At the same time, the number of customs tariff numbers will be reduced, while VAT rates will increase. What does this mean for internationally active online retailers and shipping to Switzerland?
Back in 2017, the Swiss Federal Council adopted the "import facilitation" package of measures to make "high-price island Switzerland" more competitive again and strengthen Switzerland as a business location. The time has now come that the abolition of industrial tariffs - along with other measures - will come into force. Platform taxation, on the other hand, has been postponed by one year, but is expected to be introduced on January 1st, 2025.
Will these changes make shipping to Switzerland easier and more attractive for international online retailers? In this Asendia Insights blog post, we look at what the new regulations mean in concrete terms and how they will affect international shipping to Switzerland.
What exactly do the import facilitations look like?
Abolition of industrial tariffs
From 2024, customs duties will no longer be levied on imports of industrial products into Switzerland. This does not apply to fishery and agricultural products that are not considered industrial products in Switzerland - customs duties will continue to be levied on such products and goods.
Important for the turn of the year: The exact date of import into Switzerland is decisive for whether customs duties still apply to a shipment.
Simplification of the customs tariff infrastructure
The number of customs tariff numbers will be reduced from the current 9,114 to 7,511, as a detailed subdivision is no longer necessary for customs collection. From January 1st 2024, new 6-digit customs numbers will also apply, replacing the previous 8-digit numbers.
Preferential proof of origin no longer required
For goods that remain in Switzerland after importation, preferential proof of origin is no longer required. However, this does not apply to products that are re-exported unchanged - and therefore also to international returns. Online retailers should therefore continue to provide proof of origin so that any returns retain their preferential status when exported.
Change to the VAT rates
In 2022, the Swiss have decided to increase the three applicable VAT rates. This measure will also come into force from January 1st, 2024. The changes at a glance:
- Standard rate: from 7.7% to 8.1%
- Reduced rate: from 2.5% to 2.6%
- Special rate: from 3.7% to 3.8%
From 2024, the new tax rates must be shown accordingly on invoices for Swiss customers if there is a VAT obligation in Switzerland.
VAT for mail-order platforms is coming but has been postponed until 2025. Mail-order platforms are expected to have to pay tax on deliveries to Switzerland that are processed via their platform from January 1st, 2025.
VAT around the turn of the year
What VAT rate do you have to state on the invoice if a Swiss customer orders from you shortly before the turn of the year, but the parcel won't cross the border into the neighbouring country until the new year?
- What is important is the time at which the service is provided, i.e. the start of the delivery. If this is in the previous year 2023, you must also state the old tax rate on the invoice.
- If the import into Switzerland does not take place until the new year, the goods will be imported at the new VAT rate - even if the old VAT rate is still stated on the invoice.
- If the VAT is then reclaimed, for example in the event of a return, the higher amount actually paid can be reclaimed instead of the tax rate shown on the invoice.
- If the period of service provision is in both the previous and the new year, the respective proportion must be shown separately, stating the corresponding tax rate.
Why were these measures adopted?
Put simply, the Swiss want to strengthen Switzerland's competitiveness and facilitate trade relations by abolishing industrial tariffs and streamlining administrative customs processes. Switzerland is considered a high-price country with comparatively little industry - which is why both manufacturing companies and consumers buy industrial and consumer goods abroad. While customs duties were originally intended to protect the domestic economy, the tenor is now that they are apparently more of an obstacle to international trade relations and also cause a high administrative burden.
Swiss consumers should also benefit from the changes, as it is hoped that companies will pass on savings to consumers. However, this effect is likely to be counterbalanced by the increase in VAT rates; in future, Swiss consumers will be able to look forward to buying consumer goods abroad duty-free.
Significance for international online retailers
The bad news first: the abolition of industrial tariffs does not automatically eliminate the customs clearance process. Import customs declarations will therefore still have to be submitted for imports into Switzerland. As the general clearance process at Swiss customs will not change, we unfortunately do not see any potential savings in administrative costs for online retailers who ship to Switzerland - from a financial perspective, it is primarily consumers who will benefit from the abolition of industrial tariffs. On the other hand, this will make foreign retailers even more attractive for Swiss customers who already have an affinity for cross-border trade; in principle, the measures should therefore have a positive effect.
Concentrate on your core business and leave the formalities to us. With our customs clearance solutions, customs clearance is child's play!
As the amount of Swiss import duty has always been based on the product, weight and country of origin (and not on the value of the goods), the measures will primarily benefit retailers who ship rather heavy products - or products that Swiss customs impose particularly high import duties on due to their origin or character.
Overall, it can be said that Switzerland will become more attractive for internationally active companies because of the changes coming into force. Swiss customers will retain their usual purchasing power and are likely to be even more willing to make cross-border purchases because of the elimination of customs duties. Furthermore, online retailers no longer need to worry about scaring off their customers by passing on customs duties (whether directly or through a surcharge) and possible delays in imports.
How can Asendia support you with customs clearance?
Asendia is your expert for international e-commerce and shipping solutions - especially for Switzerland. As a subsidiary of Swiss Post, Asendia can draw on a wealth of expertise in the Swiss market and support online retailers with solutions to better understand and meet the needs of Swiss customers. Our technology-supported, paperless customs clearance supports online retailers in overcoming the hurdles of Swiss customs clearance with ease.
We are happy to support you with our know-how to master customs clearance for Switzerland and offer your Swiss customers a perfect shipping experience.