Exporting to Germany

With a central European location, Germany is a gateway to the European Union.

For the majority of goods entering the European Union, there is no requirement to obtain an import licence. In addition, the majority of goods are not subject to import quotas. However, any goods being imported into the European Union or Germany must comply with EU and German law.

When importing goods into Germany, the importer must be registered in Germany in the usual way and be entered in the companies register.

If a business is importing into Germany and the EU for the first time, it must register as an economic operator and receive a customs number/EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification). This is a unique number given to companies and individuals when they undertake transactions which are subject to the EU’s customs legislation.

Generally, your business should ensure that all matters concerning payment, insurance, the passing of risk and property, as well as delivery are agreed in advance.

Import licences and restrictions

Although the majority of products being imported into the European Union are not subject to import restrictions or licensing requirements, some sectors are regulated. Products in the textile or agricultural sectors, for example, may be subject to conditions, restrictions or even prohibitions on import.

The import of ladies’ cotton blouses (cat. 7) from China, for example, is subject to labelling conditions and restrictions on the use of certain chemical substances. If the same products were to be imported from Belarus, the importer would be required to obtain an import licence which would be issued subject to a quota.

Import tariffs

Before exporting to Germany and the European Union, you should check whether you will have to pay duty. Binding import tariff information is provided by the European Union upon application.

This information provides certainty as to the classification of your goods and the duties that will be levied. To obtain such information, you should apply to the customs authorities in the EU country to which you intend to export.

Customs clearance

All goods imported into the EU must be declared to the customs authorities in the so-called Single Administrative Document (SAD). The importer will also require a number of other documents including the commercial invoice, freight documents and import documents.

The main information an importer must declare on the SAD document include: identity of the importer/exporter, the reason for import (free circulation, transit), customs code of the goods, commercial and financial information.

A customs value declaration must be presented to the authorities if the products to be imported exceed a value of 10,000 euros. This will enable the authorities to assess the value of the transaction and apply the relevant tariff.

Value added tax

VAT may be charged on imports. It is levied in the same way as import duty, either at the country of entry or the country of destination. Any VAT paid can usually be offset.

Boosting trade

Under its Generalised Scheme of Preferences, the European Union offers reduced customs tariffs to aid trade with and development in the poorest countries.

Globally, the EU has also concluded free trade and partnership agreements with a range of countries.

Defence mechanisms

While as a policy, the EU promotes free trade, it does use measures to prevent harm from dumped or subsided imports. These measures are based on rules set out by the World Trade Organisation and affect only a small number of imports into the European Union.

More information

For more information on exporting to Germany, contact our team of expert German lawyers on
+49 (0) 221 / 951 563 0 or use our contact form.


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Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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