If you are receiving any packages from outside the European Union, you may at some point have to deal with the Zollamt. They levy customs duties and excise duties after importation and import VAT. With them the actual customs clearance takes place. Before a customs destination (ie the receiver) they hold the package for a temporary amount of time for further clarifications.
I’ve had packages received in the past, in one case it had to go through customs (but I never had to be there physically to pick it up) and I’ve also had gifts sent to me that never went through customs even though it was in the UK and EU. In Germany, you need to physically go to the Zollamt.
Before receiving any goods (either as gifts, as commercial purchases or as goods returned back to you due to replacement/repair) you should be aware of what the requirements are before entering the Community, as well as whether or not you need to pay import fees and if you do need to pay import fees, how much.
The formula to calculate customs fees: ((Value of goods + shipping costs) * inches) * import sales tax
For more information please go to https://www.zoll.de/
Waiting for Zollamt notice…
It took me about 6 weeks after I got noticed that my package was sent to get an email from the Zollamt.
In the mail, you will receive a letter most likely three pages of information:
– One page will detail that your package is at the Zollamt with information of the opening hours and days as well as until which date they will hold the package.
– One page will detail that the postal carrier (in this case, DHL) will charge some sort of ‘handling fee’ and that your signature, mobile and date/place is required.
– One smaller page will have some details and numbers.
Sign the required page and bring that, also bring the smaller page with you at the Zollamt.
What to prepare if I am picking up goods returned to me because of a warranty repair/replacement?
According to zoll.de: “Goods exported from the customs territory of the Community can be accepted as returned goods if their re-import was already intended at the time of export, or where re-import was not intended but takes place owing to particular circumstances. If these conditions for the acceptance as returned goods are met, the goods can be released for free circulation under relief from import duty.”
This means that you don’t need to pay anything. However you should now that burden of proof that this is actually a valid return is dependent on yourself. Therefore the following are needed to show proof:
- The receipt (die Quittung).
- Email sent to the company that you are sending the product to them due to it needing replacement/repair.
- Email confirmation/s back from the company saying that they are OK with the replacement/repair and that they have actually sent these back to you.
To make it easier I had the emails printed up already translated from English to German.
Also you cannot show them screenshots. There is a computer in place where people can log in to their email accounts and print up. You cannot print from a USB. I did see a sign for the Zollamt email address, I’m not sure if you can send the Zollamt your own documents though and how that works out exactly. But, there you go.
If you don’t have said documents, you run the risk of not showing proof that it’s an actual return and paying the import tax.. or at least having an uncomfortable time with the officers there.
Anyway, they give you a waiting number and you wait. So, even though the room was sparse, I waited for 40 minutes. I think it’s because other people had to go in and out of the waiting and customs inspection rooms (where the officers are located). You have a bluntish instrument to cut the package open and show the contents to them.
Anyway, that was it. The whole ‘experience’ took up at least 3-4 hours of my time though because of the travel (and the various SBahn work) but now I got my lovely package from Australia! (Which by the way was a pair of $900 prescription glasses that I needed fixed, and some lens cleaner that was sent to me)
((Also shoutout to the Zollamt lady with the awesome holographic nails working there!))