Tax & Import Charges (Germany)

Tax and import charges can easily become difficult if you are not familiar with their details. Here we have gathered information to provide a quick overview how import charges are applied to items im-/exported to Germany. With thoughtful preparation you can help your customers save money.

Attention: For simplification the following sample calculations assume that $1 = 1€. And since the German import-turnover tax equals the German VAT (value added tax) and crowdfunding backers usually refer to it at VAT, we are using this term in our digest. VAT levels and import limits in other EU countries may vary.

Disclaimer: All information is subject to change, Board Game Circus can not be held responsible for any problems resulting of this information.

  • Type of Product
  • Books
  • Maps
  • Playing Cards
  • Board Games
  • Dice
  • Minis (non-human)
  • Miniatures (humans)
  • T-Shirts
  • Product Code
  • 49019900009
  • 49059900009
  • 95044000000
  • 95043020000
  • 95043090000
  • 95030049900
  • 95030021900
  • various
  • Duty Rate
  • 0%
  • 0%
  • 2,7%
  • 0%
  • 0%
  • 0%
  • 4,7%
  • usually 12%
  • Import Turnover Tax
  • 7%
  • 7%
  • 19%
  • 19%
  • 19%
  • 19%
  • 19%
  • 19%

Basic Amount calculation for import charges (for board games in general)

The basic amount for the calculation of the import charges is made up of two individual items:

basic amount = price of product + shipping price

Why is shipping included? The reason is that, in theory, customs needs to know the shipping price from the border of Germany to the destination city in Germany. Since splitting shipping into waypoints (from origin to border, from border to destination) is not possible for an item shipped from outside Germany, they take the total shipping costs as a basis for the calculation.

This has been true in the past and for now it’s accurate for the future. In most cases when we fetch a parcel from the customs office, the import charges are already pre-calculated based on this.

Calculation in detail:

Customs take a fixed day conversation rate for USD -> EUR as basis, from the day the parcel arrives.

(site language: German)

Dependent on the basic amount of the parcel, the import charges will be applied in three different ways:

1. Case: Basic Amount <= 22€

For a basic amount (item + shipping) below 22€, no import charges will be applied. No VAT (value added tax) and no import tax at all.

You may make use of what recently became popular as “VAT-friendly shipping”: If you send smaller packages with a realistically low declared value, to keep the basic amount incl. shipping below 22€, these will usually go through customs without any import charges.

Example of a previous delivery: “Card Game” with declared value of $15 + shipping $5 = basic amount $20, which is below 22€. This declaration made the package go through customs without further notice. Now you have learned, that the declared value is a key factor when it comes to import charges.

2. Case: Basic Amount > 22€ < 150€

For items in that price range, the buyer is charged the VAT (value added tax) of 19% (7% for books) and no import tax. (19% is true for Germany, other EU countries have different VAT levels).

VAT (value added tax) = basic amount * 0.19

That implies: For items with a basic amount of >22€ the German buyer has +19% additional costs for purchases from outside the EU. If you are running a crowdfunding campaign and want to ease purchases for people in the EU, you can either add extra content for for the EU to compensate the customs or bear some of the additional expenses by using some of your funds. Creators of previous Kickstarter campaigns have used both methods to please and attract new backers.

Example: “Card Game” ($15) + shipping ($5) = below 22€ = no charges. As soon as a second copy of the game is added, the value is above the limit of 22€: ($15 + $15 + $5 = $35 = ~35 €).

Import charges for that example:
VAT: 35€ * 0.19 = 6.65€

Conclusion: With the declared value of $15 per game and shipping costs of $5, a customer from the EU (Germany) would be charged roughly +7€ as soon as a second copy is purchased. Thus rising the price per game to $18,5 instead of $15 (+$3,50 per game). By declaring a lower value of i. e. $8 per game instead of $15, the total price including shipping would still be below 22€, in which case no import charges become due.

Minor Amount Clause:

If the import charge is < 5€, customs won't charge at all. Maybe because it isn't worth the effort? So practically you can send items up to 26€ and they will still be free of any charged. That is because 19% VAT on 26€ equals 4,94€, which is below 5€ and therefore free of charge. Source:;jsessionid=E47653FFBEFBF1501FEE301C34405FA7#doc99920bodyText3
(site language: German)

3. Case: Basic Amount > 150€

This one is a mess, because now it is getting expensive. The buyer has to pay VAT 19% (7% for books) and an additional import tax on some goods.

Sample Calculation 1 (board game only):
2x “Expensive Board Game” ($100 each): Since it is a board game, the import tax is 0% (see table) and the same rule as mentioned unter (2.) applies: the buyer has to pay 19% import tax only.

Import charges for that example:
VAT: 2 * 100€ * 0.19 = 38€

Sample Calculation 2 (bad declaration of multiple items):
2x “Fan-Package Board Game + T-Shirt” ($100 each):

If you have an invoice with 2x “Fan-Package Board Game + T-Shirt” listed as single item with one price, it may happen that the customs office will add 12% import tax (because there is a shirt in it and import tax for shirts is 12%).

Import charges for that example:
VAT: 2 * 100€ * 0.19 = 38€
Import Tax: 2 * 100€ * 0.12 = 24€
SUM: 38€ + 24€ = 62€

Sample Calculation 3 (same items, separately listed):
2x “Fan-Package Board Game + T-Shirt” ($100 each):

If the invoice separately lists “2x Board Game ($100)” and 2x “Free Promotional T-Shirt ($0)”, then the 12% import tax will only be applied to the shirt and total import charges would be like this:

VAT: 2 * 100€ * 0.19 = 38€
Import Tax: 2 *  0.00€ * 0.12 =  0.00 €
SUM: 38€ + 0.00€ = 38€

Conclusion: By comparing calculation 2 and 3 you can see, that the right declaration of all items, listed separately, will save your customers from Germany (EU) money.


In Germany (and possibly in other EU countries) it is mandatory to add a (tax) declaration and an invoice on the outside of the parcel. If you don’t do this, your customers have to walk to the customs office with a printed invoice and cash. The problem with this is, that the printed invoice (i. e. of Kickstarter) doesn’t make use of the lower declared value and only lists the MSRP = more import charges for the customer. It may also happen, that customs opens (and damages) the parcel to look at the content and estimate its value.

If there is a proper invoice on the outside, the post office will usually make it easy for the customer and deliver the parcel directly to the customers door.

Website references used for writing this digest: