In principle, you need to pay customs duties and Swiss VAT on any product you order from abroad.
In most cases, only the shipping costs are paid by the sender. Customs duties, VAT and customs clearance charges, on the other hand, are automatically charged to the recipient unless the sender has clearly specified otherwise in the waybill.
In practice, customs duties and VAT amounting to less than CHF 5 per customs declaration are not invoiced. You can also avoid these charges if, for example, you order a maximum of CHF 200-worth of books online (or other products also subject to a reduced VAT of 2.5%), or CHF 62.50-worth of purchases subject to 7.7% VAT.
Gifts sent to you by a private individual are also exempt from customs fees if their value does not exceed CHF 100. This exemption does not apply to cigarettes or alcohol.
Customs fees can vary widely. In Switzerland, the recipient of a package needs to pay the following fees:
VAT on the value of the goods ordered (including shipping costs)
Customs duties on the gross weight
Additional costs for products such as tobacco and jewellery
Postal and shipping services (including Swiss Post, DHL and UPS) take care of all the customs clearance formalities. They charge a fee for this, which may vary depending on the country of origin.
Swiss Post charges a minimum of CHF 11.50 and a maximum of CHF 70 for processing the customs clearance. Have a look at the FAQ on Swiss Post’s website about import duties for goods ordered.
If your online purchase has not arrived, contact the seller of the product abroad or the customer service of the carrier. The Federal Office for Customs and Border Security cannot provide any information about tracking packages. When you order a product online, the seller will generally send you an email with links to track your package.
On the Swiss Post website, you can find more information, including a video, that provides simple explanations about how import parcels clear customs.
Swiss Post has a web page with FAQ on its website about import duties for goods ordered.
The Federal Office for Customs and Border Security provides more information about online shopping, mail and courier consignments.
The Federal Tax Administration provides detailed information about VAT rates for different products (web page available in German, French and Italian).
The ch.ch website has a web page with information about shopping tourism.