“My work deals especially with substances used by body-builders: sports drinks and vitamins”, Hinke Venema says. “An interesting product category from a fiscal point of view. When it comes to pure vitamins, imports are charged a 0% rate. But when something has been added – like minerals – the customs duty goes up to 9% or 12%. That’s why it’s important to check whether the correct tariff codes have been given.”

“We receive research requests from every department of the Customs organisation: from declaration processing, customer management, physical supervision, binding tariff information, and so on. Usually we begin with administrative research, which means digging up all kinds of documents about the article in question. Think here of product descriptions and tables of nutrition values. But this information is not completely reliable: just because it says something on paper doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. That’s why I prefer to do a few chemical tests anyway, for confirmation. The result of all that detective work is compiled in a report that is sent to Customs. In the write up we state as clearly as possible the line of reasoning we followed – in other words how we came to a certain classification. That way the customer can hopefully see our point of view more easily if there is a difference of opinion.”

“As was just said, there are no customs duties on pure vitamins. A carrier may be added, but what is not allowed is that the powder or liquid in question has been mixed with other substances. If the vitamins are in the form of a tablet or capsule then the product is classified as a dietary supplement and tax has to be paid on it.
In addition to vitamins I also see many mixtures of amino-acids sent for investigation. These too are to be classified as food supplements, requiring 12% instead of 6.5% in customs duties. With these products it is important to find out whether they contain any milk fat, milk protein, starch or sugar. In order to check for milk fat I use a gaschromatograph. It separates the components of the fat in a cylinder with the help of a gas, the prescribed method and very reliable.”

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