Tax Free Shopping in Germany from Switzerland

Tax Free Shopping in Germany from Switzerland


Tax Free Shopping in Germany

from Switzerland


Tax Free Shopping in Germany from Switzerland

Many of you have asked us about shopping over the border from Switzerland in Germany. You’ve asked about how much you’re allowed to spend duty free and how to claim the VAT as well as various other rules. We thought the easiest thing to do would be to put all the information together in this post – so please feel free to read below.

A word of caution though, as the rules are liable to change at short notice so to avoid any doubt please do check the resources at the bottom of the article.

When I first arrived in Zurich from the UK, I was sometimes shocked at the prices in the Swiss shops as well as the lack of choice and went shopping in Germany fairly frequently. However, over the 10 years or so I’ve been here there has been a great improvement in the choice of products available in Switzerland. At the same time prices here have become much more competitive with lots more offers and discounts. On top of that, I must say that I really value the convenience of shopping locally and getting to know my local shopkeepers where I live. I do still occasionally shop in Germany, but usually as part of a day trip – or when I’m over the border for some other reason.

CHF 300 Tax Free Shopping Allowance in Germany

However, prices are generally lower in Germany and if you do go shopping you have a tax free allowance of CHF 300. In addition you can get a refund on the VAT (Value Added Tax), which is usually 19% on most goods and 7% on items like food, newspapers etc.

Claiming Your VAT Refund With the Ausfuhrschein

If you are living in Switzerland you can claim the VAT on any purchases you make in Germany (subject to a minimum limit in most cases). You simply need to request an Ausfuhrschein or VAT reclaim form when you are about to pay. Many of the shops will automatically ask you if you want one and in some shops when paying by credit card there is an automatic option asking if you want tax free shopping.

The shopkeeper will fill in certain parts of the “Ausfuhrschein”, (or they are filled in automatically) and they usually staple your receipts to the form. You then need to fill out your details – usually your name, address and your Passport number and/or ID number from your Swiss permit.

When you get to the border, you show these forms to the German customs office to get them stamped. You also need to show your Swiss permit and your passport. In theory you are supposed to take all your purchases with you into the customs office but most people leave them in the car. If they have a query (or for any reason want to check) they may accompany you back to your car and take a look for themselves. Once they have stamped your Ausfurhschein you can claim the tax back at the shop the next time you visit (NOT the same day!!!).

Sometimes you may have to show your Ausfuhrschein to the Swiss Customs too.

Don’t Forget Your Swiss Residence Permit & Your Passport

When shopping tax free in Germany you should have both your Swiss Residence Permit and your Passport with you. Failure to do so may result in them not stamping your form and thus you being unable to claim your refund.

Tax Free Shopping in Germany from Switzerland

Getting Your Money Back

Each shop is different and some require that you return within 3 months, some 6 months and some 1 year in order to get your money back. Generally speaking though, you have to return to the store with your stamped Ausfuhrschein and you are usually given a cash to the amount due.

With the Global Blue VAT reclaim service the procedure is slightly different and you usually have to claim the refund by going to a Global Blue office (often these are in train stations) or by posting your stamped form back to Global Blue for an electronic refund.

What If you are Over The Limit?

Please note it is definitely not worth trying to ”hide” any excess goods or lie about how much you have bought. The Border police have the power to stop and search you not just at the border crossing but also when you are driving home through Switzerland!

Instead what you need to do is declare how much you are over the allowance  – and pay VAT on the excess – as per the two scenarios below:

– Spending in Excess of CHF 300 per person on your Shopping

If for example you have spent the equivalent of CHF 400 instead of CHF 300 you are liable to pay Swiss duty at either 8% or 2.5% (depending on the goods purchased) on your entire shop!!!

– Over The Limit on Wine or Meat Etc

However, if the limit is 1kg of meat per person and you have bought 3 kg you need to declare this fact and pay duty on the extra 2kg. The same with wine, cheese and cigarettes etc. Simply tell them how much you are over by and you can pay the duty on the excess product. This assumes than in the second scenario that you have not spent more than CHF 300 on your total shop.

Please note that this information is correct at the time of going to press – but for for the most up to date information and for more details do check the resources below. Please note that they do change from time to time – so always check the latest advice before making a trip!

Click here to read the Customs Policy.


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