The European Union knows free movement of goods. This means you don’t have to pay import duties when you import goods from an EU country to the Netherlands. You do usually have to pay Dutch VAT. In some cases, you will have to pay input tax or excise duties. When you start to import, always check the EU product requirements, as well as any separate Dutch requirements.
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Find out if you need to pay VAT
You are importing products from another EU country. The supplier will usually charge you 0% VAT, and send you an invoice to that effect. You will then have to calculate, declare and pay the Dutch VAT (BTW) in your VAT return, based on the goods’ total sale price times the appropriate VAT tariff. That is, unless you are exempt from paying VAT. Read more about VAT on products from other EU countries.
Refund of foreign VAT
If your supplier charges you VAT, for instance when you pick up the goods abroad yourself, you can usually claim a VAT refund from the country’s Tax Administration via the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration.
Use the intra-Community acquisition tool
If you buy goods from an entrepreneur or company, and these goods are transported from an EU country to the Netherlands, your purchase is an intra-Community acquisition. There are some exceptions to this, so check before you declare the goods. You can use the (Dutch) Intra-Community Acquisition VAT Check Tool to determine whether your purchase is an intra-Community acquisition.
Keep your accounts in order
Do you import goods both from EU and non-EU countries? Be sure to make a clear distinction in your accounts. Imports from non-EU countries require additional records: transport documents, proofs of payment, business correspondence, customs documents.
Check whether you need to pay import taxes
For certain goods, you pay import levies: 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.
Check Dutch product requirements
EU products are usually permitted in the Netherlands, but there may be specific Dutch requirements for your product. The Commodities act lists the general rules for product safety; the product also has to meet requirements in the field of safety, health, environment and economy (VGEM).
Decide if you want to be an agent or an importer
As the importer, you buy goods abroad and market them in the Netherlands. But 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®.
- 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).
Be aware that once the United Kingdom leaves the EU, you may need to use different documents to import or export goods, as the UK will become a third country. If you import or export agricultural goods, plants or use wooden packaging, you may need extra certificates and undergo inspections.
Several parties offer information on how to prepare for Brexit:
- Brexitloket.nl is the official Dutch government Brexit website. Check it regularly for news and events.
- The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) offers Dutch information on this subject.
- The Netherlands Vehicle Authority RDW can help you if you import vehicles (or parts). Check out their Brexit page.
- Also, check the Dutch Tax and Administration pages on customs matters.
Statistics: import of goods
Total import value of goods from EU countries