German customs have sued “thousands of German coffee drinkers” about buying their roasted coffee beans via ebay from abroad. Turns out that Germany, Belgium and Denmark have a coffee tax (Euro 2,19/kg of coffee in Germany!), so customs claim that ordering your coffee more cheaply on the internet constitutes tax evasion.
Here’s the hilarious letter informing one of the suspects about their crime of ordering the “substantial” amount of 0,966 kg coffee beans without informing customs. A spokesperson of the German Coffee Association was quoted explaining that ordering coffee from abroad for private use is tax free only if you buy from a private, non-commercial seller and actually pick up your order from abroad personally.
So personally importing coffee for free use would be legally correct and tax free. On the other hand, I remember a case of an online software purchase. The person bought software from a U.S. company and via the U.S. online shop, although there were other regional shops available. (Including one in the said person’s country of residence.) The regional shops were much more expensive, though, which is non uncommon for marketing and sales policy reasons. Said person was informed that it was perfectly legit to purchase the software via the U.S. online shop just as long as no physical copy (!) of the software was imported – meaning that downloading it (without paying import taxes) would be legit, but burning it on a CD abroad and crossing the border would be illegit. Ouch.
Oh boy. That whole tax&border thing is so… 1-dot-0. The whole concept just seems wrong.