How can you prepare for your arrival in France?

What can you do to make passing through customs, obtaining a tax refund, and entering France in your own vehicle easier? What kind of duty relief can you benefit from? To help you prepare for your stay in France, below are some answers to some important questions.

To avoid violations, customs informs you that certain goods such as counterfeit goods are prohibited, that others must be declared, and that others are to be avoided all together…

How to make passing through customs easier

Whether you’re arriving in France at a road crossing, a railway station, a port or an airport, there are two separate customs clearance channels. The one you must choose will depend on the nature and quantity of your goods:

  • the “green” channel: you have nothing to declare;
  • the “red” channel: you must declare your goods.

Note: for security and health reasons and for the protection of the environment you can be checked by customs authorities anywhere on French national territory, and not just at the French borders.

Your personal vehicle

If you live outside of the European Union, you will have no formalities to satisfy with regard to your personal vehicle when arriving in France for a stay of less than six months, as long as when you leave the country again you take your vehicle with you.

Important: during your stay in France, you are not permitted to lend or rent your car out to a resident of the European Union.

Duty relief from which you can benefit

If you are arriving in France from a country that is not a member of the European Union, you can benefit from duty relief if you are travelling with the goods you have purchased, meaning you don’t have to declare them or pay any duties and taxes. In fact, you don’t have to declare your goods at all if their total value or quantity does not surpass the authorised allowances. However, the total market value of the goods should not exceed the following amounts:

  • travellers over the age of 15 years: 430 euros for air and sea transport; 300 euros for all other transport;
  • travellers under the age of 15 years: 150 euros, regardless of the mode of transport.

All items of a value higher than the stated allowances must be declared and the value added tax (TVA) and customs duties usually applicable must be paid for by you.

In addition to this duty relief, upon your arrival in mainland France, you may benefit from quantitative exemption meaning you don’t have to declare your goods or pay any duties and taxes, which notably applies to alcoholic drinks, perfumes, eau de toilette, tobacco and tobacco products.

Goods that must be declared

Cash and values
Both upon arrival in and departure from France, you must declare cash, securities and values of an amount equal to or higher than 10,000 euros to customs administration which may then carry out checks in this domain with the aim of taking action against money laundering resulting from illegal trafficking, of drugs notably.
Cultural goods
Works of art classed as “cultural goods” cannot be removed from French territory in the absence of an accompanying authorisation from the Ministry of Culture, which can take the form of a movement certificate or an export licence.
Weapons and ammunition controls
In order to help maintain public security and to take concrete action against the proliferation of weapons, French customs carry out controls on imported and exported war materials, weapons and ammunition, which includes intra-communal relations. Therefore, depending on their category and their country of origin, their entry into France is subject to certain customs formalities: prior transfer agreement, transfer permit, import authorisation for war materials, weapons and ammunition, etc.

Prohibited goods

The import and export of the following goods are prohibited:

  • counterfeit goods;
  • products of a paedophilic nature, namely « items of any kind containing images or representations of minors of a pornographic nature »;
  • asbestos or products containing asbestos.

The import of the skin and fur of cats and dogs and all products containing these is also prohibited.

Sensitive goods (to be avoided)

Do not bring into or remove from France any sensitive goods that are subject to particular customs formalities without consulting health or customs administration beforehand; for example:

  • plants, plant products originating from a country outside of the EU subject to a compulsory phytosanitary inspection: customs are particularly vigilant when it comes to the importation of these goods, verifying whether these plants are contaminated with certain harmful organisms;
  • animals and plants (alive or dead) protected by the Washington Agreement and parts (skin, feathers, teeth, etc.) and products (leathers, handbags, bracelets and watches, etc.) derived therefrom.

How to obtain a tax refund

If you live in a country that is not a member State of the European Union and you have been in France for less than six months, value added tax (VAT) can be deducted from the price of goods that you purchase in France.
There are a number of prerequisites:

  • The purchase made must correspond to a retail sale for tourism and not business purposes.
  • The value of the goods you have purchased, inclusive of all taxes (known as toutes taxes comprises, or TTC in France), in the same store and on the same day, must equal an amount higher than 175 euros.
  • The retailer will give you an export sales receipt which includes two sheets signed by the retailer and by you. By this act, you commit to meeting certain formality requirements: upon your definitive exit from the European Union, you must notably present the goods and the receipt to customs for approval before checking in your luggage.