My allowance in Switzerland

Haha… gotcha!  If you think I’m going to be talking about the ‘pocket money’ that the Man is going to give me.  Well, that’s not quite it but let’s talk about a topic pretty close to my heart – Shopping!  Okay, I promise I won’t bore you with this one.  This one actually contains useful information on duty-free allowances on shopping done abroad for those residing in Switzerland.  Guess what?  It takes us all of 15 minutes to cross over the border and head to France to do our shopping.  That’s even nearer than us going to Johor Bahru back at home.

Many foreigners and Swiss, particularly those living in border areas (eg: Basel, Geneva and Lugano) actually take advantage of the generally lower prices outside Switzerland and do their weekly shopping abroad.  Almost half the residents in Geneva (one-third of whom are foreigners) regularly do the bulk of their shopping in France and overall around 15 per cent of Swiss residents regularly shop abroad.  Germany, France and Italy all have a lower cost of living than Switzerland.  Many food items and wine are up to 50 per cent cheaper in the above-mentioned 3 countries.

Prices in Germany are lower for most goods and you will often save around 25 to 30 per cent even after paying Swiss VAT and receiving the German VAT refund.  We kinda knew because on our recent trip to Munich, we actually stuffed in our luggage, dish-washing tabs and cleaning liquids for the toilet.  Yeah, we’re known to check out the supermarket when we travel.  And we especially love going to Carrefour in France for the groceries definitely are a lot cheaper there.

So here’s the useful bit of infor I promised you; the Swiss customs regulations allow duty-free purchases up to CHF 300 with the following restrictions (amounts per person and per day):

  • 1 litre/ kg of butter and cream
  • 5 litre/ kg of milk, cheese, yogurt and other diary products
  • 2.5 kg of eggs
  • 20 kgs of any vegetable or fruit
  • 2.5 kg of potatoes (including chips!) [*good to know since I know stocking up on chips!!]
  • 20 kg of flour or flour-based products (bread, cakes, etc)
  • 3.5 kg of meat and meat products.  This may include a maximum of 500g of fresh or frozen meat (oxen, sheep, lamb, horses, goats and pigs)

Also, people over 17 years can import the following items:

  • 2 litres of wine or champagne and 1 litre of alcohol (if you import more than one litre, duty on excess amount is likely to equal or exceed its cost)
  • 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of pipe tobacco (double for visitors domiciled outside Europe)

At the Swiss border you must declare what you’ve purchased and if asked, must produce receipts to verify the place of origin and the price paid.  When you exceed the permitted tax-free limit, you’re liable to pay VAT of 7.6 per cent on ALL your purchases, including the duty-free allowance.  [What?  They take the duty-free allowance from us?  Yikes!]

In the handbook, it’s also said that Swiss custom officials are usually reasonable and flexible.  Unless you’re a big-time smuggler, they often treat you fairly.

We don’t know if that is true but we are definitely not taking chances.  So each time that we cross the border to do our shopping, the Man is rather diligent in declaring what we’ve bought when we get stopped by the customs officers.

5 thoughts on “My allowance in Switzerland

    • Lady J says:

      Hehe… it’s okay… I was just being ‘cheeky’ 🙂 Yeah but it’s amazing how close we live to the border of France.. Heh

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