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Import and Export in Germany

Updated on Thursday 20th May 2021

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Import and exports in Germany focus on produced goods, such as vehicles and mechanical engineering products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, gas, and oil.
 
Exports of goods and services account for a significant percentage of Germany’s GDP and the country is one of the recognized largest exporters and importers in the world. According to international reports, is constantly included in the top three greatest exporters. The country has a positive trade balance and it is one of the most complex economies in the world, according to the Economic Complexity Index. In the EU, Germany occupies an important position, the country supporting more than half of the EU’s international trade, with France remaining one of its top partners within the Union.
 
Our specialists in company registration in Germany can offer you more information about the most developed industries to invest in. In case you're interested in setting up a trading company in Germany, our consultants can handle the entire incorporation procedure.
 

What are the main imports and exports in Germany?

 
Germany relies on its automotive industry which is why its top exports are vehicles and cars parts. Cars and vehicle spare parts represent almost 12% of Germany’s total exports. The pharmaceutical industry is also one of the most developed sectors in the country, German pharmaceutical companies accounting for approximately 4% of the country’s exports; it is followed closely by the petroleum and gas industry.
 
When it comes to imports, Germany is a top importer of petroleum products and machinery, vehicles. Other imports include chemicals, metals, electric equipment, pharmaceuticals, agricultural products and foodstuffs.
 

What countries are primary import/export partners for Germany?

 
Germany’s main trade partners are France, the Netherlands and the United States. However, German companies export products to neighboring countries such as Luxembourg, Austria, Italy and the United Kingdom but also to China. Germany’s imports mainly come from the EU, China, the United States and a percentage also from Russia.
 
Germany is one of the most important trade partners within the European Union and this is an important reason why investors, local and foreign, who choose to open a trade company will base the corporate headquarters in Germany. The country is well-connected to the rest of the EU and located close to important trade partners such as France or the Netherlands. Intra-European trade is important to Germany and many trade companies that are based here will export to neighboring EU countries. Business owners who are just starting a trading company can initially export their goods within the EU and then expand to other markets, as per their business strategy.
 
Company formation in Germany is a simple process and one that can be handled easily by foreign investors. The language barrier is not a problem when choosing to work with specialized agencies, such as our incorporation experts, who are able to assist in the preparing of the company documents in Germany and who can also represent the company in front of the authorities, if and as needed. 
 

What are the requirements for settipg up trade companies in Germany?

 
Companies that activate in the import/export sector are required to conform to the ongoing regulations for customs declarations and any special permits and licenses that may be required for particular categories of goods.
 
Apart from these specific requirements for customs and licensing, investors will need to follow the general steps to open a company in Germany that will be involved in trading. Below, we present the main steps for company formation:
 
  1. Choosing the company form: the suitable business form can be chosen based on the minimum share capital, the liability of the shareholders or other criteria. 
  2. Choosing the company name: this must be unique and it should not infringe any existing names already registered in Germany.
  3. Prepare the company documents: the Articles of Association include information about the company, managing directors, company scope, etc.
  4. Make the contribution: corporations require a minimum contribution that is made in cash or in kind.
  5. Register the business: companies are required to register with the public commercial register belonging to the local trade office.
 
The total registration costs in Germany will vary according to the chosen type of company (the private limited liability company has lower incorporation costs because of the lower minimum share capital requirement). The costs for registration and publication in the commercial register are lower for the private limited liability company (GmbH) compared to the AG.
 
Trading companies will also have to comply with the requirements for tax and VAT registration in Germany and will need to observe the accounting and reporting requirements.
 
Foreign investors have no restrictions on the formation of companies in Germany and are required to follow the same steps as those mentioned above. One of our German company formation agents can detail these steps for you.
 
German companies importing or exporting products are required to follow the Customs Authorities’ regulations and submit the required documentation. Depending on the products, companies could also be requested to obtain certain licenses, according to the European Community Tariff (Tarif Intégré de la Communauté, TARIC). The German Customs Authorities have a list with all the goods requiring special licenses and the taxes related to these products. However, companies can also use a Single Administrative Document (SAD) through which all goods imported in the EU can be declared with the German Customs.
 
The SAD describes the goods and it is filled in once the customs officials acknowledge the items. Company representative for the company that brought the goods within the EU files the summary declaration. An appointed individual can also fill in this declaration. One of our agents who specialize in company formation in Germany can provide you with more details about the EU importer declarations and the requirements for companies that are involved in the process of bringing goods into the European Union. 
 
The information commonly included on the customs declaration that accompanies the important goods is the following:
  • the address of the seller and the buyer (the company’s address)
  • the number of packages
  • the description of the items, in detail and precise
  • quantity or volume
  • invoice price
  • terms of payment and terms of delivery
 
German import companies can also be required to provide the certificate of origin in certain cases.
 
When choosing to incorporate a trading company in Germany, investors will need to observe the country rules for the formation of legal entities and the taxation principles.
 
These companies will need to comply with the ongoing requirements for customs regulations. Opening a trading company in Germany can present important business opportunities due to the country’s position as a top exporter.
 

The main requirements for import-export activities in Germany

 
Trading is one of the most important contributors to the Germany economy, as many local and foreign companies in the import and export sector operate from here. Moreover, in the case of foreign companies, large enterprises from all over the world have set up their regional headquarters in Germany.
 
As the most developed country in the European Union and with important relations with countries all over the world, starting a trading business here is one of the most profitable ventures. However, just like in other countries, such companies are subject to important regulations. Among these, VAT and EORI registration. Also, obtaining specific licenses for some of the goods exported is mandatory requirement.
 
If you are interested in creating a trading company or a business in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, our German company formation specialists are at your service.

 

VAT registration requirements for importing and exporting goods into/outside Germany

 

Generally speaking, VAT registration in Germany is not a mandatory condition when starting a business, however, in the case of trading companies that engage in customs operations, this is a step that needs to be completed alongside in the incorporation procedure. It is worth noting that the German tax authorities do not impose a minimum VAT registration threshold for domestic companies, only to foreign and online businesses, which is it becomes even more important to complete this step during the company formation phase.
 
In order to register for VAT in Germany, a company or other economic operator must file the following documents:
 
  • - the standard application form;
  • - the registration certificate;
  • - information about the directors;
  • - details on the company’s activity and projected turnover.

 

Based on these documents, the German business will be issued a VAT number within a few days. The format of the VAT number in Germany is made of the country code DE followed by 9 digits. Once it is obtained, it will be used for EORI registration.
 
All trading companies need to register for EORI in order to complete import-export operations within the EU. As a member country, Germany’s most important relations are with other member states.
 
If you need assistance with the VAT registration procedure, you can rely on our company registration consultants who can complete the procedure on your behalf right away.
 

EORI registration for exporting goods from Germany

 

All German companies exporting goods to other EU member states are required to apply for EORI numbers that are issued by the Customs Authority and which rely on their VAT numbers. This is why in order to register for EORI, VAT registration is mandatory.
 
EORI registration is quite simple in Germany and it implies a simplified procedure that is completed in just a few days. Once the EORI number is obtained, there are no restrictions in exporting goods from here to all other EU countries. Also, foreign companies delivering goods to Germany can apply for EORI numbers here.
 

Special licenses for import-export activities in Germany

 

Most of the products imported or exported by German companies within the EU are subject to harmonized regulations, which is why they do not require special licenses. However, Germany is one of the main trading economies in the world which means that in certain cases specific permits for certain goods are mandatory. Among these are: 
 
  1. health certificates are mandatory for food products such as raw meat, fish, and dairy;
  2. ingredients certificates must accompany imported canned goods;
  3. inspection certificates are required for certain products entering the country;
  4. phytosanitary or quarantine certificates are other documents to be presented for specific categories of goods;
  5. dangerous goods certificates are required when importing some products from outside the EU.

 

If you want to set up a business for importing special items from outside the EU, our specialists in company registration can help you.
 

Germany’s trading profile

 
Germany is one of the main automotive manufacturers in the world, however, it also exports and imports other products from all over the world, considering that:
  • -  in 2019, Germany was the 3rd largest exporting countries in the world;
  • -  in January 2021, it exported cars and caravans worth 8.3 billion USD;
  • -  the second most exported products were pharmaceuticals with a total value of 7.03 billion USD;
  • -  machinery and equipment for electricity production and distribution was also exported by German companies and they had a total value of 5.02 billion USD;
  • -  the country exporting the most to was the USA with a total value of 8.48 billion USD.
 
If you need more information about import and export declarations or trading regulations you can contact our German consultants in company incorporation.

 

Meet us in Germany


Marco Rössel is a Partner at Liesegang & Partner and an experienced Attorney at Law. He is specialized in commercial and corporate law and can help you open your company in Germany as fast as possible.

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Call us now at +49 69 71 67 2 67 0 to set up an appointment with our company formation experts in Germany. Alternatively you can incorporate your company without traveling to Germany.

As our client, you will benefit from the joint expertize of local lawyers and international consultants. Together we will be able to offer you the specialized help you require for your business start-up in Germany.

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