How do I get an exporter license

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If companies in Germany want to import goods from abroad or export them abroad, there are various contacts with authorities. The requirements of the importing exporting companies differ in terms of whether they deal with non-EU countries or with member states of the European Union.

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import

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If a company wants to import goods into Germany, it can first obtain information about any import bans or restrictions. The companies can get advice from IWM Zoll - the customs information and knowledge management or from the chambers of industry and commerce and the chambers of crafts. Depending on the country of origin of the goods, the importing company has to deal with different authorities. A distinction is made between trade in goods with other EU countries and trade with non-EU countries.

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Import from EU countries

If the goods to be imported come from a member state of the European Union, the importer must meet other obligations within the framework of this intra-trade. If such an import is carried out by a company for the first time, the sales tax identification number (USt-IdNr.) Must be applied for at the Federal Central Tax Office. The VAT ID no. is an independent number that is issued to entrepreneurs in addition to the tax number of the regional responsible tax office. The German companies also have the option of entering the foreign VAT ID no. to have the relevant supplier verified at the Federal Central Tax Office. This can help to avoid the need for additional clarification with the tax office or the disbursement of the tax amount in the further processing of the import. The purchase of the goods must be reported to the tax office in the advance VAT return. This must be done by all companies subject to VAT.

In the case of intra-community trade in goods, companies obliged to provide information must also submit reports on intra-trade statistics to the Federal Statistical Office. Importing companies whose imported goods exceeded a value of EUR 800,000 in the previous year are obliged to submit the monthly reports. In the reports, information about the trades carried out must be given. This includes, for example, information on goods numbers, goods values, countries involved and weights.

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Import from non-EU countries

If the goods to be imported come from non-EU countries, the German company is obliged to apply for one from the before the first import. The EORI number is required by companies to declare exports or imports to customs. The obligation to provide the EORI number already exists from the first export or import process. Since October 2019, the EORI number can also be requested electronically via the customs citizen and business customer portal (BuG). Changes to master data are then also made in this way. The advantage of this process is that you can make changes to the master data yourself. All that is required for online registration is a certificate issued to the company. Alternatively, a form can still be filled out and sent in writing, by e-mail or fax to the General Customs Directorate.

Certain goods are subject to authorization and require an import permit (EC). There are currently these foreign trade restrictions on the import of textiles and clothing, iron and steel products, horticultural products (fruits and vegetables), rough diamonds and certain pharmaceuticals.

Restrictions can be researched directly and updated daily online in the electronic customs tariff (EZT-Online) in the import area using the statistical commodity number. The goods number can be found in the list of goods for the foreign trade statistics of the Federal Statistical Office.

Authorization agencies in Germany are the Federal Office for Economics and Export Control (BAFA) and the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE). A declaration of the final destination of the goods must be submitted. The order and contract documents on which the import is based must also be attached to the application. In addition, if applicable, technical documents for the import goods must be submitted.

From now on, the importing company will have repeated contacts with customs. First of all, the goods must be registered with the border customs office. This customs declaration is generally made using the IT process.

An oral customs declaration can be submitted for consignments of goods with a value of less than EUR 1,000. However, if the value of the goods is over 1,000 euros, the registration must be made in writing using the ATLAS procedure. When declaring customs, the importer must provide the following information about the delivery of goods: sender and recipient of the goods, EORI number of the recipient, desired customs procedure, delivery conditions, place of delivery, means of transport and information about the goods. The customs tariff number (goods number) is used to clearly categorize the goods.

In addition to the customs declaration, the additional submission of a customs declaration is mandatory for goods whose value exceeds 20,000 euros. The customs declaration is used to determine the actual value of the delivery. For this, all evidence must be provided that provides information about the value. This can be, for example, invoices, evidence of freight costs or the purchase contracts. If the value of the goods is less than 20,000 euros, this customs declaration does not have to be submitted. However, it can be requested from the border customs office.

Germany has concluded free trade agreements with some countries for international trade in goods. These should enable the duty-free or preferential exchange of goods with non-EU countries. If a delivery is made within the framework of such an agreement, the foreign exporter must enclose relevant evidence with the delivery in order to be able to take advantage of the tariff concessions. These preferential measures thus represent preferential treatment under customs law for goods from certain countries and areas, which are integrated as preferential tariff rates in the electronic customs tariff (EZT). In certain cases, proof of preference can be dispensed with. German importers should also have the proof of preference checked by the responsible customs office in Germany. This serves as a protection against having to pay additional customs duties years after the transaction has been completed and could become necessary if the preferences promised by the exporting company prove to be incorrect. You can apply to the customs office to check the foreign proof of preference and have other authorities check it when importing, for example, pharmaceuticals, pesticides or animals.

When the goods arrive in Germany, the importer may be obliged to pay taxes. These can include the following duties: import duty, anti-dumping duty, countervailing duty and preferential duty. Furthermore, it may be necessary to pay import sales tax. All taxes are to be paid to the customs office.

The import procedure under foreign trade law is regulated in the Foreign Trade Act (AWG) and the Foreign Trade Ordinance (AWV).

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export

To open the interactive graphic, please tap or click on the image. Further information on the authorities shown can be found there.

If a German company wishes to export goods to other countries, other requirements sometimes apply. Here, too, the contacts with the authorities when exporting goods to third countries differ from those when exporting goods to countries in the European Union. Regardless of whether it is an extra or intra trade, the customs information and knowledge management, the chambers of industry and commerce and the chambers of crafts advise exporters on questions about export bans and restrictions.

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Export to EU countries

When goods are exported to other member states of the European Union, a one-time application for the sales tax identification number must be made at the Federal Central Tax Office. German companies have the option of having the identification number of the relevant recipient verified by the Federal Central Tax Office.

The intra-community delivery of goods is exempt from sales tax according to the Value Added Tax Act (UStG). According to this, an intra-Community delivery is present if, in the case of a delivery, the company or the person receiving the delivery transports or dispatches the object of the delivery to the rest of the community and the person receiving the goods is an entrepreneur who has acquired the object for their own company and the acquisition of the item from the person purchasing the item is subject to sales tax in another member state. In contrast, deliveries of goods from companies in Germany to private individuals in other EU member states are usually accounted for with German sales tax. However, the delivery thresholds of the destination countries of the goods traffic must be observed. The deliveries of the goods are to be reported to the tax office in the advance VAT return. This must be done by all companies subject to VAT.

In addition, the exporting company must provide evidence of a certificate of arrival. The confirmation of arrival is a written proof to the tax office that the tax-free intra-community delivery has also reached other EU countries. This is to prevent tax evasion. This evidence can be provided by having the recipient of the goods confirm the delivery.

After delivery has been made, the exporting company must submit reports on intra-trade statistics to the Federal Statistical Office. All companies subject to VAT whose shipments to other member states of the European Union exceeded the value of EUR 500,000 in the previous year are obliged to report data on intra-Community trade on a weekly or monthly basis.

In addition, data on the tax-free intra-community deliveries, the so-called summary reports (ZM), must be reported to the Federal Central Tax Office (BZSt).

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Export to non-EU countries

Before exporting to non-EU countries for the first time, German exporters are obliged to apply to the Customs Information and Knowledge Management for a number that enables the exporting company to be clearly identified, see the information on the EORI number above under Import. If a company wishes to export goods such as weapons or narcotics abroad, export licenses must first be applied for and issued. Different authorities are responsible for issuing these permits, depending on the type of goods to be exported: the Federal Office for Economics and Export Control (BAFA), the state institutes for agriculture and food, the state institutes for pharmaceuticals and medical products and other specific state authorities such as the municipal veterinary office. An EORI number is required to apply for export permits. The Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control forwards some of the applications to other authorities, such as the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy or the Federal Intelligence Service. In addition to the application, a declaration of the final destination of the goods must be submitted and the order and contract documents as well as, if applicable, technical documents submitted.

Since exporting companies also have to comply with the import regulations of the country of destination, this may result in further contacts with public authorities in Germany. It may happen that none, some or all of the following evidence has to be obtained from the company. This depends on the requirements of the business relationship and the import requirements in the country of destination. For example, you can apply for a proof of preference at the customs office. This proof certifies that the goods are being exported within the framework of a free trade agreement and that the corresponding company in the country of destination is therefore entitled to avail itself of customs exemptions or discounts. In addition, a certificate of origin for the goods to be exported can be requested from the chambers of industry and commerce and the chambers of crafts. The certificate of origin can be applied for online using the web application introduced at the end of 2019. In contrast to the preference certificate, this certificate certifies that the exporter is not a member of a trade agreement and for this reason has to pay customs duties in full. In many countries this certificate of origin is a prerequisite for importing goods. To apply for the proof of preference at the customs authorities and the certificate of origin at the chambers of industry and commerce, evidence of the origin of the goods and each of its components must be submitted. Furthermore, commercial invoices can be certified by the chambers.

Before the goods can be exported, the export must be registered with the customs authorities. This registration is different depending on the value of the delivery. If the value is less than EUR 1,000 or weighing less than 1,000 kg, no written formalities need to be completed. The goods can be declared verbally by stating the goods number, number and, if applicable, the required export permits. The border customs office then issues a confirmation of the final export to the exporter. However, if the value of the goods exceeds 3,000 euros, the export declaration must be submitted in writing to the responsible party. For this purpose, among other things, the goods number and the number must be specified and the export permits that may be required must be submitted. The inland customs office transmits the notification to the border customs office and to the Federal Statistical Office for the purposes of foreign trade statistics. The exporting company then receives the export accompanying document (ABD) from the inland customs office, which must be presented to the border customs office. This document is valid for the tax office as proof of the tax-free export of goods. The exporter receives confirmation of the final export from the border customs office. The goods can then be exported to non-EU countries. If, on the other hand, the value of the goods is between EUR 1,000 and EUR 3,000, the exporting company can freely choose whether the declaration should be made orally at the border customs office or whether the written route should be taken via the inland customs office.

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