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Counting peas in Switzerland

Switzerland is bloody expensive, you surely don't want to be shopping here. For instance, I wanted to get myself the Lonely Planet Guide for Laos and Myanmar, both of which have had new editions released in 2005. Their price is a little more than 20€ each, including the German VAT of 7%. If you buy the book in Switzerland, it's between 40 and 50 CHF (incl. 7.6% VAT), which is almost 10€ more than the German price.

Despite the fact that I cannot find the 2005 editions neither in Swiss stores nor on amazon.de, I'd be looking at a slight problem. Either, I can pay the higher price in Switzerland (in addition to shipping), or I can order with amazon.de (or the like) in Germany, who will subtract the VAT and ship it to Switzerland for free. Sounds great, huh? Well, it isn't really, because in Switzerland, receiving packages might mean you have to pay VAT, and not only that, they also make it unnecessarily complicated:

If the goods you receive are valued less than 75 CHF, you do not have to pay VAT. However, if you do have to pay VAT, the VAT and a nominal service charge of 10 CHF count towards those 75 CHF, which means you effectively have to stay below (75 - 10 - VAT) CHF, which is 60 CHF or thereabout. Translate that to Euros, we're talking about 38€. Thus, if you want free shipping and no VAT, you have to place orders between 20€ and 38€ -- 20€ is the minimum price to get free delivery if your order is not entirely made of books, in which case delivery would be free even below 20€.

You do not want to place orders higher than 38€ ever, because VAT in Switzerland is higher than the VAT for books in Germany, and the additional 10 CHF charge is not going to make up for it. So the only way for me to obtain the two books is either through the overpriced Swiss bookstores, or via two separate orders to amazon.de so as to not exceed the 38€ limit.

The maths gets more fun when you get away from books. For normal goods, VAT in Switzerland is still 7.6%, but 16% (and maybe soon 19%) in Germany. Thus, you will want to stay below 38€, unless the total value of the goods exceeds an amount where the cheaper 7.6% VAT + 10CHF service fee is lower than 16% VAT. This drives the limit up to 121 CHF, or about 77€.

Now, if you think this is complicated, stay put. I am looking to buy myself the DrayTek Vigor 2900VG router, for which is around 265€ in Germany including the 16% VAT, and 421 CHF including the 7.6% VAT in Switzerland. These prices square, but they're not including shipping, and if I would order the German product for delivery to Switzerland (which they are not willing to do, but anyway), I'd have to add the 10 CHF service charge and the 7.6% VAT. I also would not be able to claim the 16% VAT paid in Germany with EU customs because I am not a full resident of Switzerland. Man, no wonder taxes have had a long history of violence.

Now I also received a 35% rebate offer from the Swiss distributor, driving the price down to 274 CHF, which is clearly a hell of a lot cheaper than the German product.

So what am I waiting for? Well, Germany being an EU state and all, the German shop has to give you a 30 day return warranty and a 2 year product warranty. In Switzerland, you get no return warranty and only 1 year of product warranty. My dilemma thus becomes: are 30 days return warranty and an addition year of product warranty worth the difference of roughly 150 CHF? Seems like the answer must be "no". But I know that if I order it in Switzerland, it will break after 366 days, by the laws of Murphy.

I have now asked the German distributor to match the 35% rebate. If they will, I'll order the device to my parents house in Germany. If they don't, I'll take it up with Mr. Murphy.

PS: If you think the DrayTek Vigor 2900VG is not a good choice, speak up now!