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The following explanations are based on the Ordinance of the FDF of 24 March 2011 on the Tax Exemption of Domestic Supplies of Goods for the Purpose of Exportation in Tourist Traffic (SR 641.202.2; Exportation in Tourist Traffic Ordinance). Unless otherwise indicated, the article references concern this ordinance.
Sales in tourist traffic to persons domiciled abroad are deemed to be domestic supplies and are therefore taxable.
Sales in tourist traffic are exempt from tax only if all of the following conditions are met:
If one or more of the above conditions are not met, the supplier must tax the goods supplied.
Form no. 11.49 and form no. 11.49 [A] remain valid, but they are no longer printed. In their place, the FTA has drafted a sample export document, which can be downloaded from its website.
Suppliers (= sellers) can also draft their own export documents. These must contain the following points:
When leaving, the buyer must present the goods and completed export document at a manned Swiss customs office without being requested to do so. The export customs office sends the confirmed export document to the supplier if it is provided with a self-addressed stamped envelope.
The supplier or buyer is responsible for taking the steps necessary to obtain confirmation of the export document. The Federal Customs Administration (FCA) is not obliged to notify persons leaving Switzerland about the export confirmation required by the supplier for tax exemption.
If no Customs officers are present at the time of departure, confirmation of exportation can be provided solely by a recognised office abroad. Export documents that are placed in the declaration box at the Swiss customs office will be returned by the FCA to the supplier unstamped. Exportation therefore cannot be proved in this way.
If the confirmation of exportation is not provided by the FCA at the time of departure, the buyer has the following evidence options:
Recognised offices abroad include:
Only those import assessments that are written in a Swiss national language or English will be accepted. If the confirmation is in another language, a certified translation into one of those languages must be enclosed.
To make for easier understanding, only the term "tourist group" will be used for "foreign escorted tourist group" in the explanations below.
The supplier can apply the provisions mentioned above for tourist groups or, alternatively, take advantage of the special rules for tourist groups (Art. 7). These special rules offer the supplier the possibility of selling goods to members of escorted tourist groups directly without VAT within Switzerland. In this case, it is not necessary to leave the country via a manned Swiss customs office or subsequently obtain confirmation from a recognised office abroad. The right to carry out checks within the scope of the customs authority's usual inspections in the cross-border movement of goods and persons remains reserved.
The prerequisites for tax-free deliveries by the supplier to members of tourist groups are set out in the authorisation application form (form no. 1238). If the FTA grants authorisation, the seller can apply the special rules.
A tourist group consists of tour members who bought an organised tour from a commercial tour operator active in the travel industry. The tourist group consists of at least two members and must be accompanied by a commercially active tour guide from the time of group entry in Switzerland to group departure from Switzerland.
Examples; the following are not tourist groups:
Examples; the following are tourist groups:
By signing, the tour operator or the tour guide as an agent of the tour operator must confirm in a declaration for the supplier (seller) that
The tour guide does not necessarily have to be present when the tourist group arrives in and leaves Switzerland. It is possible for the tour guide to meet the tourist group directly after arrival in Switzerland and to leave the group again directly before departure (e.g. at the airport).
The tourist group does not necessarily have to shop as a group in the supplier's retail outlet. It can happen that a separate programme is proposed and that a tourist group is divided up. It is irrelevant whether the tour members opt for a programme component when booking the trip or shortly beforehand. In such cases, however, it absolutely must be obvious for the supplier and also evident in the list of tour members which tour members from which tourist group are buying in the shop.
A tourist group commences their tour at Zurich airport. The tour guide and tour members travelled individually to the meeting point at Zurich airport. Even if the tour members all took the same plane, the tour operator or tour guide cannot confirm that all of the tour members entered the country together, as the inbound and outbound trips were not organised for the tourist group as such. If a declaration does not contain confirmation from the tour operator or tour guide that all members entered the country together and will leave together, the group is not deemed a tourist group in accordance with the ordinance.
The supplier (seller) must have the following documents and details:
The supplier must file the aforementioned documents (and details) together for each tourist group, and present them to the FTA upon request (e.g. within the scope of a VAT check).
Tax exemption can be claimed solely by the supplier. The buyer cannot request a refund of Swiss VAT from either the FTA or the FCA. The civil courts, and not the FTA or FCA, are responsible for assessing any disputes with regard to refunds (Art. 6 para. 2 of the VAT Act).
If as a precautionary measure the supplier charges the VAT due to a customer domiciled abroad and does not refund it until after receipt of the confirmed export document or the unconfirmed export document together with the import assessment issued by a foreign customs authority, the supplier does not need to issue a credit note to the buyer for the value added tax.
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