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How to import goods into the EU without VAT

Updated: May 29, 2019

What you need to know about the Article 23 license

As you know, VAT is due on all goods and services. For EU-based companies, VAT is chargeable on most sales and purchases within the EU. However, VAT isn’t charged on exports to countries outside the EU. In this case VAT is paid in the country of import. There are three options to not paying VAT on imported goods namely:

  1. An article 23 licence

  2. A tax representative

  3. A bonded warehouse

We will discuss these three options below.

1. Article 23 license

When goods are imported from a non-EU country, value added tax is due. Usually, a company would file an import declaration at the Dutch customs. This value added tax is deducted as input tax when deduction is allowed. However, the value added tax on the imported goods can also be declared in the VAT tax return. In this case an Article 23 License (also known as import VAT deferment license) is necessary. This means that no VAT is due at customs in The Netherlands, instead the VAT is declared in the tax return.

The Main Advantage

The main advantage of this article 23 license is the freedom it provides. This license is, however, not easy to obtain without actual activities/clients in The Netherlands. With an Article 23 license the import VAT is accounted for on the VAT return. This means that the amount of VAT due and the amount of VAT that can be deducted are settled on the same moment.

2. Tax representative

Another option to prevent VAT on imported goods, is a so-called Tax Representative. You can appoint a Tax Representative in The Netherlands when you are a foreign entrepreneur. This representative will handle your business with the Tax and Customs administration. This means the Dutch B.V. doesn't have to be filed as a VAT withholding company. The tax representative can take care of the following:

  • Filing the VAT return

  • Filing the ICP declaration

  • Applying the reverse-charge mechanism on import

This representative must at least meet the following requirements:

  • Based in The Netherlands

  • Providing the financial security for VAT

The Main Advantage

The main advantage of a tax representative is the fact that the fiscal representative takes care of all the requisites with taxation with knowledge regarding the EU guidelines.

3. Bonded warehouse

In a bonded warehouse non-EU goods can be stored. A bonded warehouse is also known as a free-zone. This location has to be approved by the Dutch customs, and is under the control of the Dutch customs. The imported goods can be stored for indefinite duration, until the goods are placed under a customs regulation, get destroyed or leave the customs area of the EU.

No import duties or other taxes are due on the imported goods. The bonded warehouse can be used as a distribution center.

The Main Advantages

  • The main advantages of a bonded warehouse are:

  • No custom duties are due when most of the goods are imported to countries outside of the EU

  • Payment of customs duties and VAT can be postponed

However, there are also disadvantages to a bonded warehouse. The main disadvantage is the fact that it may be harder to find a distribution partner.


Normally VAT is due on all goods and services imported from outside of the EU. In this article we discussed three options; The article 23 licence, the tax representative and the bonded warehouse all have their advantages and disadvantages. Please contact us to find out which option suits your company best.

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