Swiss customs to lift import duties on industrial products as of 1 January 2024
With the aim of increasing Switzerland’s overall competitiveness, various measures have been adopted since 2017 to combat the “high price island of Switzerland”. In this context, industrial tariffs in Switzerland will be abolished on 1 January 2024. What are the specific effects of these changes and what should companies bear in mind now?
The average prices for goods and services in Switzerland are significantly higher than in neighbouring countries. In addition to the generally high wage and cost levels, tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade mean that the Swiss market is closed off from neighbouring markets and higher prices can be charged domestically as a result. The Swiss export industry suffers as a result, as it is unable to offer its products at competitive prices abroad.
Import facilitations are intended to strengthen Switzerland as a business location. The loss of Swiss customs revenue of around CHF 500 million is offset by expected welfare gains of around CHF 860 million. And as intermediate products can be imported more cheaply and with less administrative effort in future, positive effects are also expected for the competitiveness of the export industry.
What are industrial tariffs?
Industrial tariffs are customs duties levied on industrial products. Swiss customs law distinguishes between industrial and agricultural products. Under customs law, industrial products are all industrially processed goods.
Which products are affected?
In principle, all import duties on industrial products listed in customs tariff chapters 25 to 97 are cancelled. This does not apply to some of the products listed in chapters 35 and 38, which are classified as agricultural products under customs law. Due to the customs union with Liechtenstein, import duties will also no longer be levied there from 2024.
What does this mean for SMEs?
Firstly, companies will benefit from lower costs and a simplified customs process. There is still an obligation to submit an import declaration. However, the tariff structure will be significantly simplified, thereby reducing the administrative effort required to determine the correct customs tariff number. The BAZG is also planning to introduce a new digital customs clearance system.
Simpler customs tariff classification
In addition to the general goal of strengthening the business location, the abolition of import duties should also contribute to a standardised and streamlined customs process. To this end, the existing Swiss customs tariff (TARES) will be adapted. Without customs duties, the very detailed breakdown of different goods in the customs tariff system, which is necessary for a differentiated customs valuation, can also be significantly simplified. Specifically, most of the subdivisions in the seventh and eighth digits of the Swiss customs tariff number will be eliminated. The number of customs tariff numbers is to be reduced from 9114 to 7511.
The usage tariff within the TARES will also be adjusted. Companies must adopt the amended BAZG master data. The BAZG will provide assistance and further information online until the end of 2023.
No changes for export transactions and preferential origin
These measures will significantly reduce the burden on companies and customs authorities. However, only import transactions are affected. The existing export rules remain unaffected. Companies should also continue to inform themselves about existing free trade agreements and preferential origin rules. This is because the abolition of Swiss industrial tariffs means that the customs origin of imported primary materials no longer plays a role for imports. However, it may still be necessary under certain circumstances. This is because companies that use imported primary products and materials to produce or process products for export must continue to provide proof of preferential origin so that a certificate of Swiss origin can be issued for export to a country with which a free trade agreement exists.
No proof of preferential importation is required if:
- The goods remain in Switzerland
- The processed or finished goods are exported to a country with which no free trade agreement exists
- Re-export with Swiss origin without cumulation within the framework of the respective free trade agreement
Temporary admission, inward and outward processing
The provisions and requirements for temporary admission and inward and outward processing also remain unchanged. However, as both procedures mainly serve to avoid import duties, most of which will no longer apply in future, they are likely to become less important anyway.
What companies should consider now
For companies, the changeover can sometimes mean a significant effort and should be tackled in good time in order to comply with the new customs tariff requirements and benefit from the cost savings. In this context, Swiss companies should note and consider the following:
- Assess the impact of potential tariff savings and changes in regulations on import operations
- Updating existing master data and preparing for the new structure of customs tariff numbers
- Adaptation of internal processes if necessary
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 Mit Importerleichterungen gegen die Hochpreisinsel (20.12.2017), Berichterstattung an den Bundesrat, https://www.seco.admin.ch/seco/de/home/Publikationen_Dienstleistungen/Publikationen_und_Formulare/Aussenwirtschafts/Freihandelsabkommen/bericht_12_2017importerleichterungen_hochpreisinsel.html