Guidance: Exempt import transactions

Under the terms of 1 of I of article 291 of the general tax code (CGI) , imports of goods are subject to value added tax (VAT). However, II and III of article 291 of the CGI exempt in particular:

  • import of:
    • goods placed under a Community customs procedure when they entered the territory and which were the subject of one or more deliveries during their placement ( III-B § 130 of BOI-TVA-CHAMP-40-10-30 );
    • goods permanently imported under European tax exemptions;
    • goods which are subject to an exemption inside;
    • goods reimported as they are;
    • goods whose place of arrival of dispatch or transport is located in another Member State of the European Union (EU) (excluding distance selling of imported goods);
    • natural gas and electricity;
  • ship and aircraft operations;
  • goods in the context of a distance sale of goods imported from third territories or third countries declared in the one-stop “Import One Stop Shop” (“IOSS”).

The definition of importation and the conditions under which it is territorialized in France are set out respectively in BOI-TVA-CHAMP-10-30 and BOI-TVA-CHAMP-20-65 .

The conditions under which the VAT on the import, as well as on the operations upstream or downstream of the import, is suspended, are provided for in article 277 A of the CGI ( BOI-TVA-CHAMP-40 ).

I. Goods definitively imported under Community tax exemptions


Pursuant to 2° of II of article 291 of the CGI , goods definitively imported within the framework of European tax exemptions and which are designated by decree are exempt from VAT.

The methods of application of this exemption are fixed by the codified provisions of article 50 septies of appendix IV to the CGI in article 50 octies C of appendix IV to the CGI .

Article 50 septies of annex IV to the CGI defines the notions of personal property, normal residence as well as those of alcohol, alcoholic beverages and manufactured tobacco.

Article 50 octies of appendix IV to the CGI and article 50 octies A of appendix IV to the CGI give the list of goods admitted under certain conditions for exemption from VAT upon final importation.


In all cases where the granting of exemption is subject to compliance with limits or conditions, the person concerned must prove that he complies with these, in accordance with article 50 octies B of annex IV to the CGI .

These provisions do not preclude the maintenance of exemptions, privileges and immunities granted on imports by France under the international agreements mentioned in points f to i of article 143 of directive 2006/112/EC of 28 November 2006 on the common system of value added tax and Article 93 of Directive 2009/132/EC of 19 October 2009 determining the scope of Article 143, points b) and c), of the Directive 2006/112/EC regarding the exemption from value added tax of certain definitive imports of goods (CGI, app. IV, art. 50 octies C).

II. Exempt property inside


Sections 3° to 8° of II of article 291 of the CGI exempt from VAT on imports various goods which generally benefit from the exemption from the tax in the domestic regime.

These are the goods referred to in II § 40 to 100 .

A. Human organs, blood and milk


The a of 3° of II of article 291 of the CGI exempts the importation of human organs, blood and milk.

By human blood, it is appropriate to understand whole blood as well as products derived from whole blood. Only deliveries of human blood used directly for health care or therapeutic purposes are exempt ( CJEU, judgment of October 5, 2016, case C-412/15 TMD, ECLI:EU:C:2016:738 ).

The importation of whole blood and blood products of human origin for purposes other than therapeutic, in particular for the manufacture of drugs, is taxable.

B. Currencies, coins, gold

1. Currencies, banknotes and coins which are legal means of payment, with the exception of collector’s notes and coins


This exemption appears in b of 3° of II of article 291 of the CGI . The following benefit in particular from this provision:

  • gold coins intended to be traded on the free gold market and imported by professionals in the securities and money trade (banks, financial establishments, stockbrokers, money changers, discounters and brokers );

Note: It is recalled that if these currencies receive another destination, the taxpayer is required to regularize his VAT declaration in order to pay the amount due and, if necessary, to deduct it.

  • gold, silver and other currencies which constitute legal means of payment normally used as such.


On the other hand, currencies which are not normally used in their function as a legal means of payment or which present a numismatic interest are excluded from the import exemption subject to the exemption provided for in 8° of II of the article 291 of the CGI for old or collectible objects.

2. Gold in all its forms imported by issuing institutions


This exemption is provided for in 4° of II of article 291 of the CGI . This is the case with gold coins imported by the Banque de France.

C. Fishery products


6° of II of article 291 of the CGI exempts from VAT the importation of fishery products in the state or having been the subject of operations intended simply to preserve them with a view to consumption (freezing, salting, gutting, etc.).

The exemption concerns French fishermen and fishing vessel owners, as well as foreign maritime fishing companies.

D. Dentures imported by dentists or dental technicians


The importation by dentists or dental prosthetists of prostheses or separate elements of dental prostheses benefits from the VAT exemption provided for in 7° of II of article 291 of the CGI when they can justify:

It is accepted that the exemption also applies to imports made by traders in prostheses subject to compliance with the same conditions.

The importation of dental prostheses by persons other than dentists or dental prosthetists is subject to VAT under the conditions of common law.

E. Original works of art, stamps, collectibles or antiques


The importation of original works of art, stamps and collectibles or antiques is exempt from VAT when it is carried out directly to establishments approved by the Ministry of Culture and Communication. ( CGI, art. 291, II-8° ).

The methods of application of these provisions are the subject of comments in the title reserved for second-hand goods, works of art, collectibles or antiques ( BOI-TVA-SECT-90 ).

III. Reimport of goods as they are


1° of III of article 291 of the CGI exempts from VAT the re-importation, by the person who exported them, of goods in the state in which they were exported and which benefit from exemption from customs duties or which would benefit if they were subject to customs duties. The re-import exemption therefore only applies to goods from third countries and territories.

This exemption calls for the following observations:

  • it applies to goods re-imported as they are, either following definitive exportation on simple exit (re-importation being of an “accidental” nature), or following exportation, with reservation of return within the framework of the temporary export (re-import then being envisaged from the initial export);
  • it is independent of the tax regime from which the initial export may have benefited;
  • it applies to re-imports of goods of any kind and from any origin, provided that the conditions set out in Articles 203 to 204 of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of October 9, 2013 are met. establishing the Union Customs Code relating to the “returns” procedure.

IV. Ship and aircraft operations


Vessels, aircraft, incorporated objects, gear and nets for professional sea fishing designated in 2° to 5° of II of article 262 of the CGI ( I and II § 1 to 70 of BOI-TVA-CHAMP-30-30 -30-20 ) are exempt on importation under 5° of II of article 291 of the CGI .

The terms of application of this rule are set by the codified provisions of article 42 of appendix IV to the CGI in article 46 of appendix IV to the CGI .

B. Refits, repairs and conversions of French ships abroad


Refits, repairs and conversions of French vessels carried out abroad are exempt from VAT upon return to France, pursuant to 3° of III of article 291 of the CGI .

This exemption does not apply to transactions in this case relating to sports or pleasure boats.

V. Imports of goods whose place of arrival of the dispatch or transport is located in another EU Member State (excluding distance sales)


4° of III of article 291 of the CGI exempts from VAT the importation of goods sent or transported to a place located on the territory of another Member State of the EU and which are the subject by the importer of a delivery exempt under I of article 262 ter of the CGI .

Article 96 P of Annex III to the CGI specifies that the exemption applies if the shipment of the goods to another EU Member State is consecutive to its importation. It also details the information that the importer must provide at the time of importation to benefit from the exemption.


Consequently, this exemption cannot concern, in general, taxable persons benefiting from the derogatory regime (PBRD) ( II-B § 350 to 400 of BOI-TVA-CHAMP-10-10-40-20 ) or non-taxable legal persons (PMNA) whether or not they benefit from the PBRD regime.

However, under the terms of article 293 A bis of the GC I, in the event of acquisition by a non-taxable legal entity, the VAT on imports is refunded. This refund is made under the following conditions:

  • when the PMNA has paid the VAT when importing a good into France from the services of the General Directorate of Customs and Indirect Taxes, it can obtain reimbursement of the tax paid in France from the General Directorate of Finance public, if it proves that the intra-Community acquisition was subject to VAT in that other State. Requests for reimbursement must be sent to the VAT reimbursement service (SR TVA) of the non-resident tax department (DINR), whose contact details are available online at, accompanied by the originals of the import documents and proof of payment of VAT in the State of arrival of the goods;
  • when the PMNA is identified for VAT purposes in France (for example because it carries out intra-Community acquisitions of goods for which it does not benefit from the PBRD regime) and pays import VAT under the conditions of common law via the filing of turnover declarations ( II-K § 290 of BOI-TVA-DECLA-20-20-10-20 ), this reimbursement can be made by charging the corresponding VAT to the turnover declarations ‘business.


This exemption only applies when the importation is followed by delivery to taxable persons or legal persons not subject to VAT. It cannot therefore concern distance sales of imported goods, for which the provisions commented on in VII § 170 and 180 apply, where applicable .

VI. Imports of natural gas and electricity


In order to avoid the risk of double taxation, since the rules of territoriality lead to taxing the deliveries of natural gas or electricity to the place of consumption or to the location of the purchaser, including when the supplier is not established in the Union ( BOI-TVA-CHAMP-20-20-10 ), imports into France of natural gas or electricity are exempt from VAT in accordance with 10° of II of article 291 of the CGI .

When the import is carried out in France, the exemption applies to the electricity included in CN code 27 16 00 00 and to the natural gas included in CN codes 27 11 11 00 and 27 11 21 00 09G. This exemption applies whether the place of delivery, in application of the rules of territoriality, is located in France or in another EU Member State.


When the imported gas is released for consumption in France, then transported by network to the first place of destination of the goods within the Union (the one mentioned on the transport document under cover of which the gas is imported) and that it is possible to justify at the time of importation the cost of transport to this place (in particular by producing a document containing the elements of the customs value to be submitted when filing the customs declaration ), the gas transport service is included in the tax base for import VAT ( CGI, art. 292, 2° ) and exempt from VAT pursuant to 14° of II of article 262 of the CGI .

VII. Imports of goods under a distance sale of imported goods


A distance sale of goods imported from third territories or third countries (VAD-BI) ( I § 20 to 60 of BOI-TVA-CHAMP-10-10-40-60 ) necessarily involves an import operation of these goods subject, in principle, to VAT. This importation is likely to be carried out in metropolitan France in the following situations:

  • VAD-BI called “direct” of a property intended for a buyer in metropolitan France;
  • “Indirect” VAD-BI of a property intended for a buyer in another EU Member State.

When the person carrying out the VAD-BI has opted for the declaration and payment of VAT under the special “IOSS” scheme (for the rules of this special scheme, please refer to BOI-TVA-DECLA- 20-20-60 ), this import operation is then exempt from VAT in accordance with 11° of II of article 291 of the CGI .

This exemption is for the benefit of the person liable for import VAT. In the event of facilitation of VAD-BI by an electronic interface and application of the purchase-resale scheme ( II § 90 and following of BOI-TVA-CHAMP-10-10-40-60 ), it is the taxable person facilitating.

Note 1: It follows from the operating rules of the special “IOS” scheme that only VAD-BI not exceeding €150 are concerned.

Note 2: It results from 4 of article 221 of Commission implementing regulation (EU) 2015/2447 of 24 November 2015 establishing the detailed rules for the application of certain provisions of regulation (EU) n° 952/2013 of European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Union Customs Code , that so-called “indirect” VAD-BIs not exceeding €150 can only occur if the operator has opted for the special “IOSS” regime. If this is not the case, the import must take place in the EU Member State where the acquirer is located.


The benefit of the exemption is conditional on the presentation, by the taxable person who carries out the distance selling operation, at the latest when filing the import declaration, of his VAT registration number specifically allocated within the framework of the aforementioned special scheme (“IOS number”).



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