On 23 March 2020, the Federal Customs Administration officially published a set of measures to support companies affected by the coronavirus during this challenging time. The package is especially focused on simplifications regarding payment settlement and operational customs clearing handling for specific types of goods and professional groups.
- The Federal Customs Administration has granted the option to pay invoices in instalments or to postpone them for up to a maximum of 90 days. In individual cases, heavily affected companies can even apply for a payment extension of up to 180 days.
- Companies that wish to benefit from these payment conditions must file a legally binding, signed formal application with the Federal Customs Administration by email to email@example.com. No justification needs to be provided in the application form. The Federal Customs Administration will not charge any administrative fees for the service.
- The Federal Customs Administration has also stopped issuing any reminders for outstanding invoice payments. This is expected to continue until 20 May 2020. However, it is important to understand that payment deadlines for invoices will still apply, unless payment facilities are requested. The payment term for customs duties is 5 days and for import VAT 60 days.
- Furthermore, to support businesses, the Federal Customs Administration is waiving the levying of interest on late payments and of reminder fees on value-added tax, customs duties, special excise taxes and incentive taxes until 31 December 2020.
- Companies that paid a cash deposit as a security for a customs deferment account (centralised settlement procedure (ZAZ)) can apply for a reimbursement. Companies that are currently forced to stop their business and thus do not currently need the deferment account for import customs clearing could possibly make use of this option. Companies that wish to apply for a reimbursement must file a legally binding, signed formal application with the Federal Customs Administration by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. However, only companies that do not benefit from payment facilities can apply for a reimbursement.
- The Federal Customs Administration is also waiving security increases in the event of a security shortfall in the deferment account.
- In order to ensure the supply of protective clothing and other materials such as masks, disposable gloves and gowns, these types of goods may now be imported by the cantons and the Swiss Confederation exempt from duties without a license until further notice. Other non-governmental importers may also benefit from duty-exempt imports without having a license but require a confirmation from any of the cantons or the Swiss Confederation.
- The Federal Customs Administration has also introduced priority lanes at the border (so-called green lanes) for medical goods, food and beverages, mineral oil products, parcels and letters, and a specific group of individuals (e.g. commuters) working in the healthcare area or blue-light organisations (police, ambulance, etc.). The use of green lanes requires written approval from the Federal Customs Administration.
- The Federal Customs Administration has also extended the business hours for customs clearing goods to be imported, exported or transited via priority lanes upon advance notification.
- After importation and placement under customs control at the approved domicile, Authorised Consignees (ACC) must generally declare the goods to a subsequent customs procedure with the Federal Customs Administration after a period of 30 days. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Customs Administration has decided that no customs declarations must be filed in the period from 1 April 2020 up to and including 30 June 2020.
Practical points of interest and next steps
At PwC we see opportunities for companies to cope with problems they are facing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This set of measures introduced by the Federal Customs Administration shows the willingness of the Federal Council to assist companies in these challenging times. On another note, applying these measures in practice will prove to be a big challenge. Align with your business associates to make sure all necessary precautions are taken into consideration.