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I am a German citizen and US resident (Green Card holder) and will be traveling from the US to Germany later this year to celebrate my parents' birthdays (both "big" birthdays).

I will be bringing an antique book and antique maps that are of special significance for my parents as birthday presents (combined purchase value ~$1500). All items are more than 100 years old and were originally printed in Europe (Belgium, Netherlands, Germany; I've learned that country of origin can make a big difference when it comes to customs).

I've been trying to find out if, and if so how much, customs duty I will have to pay on entering Germany. I've researched the topic at zoll.de and ec.europa.eu, and it looks like the value will definitely exceed my personal allowance, but it appears that customs is a really complicated topic with lots of exceptions and special rules, so I'd like to get a more definitive answer.

Of course, I do have receipts that state how much I paid for the items. However, prices can vary quite drastically, and different copies of the same book/map can be purchased for substantially more or less, so one of the difficulties is that there is no "standard" value for antique items, and I'm a little worried, for example, that the value for customs purposes might be assessed substantially higher than what I paid for. I am not a professional antiques dealer or anything of the sorts, so I don't have any sort of commercial import/export permits.

How would I determine the customs duty that would be due and what additional documentation should I bring?

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All items are more than 100 years old and were originally printed in Europe (Belgium, Netherlands, Germany; I've learned that country of origin can make a big difference when it comes to customs).

Yes, there are many restrictions for such goods that are not of EU origin. This makes it simpler for customs.

I do have receipts that state how much I paid for the items.

The price you paid for is what counts. An estimate should only be made if there are no receipts. So bring them with you.

How would I determine the customs duty that would be due

For Books 7%, for everything else 19%, unless you are eligible for an exception under Article 42 (cultural materials).

Based on your description, I have listed 3 possibilities.
Follow the link for the complete list.


COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 1186/2009 of 16 November 2009 setting up a Community system of reliefs from customs duty
Article 42

The educational, scientific and cultural materials listed in Annex I shall be admitted free of import duties whoever the consignee and whatever the intended use of such materials may be.

ANNEX I A. Books, publications and documents

CN Code Description
4905 Maps and hydrographic or similar charts of all kinds, including atlases, wall maps, topographical plans and globes, printed
ex 4905 99 00 Maps, charts and diagrams of interest in scientific fields such as geology, zoology, botany, mineralogy, palaeontology, archaeology, ethnology, meteorology, climatology and geophysics
4911 Other printed matter, including pictures and photographs:
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    Aren’t you mixing VAT and customs duties?
    – jcaron
    May 21 at 10:06
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    @jcaron Well that is what is charged in most cases. Customs duties is the VAT and then there are Customs tarifs, which don't apply in this case. May 21 at 10:28
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    @MarkJohnson thanks for the extensive answer! Can you clarify wrt the comments made by jcaron and Tor-Einar Jarnbjo ? I do believe these items qualify as "maps" and "other printed matter" in the class of "cultural materials". Does this mean I will I have to pay 7% on the book and 19% on the maps (i.e., the respective VAT rates) but am exempted from additional duties, or are you suggesting that I will likely not have to pay any duties at all (assuming the items fall indeed into the exempted categories)?
    – trvlr
    May 21 at 19:38
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    @trvlr German customs classified this as Außertarifliche Zollbefreiung and meantions Verbrauchsteuer und der Einfuhrumsatzsteuer. VAT is a Verbrauchsteuer (Umsatzsteuer, Mehrwertsteuer: 7%, 19%). May 21 at 20:01
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    @trvlr It is possible, if the customs official agrees with the clasification. Declare them togeather with the CN Code numbers 4905 and 4911. May 21 at 20:10

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