Switzerland is a pretty murky one: it's part of the Schengen zone (so there are no physical borders) but it's not part of the European Union Customs Union so you have to pay duties when exiting and importing stuff from there, right? But to whom and when? How is it enforced? Still, Apple computers are much cheaper in Switzerland (and also the Channel Islands) than in the rest of Europe.

The Channel Islands are not part of Schengen but the Common Travel Area (the same thing between the UK, Ireland and some small islands) and not part of the EU VAT area either.

There is a funny company whose business model I can't really understand called Mymemory.co.uk. they operate with some quite reasonable prices for Europe and they ship from Switzerland and Jersey. From their T&C: The price of all goods and services advertised are inclusive of any applicable UK taxes including VAT. The price does not include any importation taxes applicable outside of the United Kingdom.

So, presumably VAT is not an issue for Schengen countries as well. But how about import duties?

From Wikipedia (user with more reps might insert the link here here): Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are British Crown dependencies, the former two being just off the French coast and the latter being in the middle of the Irish Sea. The islands take part in the EU freedom of movement of goods but not people, services or capital. The Channel Islands (as they were defined in 1972, when the UK joined the European Communities, now Jersey and Guernsey) are outside the VAT area (since they have no VAT), while the Isle of Man is inside it.[2] Both areas are inside the customs union.[3]

Go figure.

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1 Answer 1


http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/tax-and-duty.htm#3 explains the Import VAT situation quite well.

As for who enforces and collects it, if you're talking about buying online and having it shipped to you then you'll notice on the parcel a Customs sticker declaring the contents and value. It is the responsibility of the courier company to collect any duty due from you and pass it on to HMRC.

In practice what this means is that you receive a card or note from the courier saying "we're impounding your package until you pay the import duty" and they usually charge a fee on top of the duty itself.

Of course you can always go out there yourself and bring something back, but then it is your responsibility to declare it at the customs checkpoint when you enter the country.

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