How to find your way around customs (in Germany)

Modified on Tue, 31 May 2022 at 11:12 AM

This article provides general information only and should not be used as the sole resource for customs questions. Byrd gives no guarantee and is not liable for the accuracy, timeliness and completeness of the information provided. All information is provided without warranty. This also applies to all links to other URLs mentioned in the article.


In case of deliveries coming from outside the EU, the customer is responsible for importing the goods and paying customs duties, for which the EORI number is required. The EORI number is a registration number under which a company and its master data are registered with the customs administration. It is required from the very first export or import transaction. Consignments with goods requiring an export licence can only be cleared with an EORI number (under no circumstance byrd is able to accept goods that are not customs cleared or assume responsibility). Please also make sure to send the goods according to the INCOTERM DDP (Delivered Duty Paid).


Important Notes

There are some things that have to be considered for imports. Correct data is very important. Imports cannot simply be cancelled and re-registered in case of errors, but a change request must be made and this can take time and is associated with a lot of effort. A correct customs tariff number is essential, as it is used to calculate import duties.


Required documents showing all relevant data for the import of goods

Electronic import declaration or customs declaration: As with exports, German goods traders must submit a declaration via ATLAS (automated tariff and local customs clearance system) or IZA (Internet customs declaration-import). This digital document is intended to help better record and monitor imports. An exception is the import of goods with a value of less than 1,000 euros and weighing less than one ton. In this case, a simplified declaration procedure applies. Details on the current requirements can be obtained from customs.

Commercial invoice: This is essentially similar to an ordinary invoice, but is only issued pro forma. It is intended to help improve the recording of tax data. Among other things, this makes it possible to waive sales tax. In addition, the control of the delivery is easier.

Customs declaration: If the goods are imported from a non-EU country and are worth more than 20,000 euros, the importer must make a customs value declaration for the delivery.

Certificates of origin and declarations of origin: Depending on the type of goods, certificates of origin or declarations of origin may be required. These documents may result in lower taxes or customs duties, or may be required, depending on the exporting country.

Permits and Control Declarations: Certain types of goods require additional permits or control declarations. This includes certificates of arrival or declarations of final destination for trade items such as weapons, defense articles, radioactive material or certain high performance machinery.

Compliance with EU standards: Upon importation, goods must conform to EU standards. Otherwise, they are not allowed to enter trade. This is especially true for goods intended for the end-user market. Compliance with such standards can be traced, among other things, by symbols such as the CE mark. However, the importer is responsible for ensuring that these markings have not been tampered with and that the products actually meet the required standards.

Reporting for intra-trade statistics: Deliveries from other EU countries must be reported by the importer for intra-trade statistics. The purpose of this declaration is to record the trade flows within the EU. However, the declaration is only obligatory for the company from a certain imported goods value per year.

Customs duties and taxes

Trade within the EU is duty free. If goods are imported from a third country, the TARIC (integrated tariff of the European Union) applies. This means that customs duties are the same in every country of the EU. What's more, if the imported goods, which have already been handled by customs, are transported across an internal border, they are considered to be delivered from an EU country.

Customs clearance is thus only required for all deliveries from non-EU countries. This involves an intensive examination of the goods, their value, quantity or weight and the required documents. Moreover, for different types of goods not only customs duties but also taxes are incurred. All taxes and fees are due directly upon importation. Customs collects them.

Customs fees: The importer must pay fees for the import. These are based on the type, quantity and value of goods. Current rates can be obtained from customs via various tools such as TARIC.

Shipping within the EU

In general, imports or exports from or to other EU member states, so-called intra-Community shipments, are not subject to any restrictions. Nevertheless, there is an area of highly sensitive goods in terms of export control policy, such as military equipment or certain dual-use goods, whose trade requires monitoring. 

How long does it normally take for my goods to pass through customs?

This cannot be said as a general rule. If the data is good and customs has no objections to the delivery, an import can be completely finished in 1-2 hours. Customs checks the following: 

1. preliminary check of the customs declaration for completeness

2. check of the declaration for correctness 

3. on delivery, the specified quantities, properties and values are checked

4. preparation of the customs certificate and release

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