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Lets assume the following very likely scenario that definitely happens more than often: I have ordered a product from outside the country that - including shipping - exceeds the amount where you dont have to pay VAT. I was aware of that and prepared to pay the VAT and processing fee. To my surprise it got here without a bill through the regular Swiss Post customs processing facility. Checking the label on the packet it was obvious how, it was declared at only a fraction of the value I had paid. Do I have any legal obligation to report this to customs or is this entirely on the sender? It is already in the tags, but to be sure: This is Switzerland.

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Swiss customs has a form to submit questions like this and they gave me a very informative answer. As it turns out the receiver is also part of the customs process. If for some reason customs decides to open an investigation assuming that something regarding declaration/import was wrong the receiver will also be part of the investigation and it is possible that they determine that the receiver is at fault as well. In this case in addition to the import fee additional fines or fees might be imposed on the receiver. I do not know how they determine this, but from a law perspective it is clear.

There is always the option to just report a wrong declaration upon receiving the package which means you have to pay the import fee, but no other fines, fees or investigations will include the receiver (assuming the goods involved can be imported legally).

The legal part points towards (this part sadly does not exist in English): Zollschuldner Art. 70 Zollgesetz (specifically section 70 (2) c.). For the unlikely reason that the swiss administrative legal code becomes unavailable this is said article translated by me:

Customs debtors have to pay customs fee, or if they become unavailable make guarantee for it (materially). Customs debors include:

  • a) The person sending goods across the border (sender)
  • b) The person responsible declaring the goods
  • c) The person on whos behalf goods are ordered <--

Some interesting tidbits:

  • Transport compaines are not liable for anything
  • Your heirs inherit your customs penalties (i.e. you order something from another country, then your heirs have to pay customs fees if you happen to die)
  • Buying a company also means buying their customs obligations.
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  • I'd like to add that there is no article specifying how customs can determine the value of a product. Therefore they could assign an arbitrary value to anything you import. Therefore "They would never know that I paid X for that" is not really a valid defense. – Yanick Salzmann Dec 29 '20 at 19:20
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I had recieved a parcel via DHL-Express from China to last year.

I was lucky to monitor the parcel, as it was not properly declared: The contents were listed as 2 times the same item, but X-Ray showed that it was different items, my contact address was not on the outside of the parcel, so Customs decided to pull my parcel for inspection.

If I hadn't called, it would have taken a week of paper-mail to request a statement from me, and Customs asked me to send them a PDF of the payment slip to verify the contents and pricing of the items inside and calculate the customs.

I was provided with a (modified) Screenshot from the seller that fit their customs declaration. As I talked with the customs office on the phone, they laughed about that and informed me that they no longer accept those as evidence for the value of items, since China companies send those out like candy, and that they prefer a bank statement or Paypal printout as those could be trusted - and that just sending in the (modified) screenshot can be seen as an attempt of customs evasion.

Not giving information can, according to what I was told, lead to them either estimating the value - usually higher than what you might have paid - or outright deny the parcel entry till the information is given or the parcel is returned to sender.

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  • I didnt have time to go through all the paragraphs of the code of obligations in Switzerland, but I wonder what they use if I simply refuse to give any more details about the transaction with the seller... Obviously the seller in China wont respond to any inquiry whatsoever. – Yanick Salzmann Dec 29 '20 at 19:29
  • @YanickSalzmann they can research the value themselves, or simply deny entry of the parcel, afaik – Trish Dec 29 '20 at 19:42
  • Yes but my question is specifically about after you have received the package without customs fees. – Yanick Salzmann Dec 29 '20 at 19:43
  • Well, they have a hard time to retroactively get the customs... – Trish Dec 29 '20 at 19:44
  • I guess but according to Swiss law you are to blame for not reporting it, wich is what I was wondering. – Yanick Salzmann Dec 29 '20 at 19:46

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