Don't try to sneak an Apple Vision Pro into Germany, the import cops will nab you

Posted:
in Apple Vision Pro edited February 8

Germans trying to bring Apple Vision Pro into their country without realizing they have to pay import tax are facing fees, fines, and even the confiscation of their devices.

Be careful travelling with an Apple Vision Pro
Be careful travelling with an Apple Vision Pro



Apple may be launching the Apple Vision Pro internationally soon -- and perhaps China very shortly -- but for now it is solely available in the US, and that's proving to be a problem.

Some international users have decided not to wait and instead have flown to the States to be one of the first to own an Apple Vision Pro. Unfortunately, some who then returned home to Germany have subsequently been stopped by customs authorities.

According to local publication Heise Online, Berlin airport customs officials say that around eight people have been stopped in the last few days. Businesses who try to manually import the headset this way are required to register in advance, while individuals can declare it on arrival.

They have to declare it, though, by going through the airport's red zone, the "something to declare" route. They must then present both the device and the invoice for it.

What happens then is complex because according to Heise Online, these travellers easily exceeded the regular customs duty exemption of 430 Euros ($463) -- yet the publication also says that Germany does not impose custom duties for computers.

Nonetheless, the device has to be declared because failure to do means risking criminal tax proceedings. What's reportedly happened to at least some of the travellers stopped at Berlin Airport is that their device has been confiscated.

The confiscated Apple Vision Pro, and potentially any accessories, should ultimately be returned. But reportedly, based on the current speed of processing such issues in Germany, the users who wanted to be early adopters may find themselves having to wait an entire year before their Apple Vision Pro is returned to them.

International import duties are always complex, but they are not helped by how different countries enforce their laws. The UK's Post Office, for instance, has been known to impose duty on goods that are exempt, and refusing to even discuss it.

Consequently, buyers should be wary of any method of importing a costly item like the Apple Vision Pro -- whether that's in person, or through online orders, with eBay.




Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    There may be no import duties for computers but you will still need to pay VAT (19% for Germany) upon importing the device which may give you a hint why people try without declaring. 

    Double VAT for failing to declare. 
    badmonkronnsphericBart YaderutterAnilu_777fred1IG-apple_viennawatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 14
    A Vision Pro could be your personal computer, just like bringing in a laptop or an iPad. Is this only for residents of Germany, are tourists exempt?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 14
    A Vision Pro could be your personal computer, just like bringing in a laptop or an iPad. Is this only for residents of Germany, are tourists exempt?

    I found the following paragraph on VAT in the EU - it’s really for companies but individuals bringing in high value items are treated similarly. 

    For the purposes of EU VAT and customs, bringing goods into the EU for the first time, from another non-EU country, is termed an import. Generally, the country of arrival will look to charge its standard VAT rate (e.g. Germany at 19%) on the import transaction. This must be settled prior to the release of the goods from customs. The goods are then in ‘free circulation’ and may be stored and sold or sent to another EU country. 

    But if you are a tourist going through Germany to another non EU country then you would probably want a refund of the VAT, which is probably difficult if not impossible and not worth the bother on a single item. It seems likely that you just need to pay up on entry to the EU and forget about any theoretical refund when you leave.

    As a tourist It is possible to get a VAT refund on purchases made within the EU, so when The AVP is available in Germany and, for example you are USA citizen on holiday you can get your 19% back and then deal with US customs which don’t have VAT but may apply other taxes and duties which are usually less than EU VAT.

    Theoretically as a UK citizen I could go to Germany, buy my AVP get a refund of 19% when I leave and then pay 20% when I come back to the UK as whilst we are no longer in the EU we still have VAT.

    UK Travellers bringing in goods to the UK have a £390 personal allowance and exempt from paying VAT (£135 for online shopping). 

    Needless to say it's all a bit more complicated than I have suggested - many pitfalls and traps.

    Anilu_777watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 14
    Buying through eBay would require an export license or it could be confiscated by US customs because the price is too high.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 14
    A Vision Pro could be your personal computer, just like bringing in a laptop or an iPad. Is this only for residents of Germany, are tourists exempt?
    Of course tourists are exempt.

    Importing a good means you bring it to the EU with the goal for the item to remain there.Travelers with their personal belongings that they bring for the purpose of their trip and take home with them again never pay VAT upon entry.

    Now, in situations where a customs officer can question this intent you may have burden of proof that you are a traveler and the device will leave the EU together with you once you go home. If there is doubt VAT payment could be imposed on you to secure compliance with the option of getting it back upon proof of the item leaving the EU. In normal day to day travel this may not occur.

    Now, when an EU citizen return from the US with an item not on sale yet in the EU the situation is completely different. Now the assumption is that it is very likely that this device is being imported by an EU citizen with the intent of keeping the device in the EU - therefore customs declaration is mandatory.

    Trying this with such a high profile device that has such high publicity at the moment is clearly stupid and everybody who tries this to save paying VAT cannot complain when the gamble does not pay off and the device is gone for some time.
    muthuk_vanalingamsphericsflagelAnilu_777watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 14
    A Vision Pro could be your personal computer, just like bringing in a laptop or an iPad. Is this only for residents of Germany, are tourists exempt?
    True and if push comes to shove you need to proof, that you bought your laptop in the EU. That can well be done after they 'caught' you (i.e. you went to the green lane and they randomly picked you for a control). Same goes for any valuables (Jewelery, Expensive Cameras, etc). In that case you have to provide proof in within a few weeks.

    Since the Vision Pro is not available outside the US, it's essentially a clear case. You'll have to pay the taxes (19% in Germany if you declare it ... if you didn't it's twice that for punishment).

    On the plus side: The honest importer will most likely financially not be worse off, than waiting to buy the product in the EU for final EU pricing (likely to be around 4800EUR). Even if he payed sales taxes in the US. Because the Apple EU prices are usually even way higher than US Price + EU Sales tax. Just did a little check on an iPad Pro you end up paying US Price + 19% Germany Sales Tax (EU sales taxes can be as high as 24%) + 17% on top because Apple can.
    edited February 9 Anilu_777sphericwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 14
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,694member
    andreas71 said:
    A Vision Pro could be your personal computer, just like bringing in a laptop or an iPad. Is this only for residents of Germany, are tourists exempt?
    Of course tourists are exempt.

    Importing a good means you bring it to the EU with the goal for the item to remain there.Travelers with their personal belongings that they bring for the purpose of their trip and take home with them again never pay VAT upon entry.

    Now, in situations where a customs officer can question this intent you may have burden of proof that you are a traveler and the device will leave the EU together with you once you go home. If there is doubt VAT payment could be imposed on you to secure compliance with the option of getting it back upon proof of the item leaving the EU. In normal day to day travel this may not occur.

    Now, when an EU citizen return from the US with an item not on sale yet in the EU the situation is completely different. Now the assumption is that it is very likely that this device is being imported by an EU citizen with the intent of keeping the device in the EU - therefore customs declaration is mandatory.

    Trying this with such a high profile device that has such high publicity at the moment is clearly stupid and everybody who tries this to save paying VAT cannot complain when the gamble does not pay off and the device is gone for some time.
    Yes. Non-EU resident tourists won't generally have any issues. 

    However, as for any international trip, it is always a good idea to travel with correct backup documentation. A copy of the purchase invoice. Evidence of non-EU habitual residence address. Include the device on travel insurance etc. 

    The same applies for any high value objects. 
    Anilu_777
  • Reply 8 of 14
    Arnold Schwarzenegger was detained a few weeks ago after arriving in Germany, to make sure he paid the taxes on fancy watch (he's a big Audemars Piguet fan).

    The German tax men don't mess around.

    But, oddly enough, one can hop straight onto public transit in a city like Munich without ever having to pass through a fare gate.  It relies almost entirely on the honor system.

    One would only be caught not paying the fare if they happen upon one of the random checks by police.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 14
    There are two duties payable upon importing goods to the EU: import duty (2.5%, although not applicable to computers) and Import VAT (19% in Germany). This applies for goods purchased in the US and intended to remain in the EU. If a US citizen, who can show that they live permanently in the US, brings a Vision Pro in his backpack and has a return ticket to the US or elsewhere, there should be no problem and no payment due. But if it's a German or other EU resident bringing one or more Vision Pro in an unopened box in his suitcase, I think it's pretty obvious that Import VAT is due.

    The US does not offer a Sales Tax Refund, so the person bringing a Vision Pro to Germany essentially will pay two indirect consumption taxes: US Sales Tax and German VAT. It is possible in some US states to make purchases sales tax-free (e.g. Delaware).

    tl;dr: if you want to bring a Vision Pro into the UK or Germany, buy it in Delaware sales-tax-free, and declare and pay the Import VAT when you arrive.
    edited February 9 watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 14

    citpeks said:
    Arnold Schwarzenegger was detained a few weeks ago after arriving in Germany, to make sure he paid the taxes on fancy watch (he's a big Audemars Piguet fan).

    The German tax men don't mess around.

    But, oddly enough, one can hop straight onto public transit in a city like Munich without ever having to pass through a fare gate.  It relies almost entirely on the honor system.

    One would only be caught not paying the fare if they happen upon one of the random checks by police.
    Its the same for import duty: you chose between tracks "Something to Declare" or "Nothing to declare" based on the honour system, but in the "nothing to declare" track, you may get checked.

     (Correction: "One would only be caught not paying the fare if they happen upon one of the random checks by police *and they run slower than the ticket checker*".

    Unlike the UK, Germany assumes people are innocent; while the UK assumes everyone is a potential criminal - hence cameras everywhere, fare gates for public transport, stop and search, 18/7 parking wardens. Also, on public transport, the marginal cost of transporting a non-paying customer is zero. Since most users of public transport use it frequently, the assumption is most therefore have a monthly or annual ticket anyway. It's just transport for a few kilometres, not the crown jewels.
    edited February 9 Respitewatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 14
    andreas71 said:
    There may be no import duties for computers but you will still need to pay VAT (19% for Germany) upon importing the device which may give you a hint why people try without declaring. 

    Double VAT for failing to declare. 
    Exactly - VAT is 19% for Germany - and 20% for Austria - and everybody here knows it  ;)

    So it is no "Surprise" - because it always had been like that for us in europe - regardless if it is a watch, pc, handbag - or vision pro ..

     And even if you make it once through customs without declaring - even years later you have to pay the fine, if you get caught - happened to many people, especially with expensive watches ;) 

    o



  • Reply 12 of 14

    Germans trying to bring Apple Vision Pro into their country without realizing they have to pay import tax are facing fees, fines, and even the confiscation of their devices.

    Be careful travelling with an Apple Vision Pro
    Fly to U.S , buy an expensive piece of electronics and can't afford to pay the taxes on it? Sounds like they couldn't afford ot in the first place 

    edited February 11 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 14
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,564member
    Sometimes, the difference in price more than offsets the price of a cheap Icelandair flight to NYC. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 14
    So, the way to go might be either to have a US resident bring the Apple Vision Pro; if caught the person proves he will leave again, if not he leaves the device in Germany.
    The second option is to book a flight to another, less strict, EU country and either ship the device (in case of US resident) or just take it to Germany from there.
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