Permanent Import

Permanent Import

When you import a horse from a third country into your own country (or EU-Member State) with the intention to keep the horse for an indefinite period of time or to sell it to a third party, your horse is considered as a permanent import. Usually these are horses that one buys, inherit or acquires from someone abroad.  

But also horses who are returning to Europe or the UK (after being exported previously) and horses belonging to owners who are relocating usually qualify as permanent imports.

When importing a horse from a third country, wether you are a EU-citizen or a company based in the EU, the customs authorities (through EHS acting as customs agent) will impose taxes.  These taxes depend on several factors and the origin of the horse(s).  Horses coming from non-EU countries (third countries) qualify under a different tax settlement compared to horses originating from EU-countries.

When buying a horse in another EU Member State, one has to pay VAT (Value Added Tax). Example: a Belgian based horse dealer buys a horse from a seller who is based in France.


  • IMPORT FROM ANOTHER EU MEMBER STATE AS A PRIVATE PERSON  If you are a private person, you will have to pay the amount of VAT directly to the seller. It should also be mentioned on the commercial invoice. The seller will have to make sure he/she transfers this VAT amount to the local authority.  If the seller is also a private person, there is no VAT due at all!  


  • IMPORT FROM ANOTHER EU MEMBER STATE AS A COMPANY  When acting as a company (f.e. professional horse dealer) and holding a registered VAT number in the country the company  reside in, then one can 'divert' the VAT amount. This means you do not have to pay VAT to the seller of the horse, but you settle this directly with your own national tax authority.  Depending the country you are living in, local authorities have their own VAT-reclaim shemes which are applicable for you and usually you get an immediate refund of the VAT which is due. 

For both situations mentionned above, one does not need a customs agent since there are no special customs formatlities to be completed. However make sure you have a genuine invoice, the pasport of the horse and a TRACES (or Intra-EC) health certificate for the journey across the borders. You can either arrange the road transport on your own (car & trailer, van or truck) or you can use a professional equine transport company who have daily or weekly shipments planned.  EHS can organize this for you.  
When transferring and obtaining horses within the EU borders, no import duties, nor any other taxes or duties  are required (except VAT as explained above). There is one exemption for horses that would be in the EU on temporary basis and who have not been imported permanently yet. (see below).

When importing horses from a non-EU Member State, one will have to rely on an official customs agent to complete all required declarations at the first EU border point. The customs declarations are made on the basis of the commercial invoice.

Depending on the EU Border Point, the breed and gender of your horse, the VAT and Import Duties will have to be paid on the spot prior your horse entering the EU.  Alternatively the horse can be put 'in transit' to the country of destination to complete are required declarations. All this might sound quite complex, but rest assured these formalities are being smoothly completed by your specialized (customs-)agent. 

Remember that usually there are two kind of taxes due when entering the EU: VAT and Import Duties.  Let's have a closer look at these.

Whether you act as a private person (individual) or as a business company (holding a valid VAT registration number) both taxes are due. Registered companies can claim the VAT back through their local tax authority, which is not possible for private persons.  The percentage of VAT might differ between various EU Member States, although the rate of 21% is applied in most countries.  This percentage is calculated not only on the nett value of the horse(s), but also on the customs- and shipping charges as well as on the Import Duties!  Make sure you bear this in mind when planning your budget.

Import Duties are always due and can never be re-claimed, no matter if you are an individual person or a professional. The normal import rate applicable in all EU-countries is 11,5% and will be calculated not only on the nett invoice vallue but also on the customs and shipping costs and other costs related to the import of your horse.

Settlement of both taxes (VAT and Import Duties) will be arranged through your customs agent: you will receive a detailed invoice from your customs agent and he/she will pay these taxes to the local authority.  EHS is a qualified and registrated customs agent who can arrange all this on your behalf. In some cases (depening on the country/place of entry), EHS might be using a subcontractor).

We hope this clarifies a lot. However... there are still some 'special circumstances' that might apply.

  • IMPORT OF BREEDING STOCK: let's suppose you want to import a mare or a stallion from a third country with the aim to use this horse for breeding. If that horse can be registerered in a Studbook approved by the EU, it is possible to apply a 0% Import Tax tariff on condition that you keep the horse in your own posession (for breeding) at least during the first year after importation. Depending on the country you are living in, one either gets immediate exemption, either you will have pay the normal Import Duty rate and will have to claim this back at a later stage and after a thorough inspection of your file. Remember this is not applicable to geldings.
  • IMPORT VIA FISCAL REPRESENTATION - For businesses only: if you horse would arrive at a EU border point in another EU Member State (other then the one your company is registrated in) usually the so called 'fiscal representation' system is applied. This means that your company designates a third company as your fiscal representative (based in the country where your horse first arrives into EU).  Your fiscal representative will arrange all formalities with the local customs authority, including settlement of VAT and Import Duties. The main advantage is that your company does not have to pre-finance the taxes since your fiscal representative already settled those... and claimed them back at the same time! Although there is a small extra charge for this service, this cancels out the (huge) tax amount that is usually involved and due prior to arrival of your horse. Important: one can only benifit from this regime if holding a valid VAT-registration number (not applicable to private persons). Example: your Belgian registrated and based company buys a horse in Canada. Your agent arranges the full door-to-door transport, including customs clearances in Amsterdam, the airport where your horse first arrives into the EU. The fiscal representation will be applied in Amsterdam on arrival of your horse.  Few hours later your horse arrives at his new stable.  Your (customs)agent will provide you with a bill for all shipping charges and Import Duties, however you will not be charged for the VAT on importations.  Technically (and for your administration) you are only buying the horse through an intra community acquisition since your fiscal representative has already completed all import formalities, including settlement of the VAT.
  • AND WHAT IF I RELOCATE?  There is another special regime for people who relocate from a non-EU Country into an EU-Member State. This is applicable only to an official relocation and change of residency and does not apply f.e. if your daughter returns home after finishing her studies in an overseas country.  The relocation will have to be documented with a number of official documents: certificates from district/local authority, notary public, full inventory, special forms, ...). So what's your benefit?  In this case you can have full exemption from taxation (VAT and Import Duties), no matter the gender or breed of your horse.  Again this is an administrative buren, but again EHS will happy to assist and arrange this for you.