Importing goods from non-EU countries into the Netherlands involves a lot of work. You have to lodge a customs declaration, and pay import duties and VAT. Do not forget to check the product requirements and regulations.
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Lodge a customs declaration
When you bring goods from outside the EU into the Netherlands, you need to declare them at customs. This serves to bring non-EU goods onto the EU marketplace. The declaration can be lodged electronically, and is usually handled by the shipping company or a customs-expeditor. You can also lodge the declaration yourself. To do so, contact the National Helpdesk Dutch Customs.
Container Release Message, CVBAs of 1 October 2021, goods imports from outside the EU must be accompanied with a Container Release Message or Container Vrijgave Bericht CVB. This goes for all goods, whether they are sent in a container, in a trailer, in bulk, or as general cargo. By pre-clearing items, you can speed up the logistics chain. Find out what is required on the English-language Voorbereid op het CVB website.
Use TARIC to find your product code
TARIC is the database containing the integrated customs tariff of the European Union. The database contains the product codes you will need for your customs declaration. TARIC also contains:
- a description of the products
- the import levies and other taxes you’ll have to pay
- other obligations you need to consider.
Calculate the import duties
To import your goods you pay import duties to customs. The amount of import duty you have to pay depends on the type of product, and the country you’re importing from. In some cases, you are eligible for reduction or even exemption from import duties. Some possible scenarios:
- The country in which your product was produced has a trade agreement with the EU. You will need a certificate of origin.
- The goods consist of a raw material or semi-manufactured product that is in short supply in the EU. You may be eligible for a tariff suspension or a tariff quota.
You can find the tariffs in the TARIC database.
Find Customs information
On the Dutch Customs website, there is an overview of all the various authorisations, declaration methods, duties, permits, exemptions, etc., that you may need for your import.
Check where you need to pay importation VAT
When you import goods from a non-EU country, you usually have to pay VAT (btw) at the Dutch Customs. If you have an Article 23 permit, you can pay the VAT following your regular VAT return, rather than directly at customs. If you bring in goods via another EU country, you will be liable for VAT in that country. You can reclaim the amount from the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration.
You can deduct the VAT you pay from your VAT return as pre-tax. That is, if you are eligible for VAT-deduction.
Keep track of your administrationDo you also import from an EU country? Make a distinction between non-EU and EU in your administration.
Check whether you need to pay import taxes
You have to pay excise duties on alcoholic beverages, tobacco or tobacco products, or fuels. For some non-alcoholic beverages, like fruit juices, you pay consumer tax. You settle your excise duties and consumer tax at Customs, where you will also deal with import documents. There are a couple of other duties you may have to pay, for instance the motor vehicle tax (bpm) if you import cars.
To avoid products flooding the European market at dump prices, the EU has instated an anti-dump agreement.
Do you need an import licence?
Not all products can enter the Netherlands; some are prohibited, or only allowed if you have the proper import licence or certificate. You may have to enter a register, for instance if you want to import
- animal feed
Check Dutch product requirements
If you want to sell foreign products on the Dutch market, you will be dealing with several rules and regulations. A product must be safe and ready for use before it enters the market. The Commodities Act lists general rules on product safety. You will also need to observe legislation on safety, health, economy and environment. Always check the EU product requirements. You can check the requirements per country using the EU portal Acces2Markets.
You are only allowed to import trademark goods if the trademark owner grants you permission. Without permission, you are engaging in illegal, parallel import (also known as the grey market).
Payment customs differ per country. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency landenoverzicht (country information, in Dutch) offers you information on these customs as well as payment methods per country. Bear in mind that if your transaction is not conducted in euros, you run a currency fluctuation risk.
Decide if you want to be an importer or an agent
As the importer, you buy goods abroad and market them in the Netherlands. This gives you the freedom to repackage the products or make other alterations as you see fit. But you are also responsible for making sure the product meets all the EU and Dutch product requirements. If it doesn't, you can be held liable for damages.
You can also act as an agent and find customers in the Netherlands on behalf of a foreign company. You’ll be the intermediary and receive a fee. The rewards are not as high as the profit from direct sales, but there are fewer risks.
- Make transport arrangements with your supplier. Use the ICC Incoterms®.
- Record arrangements in a contract, and make sure your supplier is aware of your general terms and conditions.
- Check your supplier’s reliability.
- Make a study of the do’s and don’ts in your chosen country.
- Find a reliable business partner at the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI).
- Check the list of most common documents for international business.
Statistics: import of goods
Total import value of goods from non-EU countries