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Honeymoon and wedding abroad: German Customs shows no mercy

Aug 4, 15 • Customs LawNo Comments

Nowadays, people search for new partners without minding any borders. More frequently, cross-border relationships lead to multi-national marriages. As a result, more couples take the opportunity to celebrate their wedding abroad.

Wedding presents are exempted from import sales tax and custums duties in Germany

On this occasion, wedding gifts are typically given to the newly-weds, in order to help them getting a good start in their shared future. Upon returning to the European Economic Area, however, distressing surprises can occur. Wedding presents, dowries, and trousseau are in principle exempted from import sales tax and customs duties by the Customs Exemption Regulation. However, looking at the details, several issues can occur.


German customs area in Frankfurt: customs issues after an international trip

Wedding presents are only tax-free as they do not exceed a value of EUR 1,000 per gift. While the regulation is quite simple, in reality it confronts the parties concerned with complicated problems. It is unusual to give the bridal couple the invoice for the gift at the same time as the present. As a result, the recipients do not know exactly what the value of the respective gift is.

Missed declaration leads to criminal investigation proceedings

In addition, in a number of countries the local habit includes providing the bride with gold jewelry as a wedding gift. The value of the jewelry can be subject to considerable fluctuations, depending on the weight and purity of the precious metal.

If gifts are imported without declaration, German customs authorities, for example at Frankfurt Airport, respond by initiating criminal investigation proceedings due to tax evasion. The “good start” of the couples shared future then develops rapidly into a conviction due to tax evasion.

Legal advice becomes necessary if German customs start investigation

As in all situations with custom authorities, a customs declaration should be submitted in advance. In this way, the parties concerned know what documents are required for entry in order to avoid an unpleasant encounter with custom officials. Travelers who are not familiar with the Customs Exemption Regulation should always obtain legal advice.

German and European Customs Law
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Stefan Winheller

Attorney Stefan Winheller has specialized in tax law for about 20 years, especially in the areas of cryptocurrencies, foundations/nonprofits and international tax law.

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