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Trading in goods with other countries

Trading in goods with other countries

An introduction to trading in goods, and how to handle customs and VAT when trading inside and outside the EU.

You must know whether you are trading in goods or services in order to do the right thing when it comes to VAT and customs. Goods are usually things you can touch. The question of whether you are trading in goods or services has an impact on the assessment of the country of taxation, tax liability and tax rate.

The EU has a common market with mostly common rules. Within the EU, goods can essentially move freely across borders without customs checks or customs duties.

Trade rules that apply within the EU

Is trade free for all goods within the EU?

Although the EU has a common market, there may be special provisions for some goods when brought into Sweden or another EU country. This applies to pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs of animal origin, live animals and firearms and ammunition. No matter which country you intend to trade with, find out what applies in that country and for your kind of goods.

Restrictions on free movement within EU at the Swedish Customs (in Swedish)

What rules apply for customs?

There is free movement of goods within the EU, so you do not have to pay customs duties or submit a customs declaration. There are, however, parts of the EU that are outside the EU’s common fiscal territories, and different rules apply for them.

Areas outside the EU fiscal territory at the Swedish Customs (in Swedish)

Buying and selling goods outside the EU’s fiscal territory

  • If you buy goods from, or sell goods to, an area that is not part of the EU’s/EEA's fiscal territory, you must declare the goods to the Swedish Customs. As a rule, you must also report your purchases and sales in your VAT return to the Swedish Tax Agency. You do not have to pay any customs duty.
  • To declare goods at customs, you need a special registration number. This is called an EORI number. You apply to the Swedish Customs for an EORI number.

Apply for an EORI number at the Swedish Customs

What are the rules for VAT in the EU? 

The EU is a common market, and the same VAT rules apply in all Member States, except for certain areas outside the EU’s fiscal territory. If you buy goods from another EU country, the seller generally does not charge any VAT on the sale. You must then yourself report Swedish VAT on your purchases in the VAT return. If you sell goods to another EU country, as a rule, you should not charge any VAT on the sale. You report the sales in the VAT return and in an EC Sales List (recapitulative statement. There are exceptions.

The Swedish Tax Agency’s guide to trading in goods with other countries gives you an overview of the rules on VAT.

Guide to trading in goods with other countries at the Swedish Tax Agency (in Swedish)
VAT on foreign trade at the Swedish Tax Agency

Is the product subject to rules on excise duty?

There are specific consumption taxes on certain selected goods and services – for example, alcohol, energy, tobacco, chemicals and pesticides. When you shop with goods subject to excise duty, it can be handled differently depending on which excise duty it is. The Swedish Tax Agency's page on excise duties contains information on the various taxes.

Excise duties at the Swedish Tax Agency (in Swedish)

Producer responsibility

There is a statutory producer responsibility for electrical and electronic equipment, batteries, packaging, tyres and cars. This means that the producer, and also importers, must take responsibility for products released on the market, and for collecting and recycling them. This producer responsibility applies to both producers and importers in Sweden, and it also applies to exporters and producers in several other EU countries. Many companies fulfil this responsibility by joining a producer responsibility organisation in the country in which they bear responsibility for the products.

Producer responsibility for electrical equipment and batteries

Are there specific product requirements? 

In the EU, there are common product requirements for certain goods, such as toys and electronics. Regardless of whether you buy goods from, or sell goods to, countries within the EU, these requirements apply. If you sell products covered by EU legislation you must make sure that they meet EU requirements and are CE-marked, if applicable.

If there are no common EU product requirements for the goods, you must make sure that they meet Swedish product requirements. You must also make sure that they meet the requirements of the Swedish Product Safety Act.

If you are selling products to another EU country you may have to make sure that your product meet national product requirements in that country. In general, the principle of mutual recognition should be applied on the EU internal market. The principle states that a product that is lawfully marketed in one EU country should be able to circulate freely in another Member State. There are however exceptions to this principle. You will find more information about this in the links below.

Help with product requirements at the National Board of Trade Sweden (in Swedish)

Standards, certification and marking of products

The rules of trade differ when you trade inside or outside the EU. World trade is regulated by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Sometimes free trade agreements are concluded between countries in order to further facilitate trade.

Trade rules that apply outside the EU

The EU’s trade agreements at the National Board of Trade Sweden

All of the EU’s trade agreements at the European Commission

When you import or export goods outside the EU, it is a good idea to consider the following:

Is a permit required?

For certain kinds of goods, special rules and provisions apply if you are importing from, or exporting to, countries outside the EU. 

When it comes to imports of goods into Sweden, there are special restrictions on, for example, food, agricultural products, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, iron, steel and aluminum. Examples of goods subject to export restrictions are agricultural products and food, certain types of waste, cultural artefacts, weapons and products that can be used for military purposes.

If your goods are subject to restrictions, you must generally have an import or export license, or some other permit.

Goods with import restrictions at the Swedish Customs

Export restrictions at the Swedish Customs

Rules for trade with endangered species

Many plants and animals are in danger of extinction. In order to protect endangered species and biodiversity, the countries of the world have agreed to limit such trade. This agreement is called CITES. Trade in the most endangered species is banned within Sweden and the EU. However, in certain cases, you can secure an exemption from the ban by applying for a CITES certificate. If you intend to import or export endangered species between Sweden and countries outside the EU, you will need a CITES permit in most cases.

What rules apply for customs?

When you import goods from, or exporting goods to, countries outside the EU, you need to apply for an EORI number and declare your goods to the Swedish Customs.

How does it work with VAT? 

The EU is a customs union that has a customs border with non-EU countries. This means that EU countries have common rules on customs duties and VAT. If you buy goods from a country outside the EU, the seller generally does not charge any VAT on the sale. You must then yourself report Swedish VAT on your purchases in the VAT return. If you sell goods to countries outside the EU, as a rule, you should not charge any VAT on the sale. You report the sale in the VAT return. There are exceptions.

The Swedish Tax Agency’s guide to trading in goods with other countries gives you an overview of the rules on VAT.

Guide to trading in goods at the Swedish Tax Agency (in Swedish)
VAT on foreign trade at the Swedish Tax Agency

Are the goods subject to rules on excise duty?

There are special consumption taxes on specifically selected goods and services such as tax on alcohol, energy and tobacco. These taxes are known as excise duties. Most excise duties, like other taxes, provide the State with income but have often been introduced for other reasons.

According to the main rule, excise duty is payable in the country to which the goods are moved and at the tax rates applicable in that country (destination principle). To avoid double taxation, it is possible to reclaim the excise duty paid in the country of dispatch.

Excise duties at the Swedish Tax Agency

Producer responsibility

There is a statutory producer responsibility for electrical and electronic equipment, batteries, packaging, tyres and cars. This means that the producer, and also importers, must take responsibility for products released on the market, and for collecting and recycling them. This producer responsibility applies to both producers and importers in Sweden, and it also applies to exporters and producers in several other EU countries. Many companies fulfil this responsibility by joining a producer responsibility organisation in the country in which they bear responsibility for the products.

Producer responsibility for electrical equipment and batteries

Are there specific product requirements?

In the EU, there are common product requirements for certain goods, such as toys and electronics. If you import such goods to Sweden, you must make sure that they meet EU requirements and are CE-marked, if applicable. 

If there are no common EU product requirements for the goods, you must make sure that they meet Swedish product requirements. 

When exporting, you should carefully examine the terms that apply in the country to which you want to sell.

Producer safety and CE-marking

Invoicing rules

When exporting, you must observe the Swedish invoicing rules for VAT. This applies regardless of whether a product is sold in Sweden or in the buyer’s country, and regardless of who the buyer is.

Invoicing at the Swedish Tax Agency (in Swedish)

When you send an invoice abroad, it makes things easier if it is in a language that both you and the buyer understand. Some information must be included by law, and the invoice should also contain payment details, such as your IBAN number and BIC/SWIFT.

Download an invoice template from Business Sweden’s website (in Swedish)

The Swedish Tax Agency continuously gives webinars on, for example, how to deal with VAT if you sell services to, or buy services from, other countries. Of course, it's completely free to participate!

Join the Swedish Tax Agency's webinars at their website

Contact the National Board of Trade Sweden about trade barriers

If you encounter problems when trading with other countries, you can report it to the NationalBoard of Trade Sweden. They work to resolve trade barriers in many different ways, both inside and outside the EU. Help is provided free of charge.

How to report trade barriers at the National Board of Trade Sweden (in Swedish)
Report trade barriers with countries inside the EU/EEAat the National Board of Trade Sweden

Contact the Swedish Customs about customs-related issues

Contact the Swedish Customs for help with customs-related issues.

The page Contact us at the Swedish Customs

Contact the Swedish Tax Agency’s tax information service

The tax information service at the Swedish Tax Agency answers all kinds of questions relating to tax.

The page Contact us at the Swedish Tax Agency

Contact the Swedish Tax Agency’s information service about excise duties

Get in touch with the Swedish Tax Agency if you have any questions about excise duties, such as deferral procedure, collateral, EMCS, e-AD, repayment of excise duty and double taxation.

Contact the Swedish Tax Agency’s special information service for excise duties

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