Although Switzerland belongs to the Schengen area, it is not a member of the European Customs Union. Consequently customs checks are carried out on goods crossing the border.
Importers need to present the following documents to the custom authorities when crossing the border:
- an Electronic Customs Declaration showing the GIP number of the importer, details of the consignee and agent;
- sales invoice and pro-forma invoice;
- The EUR 1 Movement Certificate -which is issued by Italian customs and applies the preferential trade arrangement for products circulating in the EU given that, as a result of a bilateral agreement, Switzerland is treated as a EU country;
- transport documents (Packing List and Bill of Lading);
- copy of the registration with the Commercial Register (CR) for the sale of wine;
- copy of the CSCV company number allocation.
What is the GIP number? In order to import specific agricultural products, including wine, into Switzerland, the importer of the product must apply for an import permit, namely, a General Import Permit (GIP), from the Federal Office of Agriculture (FOAG), which is issued to natural and legal persons as well as to communities of persons domiciled or with registered offices in the Swiss customs territory.
A GIP should be obtained for wine imports exceeding 20 kg gross, and it is free and valid indefinitely but not transferable. A GIP does not need to be obtained for imports of sparkling and sweet wines.
In addition to the GIP, which does not automatically give the holder the right to import goods, an import quota must be requested and allocated. Import quotas are established for wine imports so that in order to buy wine abroad, the importer must hold a quota of the national import quota for the product in question, and the importer must hold a GIP before applying for the quota allocation. The national quota is divided into further quotas that are allocated until all the quotas are used. Quotas are allocated through auctions published periodically for natural or legal persons who have a registered office or are domiciled in Switzerland and the calendar year is generally considered as the period in which the quota is set. Quotas are allocated on a first come, first served basis, according to the highest amount offered. Quotas may be transferred. By way of example, the 2015 wine quota was set at 1,700,000 hectoliters and in recent years the quota has never been used in full. If the importer holds a quota, it may import the goods at the lowest or zero quota rate of duty (QRD). If the importer does not hold a quota, it may import goods in any case without limitation, but it will in this case pay the out-of-quota rate of duty (OQRD).
The importer presents the Customs Declaration, as specified above, and pays import duty and other taxes. The importer should find the correct customs tariff of the product, because all shipments from abroad are subject to import duty (the rate is defined according to the weight) and value added tax (VAT) of 7.7% throughout Switzerland. In the case of wine, the duty rates range from CHF 56 to CHF 65 (depending on the type of wine) per 100 kg gross weight, with the exception of sparkling wines whose rate is CHF 91 per 100 kg of gross weight.