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. And don’t forget to check the product requirements and regulations.
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Lodge a customs declaration
When you import goods from outside the EU, you need to declare them at customs, using a Single Administrative Declaration form. This serves to bring non-EU goods onto the EU marketplace. The declaration can be lodged electronically, and is usually handled by the transporter or a customs-expeditor. You can of course lodge the declaration yourself. For help, call the National Helpdesk Dutch Customs.
Use TARIC to find your product code
TARIC is the database containing the integrated customs tariff of the European Union. The database contains, amongst other things, 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 import obligations you need to take into account.
Calculate the import duties
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 require a certificate of origin.
- You are importing 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.
Check where you need to pay VAT
When you import goods from a non-EU country, you usually have to pay VAT 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 import 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. See also Government.nl.
Check whether you need to pay excise duties
You have to pay excise duties on imports of 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?
Strict rules apply to certain products. If you want to import these products, you may need an import licence or certificate. You may have to enter a register, for instance if you want to import plants, flowers, animal feed and medicine. Find out more about these special import products in the Safety, Health, Economy and Environment section of the Dutch customs website.
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 concerning safety, health, economy and environment (VGEM in Dutch). Always check the EU product requirements. You can check the requirements per country using the EU Trade Helpdesk.
Payment customs differ per country. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency landeninformatie (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 agent or an importer
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. 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 the risks are fewer.
- Make transport arrangements with your supplier. Use the ICC Incoterms® 2010
- 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 (country information, in Dutch)
- find a reliable business partner at the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries
- check the list of most common documents for international business