Most consumer products can be imported into Norway without any requirement for import licence or permits. However, for many products and product types, registration and approval are mandatory, or specific requirements will apply to the products.
Before you begin importing from abroad, it is therefore important that you familiarise yourself with the rules that apply and the requirements that are imposed on the products you intend to import. It is your responsibility as importer to ensure that you fulfil all the requirements.
There are three main types of taxes and duties which can be imposed on imports: value added tax, excise duties and customs duties.
When you import goods, you must apply for permission from Norwegian Customs to have the goods at your disposal, i.e. you must declare imports. There will generally be a carrier (or shipping agent) which transports the goods from the supplier abroad and carries out the declaration procedure through Norwegian Customs' customs clearance system TVINN. The declaration forms the basis for calculating duties and taxes. You can also apply to Norwegian Customs for permission to declare through TVINN yourself. In order to obtain permission to declare via TVINN, an enterprise must meet the relevant conditions imposed by Norwegian Customs.
The general rule is that Norwegian value added tax (VAT) must be added when goods are imported into Norway. For some types of goods, such as alcohol and tobacco products, excise duties will be payable upon import. Customs duties are also imposed on some types of goods. Imports of textiles, food products and animal feeds are generally subject to customs duties. These taxes must not be confused with the fee that the carrier/shipping agent charges in order to carry out the customs clearance, even though this fee is often called a customs clearance fee, customs fee or similar.
You will find an overview of customs rates in the customs tariff on Norwegian Customs' website.
If you need help to find article numbers in the customs tariff and associated customs rates, you can contact Norwegian Customs here.
Value added tax on imports
The basis for calculating VAT in connection with imports is determined using the customs value. This is generally the amount you have paid for or will pay for the goods abroad, including transport and insurance costs to Norway, and other costs such as packaging costs, plus any customs duties and excise duties. Note that if your enterprise is registered for VAT, it is you who must calculate the VAT payable on the imports and report the amount to the Norwegian Tax Administration via the Tax return for value added tax.
When you (or the shipping agent) have imported or exported goods to or from Norway, you will receive a customs declaration summary in Altinn on the second working day of the following month. This overview contains all customs clearances which have been carried out during the period. The customs declaration overview in Altinn can be a useful aid when you have to complete the Tax return for value added tax.
If your enterprise is not registered for VAT, VAT must be paid to Norwegian Customs or via the shipping agent/carrier.
Businesses that purchase services which are liable for VAT from other countries must calculate Norwegian VAT on their imports themselves. This is known as reverse tax liability and must be reported to the Norwegian Tax Administration. If your sales are not liable for VAT or you have not yet registered for VAT, you must declare VAT on imports of services by submitting a form called VAT return for reverse tax liability. If you are already registered in the VAT register, you must calculate Norwegian VAT on your imports and report the amount via the ordinary VAT return.
Every year, the Norwegian Parliament sets excise duties for some goods which are produced in Norway or imported into the country. The duty rates and the calculation of duties will vary depending on which goods subject to excise duty you are importing.
For some goods of this type, such as alcohol, you must register with the Norwegian Tax Administration as liable for excise duty. You must then declare and pay the appropriate excise duty via the Tax return for excise duty when you withdraw the goods from a warehouse which has been approved by the Norwegian Tax Administration. The warehouse must be approved when you register as being liable for excise duty.
For other goods subject to excise duty, such as chocolate and sugar products, you can decide whether you wish to register as liable for excise duty. If you have registered, you must pay the duty when you withdraw the goods from an approved warehouse. If you are not registered as liable for excise duty for the goods you are actually importing, the carrier will normally pay the duty payable at the time of import.
You can find an overview of the goods that are subject to excise duty on the Norwegian Tax Administration's website.
An example calculation of VAT on the importing of goods not subject to customs duty or excise duty is presented here:
|Purchase of goods from Germany||NOK 10,000|
|=Customs value||NOK 10,600|
|+Excise duties||NOK 0|
|+Customs duties||NOK 0|
|+25% VAT (must be specified in the Tax return for value added tax)||NOK 2,650|
|=Basis for VAT||NOK 10,600|
Concerning imports of food products
If you intend to import food products (primarily food and beverages), cosmetics, plants and certain other types of goods, you must register as an importer with the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. Food products which are sold in Norway must be safe in terms of health, and the contents and labelling must comply with Norwegian rules. You are responsible for ensuring that the regulations are complied with.
To register as an importer with the Food Safety Authority, your business must have a business number (sub-number). The Food Safety Authority provides more information on the registration procedure on its website.
When you import food products from countries outside the EU/EEA area, you must notify the Food Safety Authority of the import in advance. This is done through the Food Safety Authority's form services. There is no notification obligation for food products from the EU.
Imports of alcohol
Anyone involved in commercial import of alcoholic beverages must register as an importer of foodstuffs with the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA). If you import beverages from countries outside of the EU/EEA, you are required to provide the NFSA with advance notice of all consignments.
If you purchase alcohol abroad and transport it to Norway yourself, you are required to declare the import to the Norwegian Customs at the border.
A license is required when importing or producing alcoholic beverages for sale to end consumers through your own establishment. This normally means applying for an extended license to serve alcohol, or a license to sell alcohol from your municipality.
Enterprises importing or producing alcoholic beverages must register for excise duties with the Norwegian Tax Administration. You must register no later than one month before the production or import commences. The excise duties are paid by submitting the Excise tax return when the goods are removed from the warehouse premises. The Tax Administration must approve the warehouse premises when you register for excise duties.
Drop shipping is a 'business model' where an enterprise has an online store without a warehouse. When customers order goods from the online store, you will generally have an agreement with one or more suppliers, who will then send the goods directly to your customers.
The main advantage of this business model is that you avoid warehousing costs and the risks associated with buying in stocks. However, there are also a number of challenges associated with this model. The model can for example result in inferior supplier reliability (it is more difficult to know whether the goods are available and whether the customer actually receives the goods). Problems can also arise linked to complaints and the payment of taxes and duties in connection with imports.
When you use the drop shipping model, there is a risk that your customers will have to pay VAT twice (both when paying via the online store and when the goods are received from the carrier). In order to avoid this, it is common to agree that the foreign sender will add your name (the name of the online store) as the invoice recipient on the customs documents. You will then receive the customs documents which form the basis for your VAT report, while the customer receives the goods.
If your enterprise has not yet been registered for VAT, the carrier must carry out the customs clearance and pay the VAT for you.
If your customers are located abroad, you must not calculate Norwegian VAT on your sales, as sales to other countries are considered to be exports even if the goods are not in Norway. Exports are exempt from Norwegian VAT. This means that you must make sure you have a payment system that can distinguish between Norwegian and foreign customers. There may also be complicated issues relating to VAT or other similar taxes if the supplier and customer are both situated in the same tax region (such as the EU).