods into Switzerland without proof of origin and are therefore subject to customs duties. The electronic assessment decision, i.e. the Swiss tax assessment notice, is only issued provisionally and we can correct it for you at a later date. Goods are therefore imported into the country without proof of preference and are subject to customs duties – the import duties must be paid. However, as soon as the proof of origin in accordance with the requirements of the free trade agreements is available later, we can submit an application to the customs office and the electronic assessment decision will be corrected. This allows us to reclaim the customs duties for you retrospectively.

It is important to know that the customs agent must always use the provisional customs clearance procedure in a case as described above. If the customs clearance is declared as “definitive” and not “provisional”, no change is possible at a later date. In such a case, the customs duties paid would be lost despite the subsequent existence of proof of origin.

When does customs clearance have to be made?

Depending on the country of import and whether it is private or commercial, there are different value limits. In some cases, you must also enclose the relevant documents or accompanying papers for the export of the goods. We have summarized this here for shipments to Switzerland: Accompanying documents for shipping to Switzerland

What is EU customs clearance?

EU customs clearance is a special EU customs procedure (so-called procedure 42). This allows us to import goods for you from a third country or EFTA country such as Switzerland into an EU country without incurring VAT. We can always carry out EU customs clearance if the importer of the shipment (the so-called declarant) does not come from the country where the goods enter the EU.

One example would be the import of goods from Switzerland to France via the German border. Here we can carry out EU customs clearance, as the goods cross a different border to the French one. However, if the goods were to leave Switzerland for France and enter the EU via a Swiss-French border, EU customs clearance would not be possible. In such a case, we would have to apply a “normal” customs clearance in the 40 procedure, which in turn would incur French VAT.