8

The European Commision website mentions that:

If you enter the EU from a non-EU country, goods having no commercial character in your personal luggage can be imported free of customs duties, VAT and excise duties within the following limits:

...

Other goods (including perfume, coffee, tea, electronic devices etc.):

Up to a value of €430 for air and sea travellers

However many people these days carry electronics of considerable worth. A new laptop can easily cost over 1500 EUR and a new phone is often around 500 EUR. Add in watches, small pieces of jewelry, perfumes, etc, and you can easily end up with 3000 EUR worth of merchandise when flying into an EU airport. Even taking into account the possible devaluation of goods after being used for some time, I'm pretty sure a significant percentage of travelers are violating the 430 EUR limit.

So what are the exact rules for temporary import of personal belongings by tourists entering the EU?

I presume there is some sort of an exemption for non-residents, however I cannot find it on the official pages of the EU. If not, are people technically supposed to report to the Red customs channel and declare their laptops and phones?

  • 1
    I think you're reading too much into that. Personal items have no 'commercial character' since you're not planning to sell/trade/lease, etc them. But you are often expected to pay duty on items purchased abroad such as a new laptop since you are effectively importing it. – Johns-305 Oct 16 '16 at 13:25
  • 1
    @Johns-305 That's not relevant: That sentence refers to things you are importing permanently and it's only for items that have no “commercial character” that you can benefit from the €430 allowance. What it means is that if the goods had a commercial character, you could not even import that much, not that you can import anything as long as it's for your personal use. But personal effects that you are only importing temporarily are treated differently. – Relaxed Oct 16 '16 at 20:22
  • @Relaxed is totally correct, deleting my comment! – Fattie Oct 16 '16 at 20:45
  • @Relaxed Please read my comment again. It's quite clear. Paying an import duty is very common, even for leisure travelers carrying items for personal use. If you cross a border both ways with an item, you are not exporting or importing for tax purposes. – Johns-305 Oct 16 '16 at 20:45
  • The OP is asking about travelers carrying expensive personal electronics during the course of their travel on which, presumably, the sales/VAT/etc tax has already been paid. – Johns-305 Oct 16 '16 at 20:47
10

The EU Commission website is based on a directive and a regulation which explicitly exclude personal effects. Thus, article 7(4) of directive 2007/74/EC (this covers VAT) reads:

The value of the personal luggage of a traveller, which is imported temporarily or is re-imported following its temporary export, and the value of medicinal products required to meet the personal needs of a traveller shall not be taken into consideration for the purposes of applying the exemptions referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2.

Article 41 of regulation 1186/2009 (which covers custom duties) refers back to the VAT exemption.

I don't know whether there is a more specific definition somewhere (e.g. a time threshold) or if this is left for national customs administration and individual customs officer to appreciate but the most important criteria here is that the import is temporary. If the things you carry are deemed to be part of your personal luggage and you will take them back out, the €430 threshold isn't relevant at all.

Incidentally, this is not an exemption for non-residents, residents are also allowed to take their stuff abroad and to reenter without paying duties and non-residents are not allowed to enter with expensive things they intend to give as gift. What matters is that you are going in and out, without transferring your residence or leaving your gear behind you (there is a whole lot of other rules regarding that situation in article 3 to 11 of the regulation and national law and even special rules for gifts related to a marriage!).

  • 1
    Is there a definition of "personal luggage" somewhere? Is the 10k EUR then the only limit for valuables without any declaration? – JonathanReez Oct 16 '16 at 13:05
  • @JonathanReez I am not aware of any more specific definition, there is always a point where appreciation is left to customs agents and, ultimately, the courts. OTOH, it seems like a reasonably clear definition, the only things that might be ambiguous would be things like a super-expensive semi-pro camera or something. Note that professional equipment and the like can also be imported temporarily but then you have some paperwork and a deposit to avoid being tempted to leave them behind, for that's the most important requirement. – Relaxed Oct 16 '16 at 13:19
  • If you think about it and consider rich people and so on, it would be totally commonplace for someone to be carrying tremendously more than 10k$ of jewelry (any number of watches, say, cost more than that these days), expensive luggage and clothes. These are the issues that must trouble customs agents! Is it really just a necklace or is someone moving something valuable? – Fattie Oct 16 '16 at 14:57
  • @JoeBlow I know that Canada's customs specifically advise against carrying expensive jewelry because it's difficult to trace and it's therefore difficult to prove that it is indeed a temporary import. If you remove that and watches (which are just another type of jewelry), it becomes more difficult to get to €10k, even with high-end clothes and gadgets. But I don't think this threshold is particularly relevant, it's about cash and cash-like instruments and it does not seem to include jewelry (at least in Europe). – Relaxed Oct 16 '16 at 20:19
  • hi @Relaxed - fair enough. I think the bottom line is, just as you said "there is always a point where appreciation is left to customs agents and, ultimately, the courts". I was just reiterating that you the OP. – Fattie Oct 16 '16 at 20:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.