Confusion on bringing a vehicle from Switzerland

British, been living in Switzerland for 13 years. When I moved to Switzerland from the UK I took my 4 year old motorcycle as part of my initial import. According to bilateral treaties with the EU I was charged no import duties nor was I charged VAT (MwsT). All I had to pay was the registration fees which were not much.

Now moving to France and wanting to bring my campervan from Switzerland. I bought it second hand for 40,000 and it is now 5 years old and has 35,000 Km. The local impot are telling me that while the bilateral agreements and the fact that Switzerland is in the EEA mean I do not have to pay import duties, I do have to pay 20% of the invoice value as VAT (TVA). €8,000, Clearly that would be a show stopper.

I understood (still understand) that when relocating there are different rules for that one off relocation import. Is this not the case in France?

I have been on every government site and contacted several departments trying to argue against this to no avail.

I think I’m screwed?

Hi Bob

Just wondering if you paid VAT in Switzerland, when you bought the campervan ???

It’s a good point but, in line with all EEA countries, VAT is not applicable to second hand vehicles. Of course, VAT was paid on the new vehicle by the previous owner.

I tried arguing with the impot that it’s second hand and therefore not liable for VAT. They completely failed to agree :disappointed:

Hi Bob…
sounds to me like you did not have the Bill of Sale from when you bought the vehicle second-hand … ???

Is that correct ??

In which case I am positive you could find it if you look carefully… :wink:

Hi Stella, no, I have the invoice and receipt.

Here’s the helpful reply I got from the impot:

suite à votre demande ci-dessous, je vous confirme que la Suisse ne faisant pas partie de l’Union européenne, les importations de marchandises en provenance de ce pays vont donner lieu à des formalités douanières d’importation avec paiement d’un éventuel droit de douane et la TVA française sur une valeur calculée au point d’entrée dans l’UE.
En complément, je vous prie de consulter la page dédiée sur ce sujet de notre site internet :

No mention of the European Economic Area which is what i asked them about and their standard reply mentions import duties - strange as I have already confirmed with the same office that import duties do not apply.

This does indeed sound crazy…

Douanes usually need: (using English lang)

Purchase Invoice (clearly identifying Vehicle, Seller,Buyer, Price and marked Paid)
Identity (eg Passport)
Proof of Residence in France
Current Mileage

Mind you, I have never imported a vehicle from Switzerland… but the above list works every time from UK…

Hopefully someone else can chime in with Swiss experience

The issue is that Switzerland is not a member of the EU. It is a member of the EEA. In appears the Swiss and French governments have a different idea of what that means.

OK Bob…

In your situation… as a last resort I would go to my Mairie and discuss the whole thing.

Sometimes, speaking with someone who knows me (and is on my side)…we find a way around or through the skein of bureaucracy … at the very least I can be confident that if they tell me “it is not possible”…it really is not possible…

Just a thought…

good luck…

As I read it importing a vehicle from the EEA you are exempt from the Droits de Douane but do have to pay 20% TVA. No import duties, just tax.

Hi David,

while that is normally true for French residents buying a vehicle abroad there is (or rather should be) a special case when relocating.

In that case you fill in a form and provide a list of all your worldly goods which you have owned for 6 months or more and these can be imported within a 12 month period free of all charges.

Going in to Switzerland the form has space for one vehicle per person which has to be imported within 12 months of entry and is free of import duties and VAT.

The French form (N° 10070 * 03) does not appear to anything relating to vehicles. As the agreement is bilateral it should work both ways. Apparently it doesn’t.

1 Like

This might be a repost as I tried before but can’t see it …

anyhoo, By jove I think I’ve got it.


Importation suite à un transfert de résidence normale

English translation:

Importation following a transfer of normal residence
In the case of importation of a vehicle following a transfer of normal residence, customs duties and VAT do not apply; If the following 3 conditions are met:

It is not a commercial vehicle,
The vehicle is in your possession and you have used it for more than 6 months (not required for residents from the overseas departments),
The taxes normally payable in the country of origin or origin have been paid.
The holder of the vehicle will still have to go to customs to obtain a clearance certificate 846A.

This opinion also appears to be backed up by this official looking document:

which states that vehicle can be included in the list of worldly goods as long as it’s not a business vehicle or one that had no taxes paid ever.

Let’s have another word with the local Impot …

That was on your first link. I thought that you had discounted it. It’s strange that they never mention Switzerland or the EEA.

Hello Bob
We moved from Switzerland 5 years ago and imported my Swiss Registered car. My husbands was originally British, which we had to change to Swiss registered after one year in Switzerland. It was going to cost a fortune to import it to France, so we ended up taking it back to the UK to have it re-registered back onto British plates, and then finally importing it to French plates. A real palavar but it was very much cheaper. If you want more information my husband will be able to help you.
Best regards Deborah

Hello again Bob
Just re-read your message. So your campervan is Swiss? In that case it should not be that expensive, will see if I can find out how much it cost for my car.

Regards Deborah

Hi Deborah, thanks for that info.

I believe you have hit the nail on the head. After yet another conversation with the customs people it is now apparent that the issue is due to the van having been a grey import from Germany - it was temporarily registered on German plates then imported with VAT being refunded. I assume VAT was paid in Switzerland but I have no proof. Therein lies the issue. So now it’s certain, can’t be affording the VAT so it’s staying in Switzerland.

Hello Bob, That’s a shame. Hope you can find something in France……we have found 2nd hand vehicles ridiculously expensive here. Quite a few people we know have purchased cars from Holland !
Good luck.


there are loads of camper vans on “le bon coin” … usually a good source for second hand items…

good luck

Compared to Switzerland everywhere is cheap :wink:

Yep, looking at boncoin. Definitely see some possibilities.


We have just moved from Switzerland to France with our car and I think we can help you with the process. We have tried to correct the information on the Glocals website, but most information online is incorrect. You should not have to pay anything if you are leaving Switzerland and permanently moving to France unless you sell the vehicle within 1 year of the move.

The process is not difficult but time consuming. It will take 2-3 months and you must not cancel your Swiss insurance during that time. You can not get insurance in France until you have a French Carte Grise.

Swiss Douane:

You must start with the Swiss Douane and inform them that you are leaving Switzerland and moving to France. They will ask for your Attestation of Departure which you need to get from the OCP, your Swiss Carte Grise and identification. They give you a form which is a copy of your Swiss Carte Grise, the original copy must be kept if you ever plan on moving back to Switzerland. This is the only involvement from the Swiss Douane.

French Douane:

There is a form detailing the data you need to supply to the French Douane but I will summarize.

  1. Attestation de Departure. They will require the original copy which they will keep. Make copies for futurerequests. Your departure date should be within 2 weeks of the date you go to the Douane. Otherwise, you will need to come back.

  2. Inventory of household contents, furniture, cars, etc and a declaration of honor stating that nothing of interest within 6 months of the departure date.

  3. 2 copies of the Swiss Carte Grise

  4. Proof of residence in France (2 copies) Rental agreement, Attestation de Vente or Attestation de la Mairie.

  5. 2 copies of your Passports

They will give you the forms which you will need to take to the Mairie to start the French Carte Grise process. You should not need to supply a European Certificate of Conformity for the vehicle to the Douane, but I showed them the one in acquired and you will need to have it for the required Control Technique in France. You can order it online or go back to the dealership.

You will have three months once you move to France to acquire your Carte Grise and French tags. The Mairie will send in the documents for you. The Mairie will give you forms to fill out plus you will need to send in the following:

Control Technique
Attestation de domicile
European CoC
Copies of Passports

Once all that is submitted and accepted you will receive the Carte Grise and plate number by mail. You can take the Carte Grise to your local Feu Vert or order your plates online. If you have survived all this the final step is pop riveting the tags to the chassis of your vehicle as required by law.

I hope this helps and I did not leave anything out. We went to the French Douane with our paperwork before leaving to be sure that we had everything we needed and were sure to make copies of everyting for our files.