How to import products into the EU for e-commerce?

If you are a non-EU established company, for example your company is registered in the UK, Hong Kong, United States etc, even if you have EORI EU and VAT registration numbers in several countries in the European Union, there are several additional limitations you need to be aware of once you start importing your products into the EU and sell them online on Amazon and all the other e-commerce marketplaces in the EU. Some solutions may work in a small scale, some are only designed for large scale business, some work if you import only a few shipments a year, the other are economical only for several containers per year.

There are several limitations for non-EU companies to import and do business in the EU – the only long term solution is to set up a company in the EU, in one of the EUROzone countries and register it for VAT EU and EORI EU numbers

How do import into the European Union as a non-EU established company and save on import VAT?

Solution 1.
Fiscal customs clearance in the Netherlands
It requires you find a company within the EU, who will take responsibility for all imports, VAT and duties settlements, for the period of 6 years;
or the customs agency in NL will require you set up a customs security – 5-50k and above EUR depending on your sales volume, type of goods being imported etc.

To set up an indirect fiscal representation in the NL, it takes even 2-3 months, you will be asked to provide your company’s financial records, bank statements etc – your application can still be rejected.

If your company is allowed to do fiscal customs clearance in NL, you will also may be required to get registered for VAT NL in order to activated so called Article 23. Each shipment with fiscal customs clearance in NL requires the goods to be moved outside of NL straight after the customs clearance in completed (FLEX can offer to receive your shipments from NL to our DE warehouse). Your goods cannot stay in NL.

Solution 2.
Standard customs clearance in the Netherlands
It requires you to pay VAT NL, which – without VAT NL registration – you won’t be able to claim back later on.

Solution 3.
Importing into the European Union via Germany
For non-EU companies German customs allow for up to 10 imports a year using EORI EU number; but the imports have to be done on a occasional basis, so if you ship week after week, the 2nd shipment can be rejected; if you plan to ship several regular shipments via DE and clear the customs in DE, you have to establish a indirect fiscal representation in Germany – the procedure is similar to NL and several additional requirements apply including security deposit.

Max number of imports via DE for non-EU company per year is valid both for a standard customs clearance (where you pay import VAT DE) and fiscal customs clearance (where you don’t pay import VAT and the goods are moved to another country straight after).

Solution 4.
Importing via Poland

You can clear the customs in PL using your EORI EU and VAT EU numbers without much hassle, but if you do not have VAT PL number, you won’t be able to claim the import VAT back later on.

If you have VAT PL you have used for the customs clearance in PL, you still have to have a local PLN bank account number in Polish zloty – PL tax office do not issue VAT returns on bank accounts outside of PL and in different currencies than PLN; tax return in EUR is not possible; there are few banks in PL who offer PLN accounts for non-EU companies but company’s director may be required to visit a local branch in Poland at least once to sign the paperwork and provide his ID in person

Based on the above, the simpliest long term solution for large scale imports into the EU, several containers a year/month – is a local company in on of the EU countries with EORI EU and VAT EU numbers.

NOTE: All the information above is provided based on our experience and a feedback from several customs agencies in PL, NL, DE. The only way to obtain binding decisions on the customs clearance rules in the EU, is by applying to local customs offices in those countries on paper, providing them with all the details and waiting for 2-3 months for their official decision.

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