World Trade: VAT, customs and excise duties

Companies engaged in international trade in goods and services often are required to handle questions relating to international VAT and customs. In order to be competitive in the global market, it is more and more important to have knowledge of and to control handling of fees related to deliveries outside Norway - especially to avoid unforeseen costs and to achieve efficient flow of goods. 


Our aim is that international trade shall not become a legal quagmire for the company. We have the country’s largest and most experienced environment in this area, with extensive experience, both as consultants and from the authorities. In order to assist our clients in the best possible way, we cooperate closely with PwC-offices around the globe.

International VAT, customs and excise duties

Our lawyers have special knowledge and long experience in this field, they also cooperate with more than 1 900 VAT specialists in 153 countries in order do give the most precise advice.

We provide advice on how invoicing, flow of goods and services, and organisation of the business will affect your liabilities in different countries. We can also provide assistance on how your company best can utilize the simplification schemes in the European VAT-system.

How can we help you?

Customs and excise duties

The customs rules are complicated and very technical. Many companies therefore leave the processing of such issues entirely to carriers / freight forwarders. However, it is important to be aware that it is the importer / exporter who is responsible to the authorities.

We therefore recommend ensuring the quality of the treatment in advance in the areas that are relevant for the company, to avoid delays, that too much duty is paid, that additional fees and interest are charged, and that you must use large resources in connection with any control. .

We have experts in the field with long experience both as lawyers / advisers and from work with the authorities. We also have a large international network of customs specialists who are ready to provide assistance to Norwegian companies at short notice. In addition we work with all types of issues related to excise duties, be it in import or in connection with domestic production and sales.

Tailor made workshop on international VAT and customs

If the company wishes to brainstorm on issues that have appeared related to international VAT and/or customs in international business in order to identify errors or weaknesses and to point out possible solutions?

We have long experience with workshops where our experienced lawyers sit down with you and discuss questions across the table. Our experience with this is that the company itself will become better acquainted with the company's reporting obligations and opportunities within international tax, at the same time as we become better acquainted with their business.

The main purpose of such a workshop is to discuss specific challenges within international tax based on selected cases / issues that the company has encountered in the past. Based on the input we receive from the company, we will make a presentation that puts you within the framework of the rules. The most important part of the workshop, however, is the discussion with you. Here, through dialogue, we can effectively map out where the company stands, whether there are areas that should be looked at more closely or measures that must be taken to comply with the rules or reduce risk.

International VAT - Introductory course

  • Is the company registered for VAT in an EU-country or in a country outside the EU, but you are unsure if this registration covers all needs?
  • Do you receive invoices from foreign suppliers with foreign VAT?
  • Is the company involved in triangular trade or processing of goods in Europe?
  • Are you uncertain on how invoices should be drafted in the various scenarios?

We offer an introductory course in international VAT for operators doing transboundary activities in terms of being involved in purchase and/or sale of goods and services locally or across borders. The course handles key areas within international VAT, with emphasize on Europe.

Customs - Introductory course

Does the company trade in goods across border, so that import/export of goods is relevant?

We offer an introductory course in customs clearance for companies importing or exporting goods. The course examines key areas within the relevant regulations, obligations you as an importer or exporter have, and opportunities that exist.

Be aware that even if it is an agent who handles and declares customs for the company, the company itself is responsible for compliance with the relevant regulations. Customs regulations are complex and detailed and both money and effort can be saved by a hands-on approach to this matter.

The aim of the course is to raise awareness, so that the business avoids unnecessary mistakes, and to point out relevant pitfalls and opportunities.

Review of import - and export procedures

Does the company wish a review of its routines concerning the current regulations on import and export of goods?

Errors in this area demand many resources to rectify, and can potentially have great consequences, especially for VAT. Experience tells us that an effective and uniform handling of customs will be cost- and time saving for the company.

We have employees with long experience from the customs- and tax authorities, and thus extensive experience in reviewing procedures and documents related to clearance through customs.

The review of the procedures focus on:

  • Relationship between declaration of customs and VAT (both import and export)
  • Management of documents and information, and
  • Reconciliation procedures

Our aim with the review is to identify possible errors or weaknesses, pointing out risk areas and suggest possible solutions/improvements.

VAT for trade in groups

There are often different transactions and payments between companies within the same group. This has taxable consequences, in the form that a a transfer pricing policy must be established. Intercompany transactions and transfer pricing is also of significant importance for VAT.

We offer an overall assessment of the transfer pricing policy from a VAT perspective. Our experts have long experience with assessing intercompany transactions, and will be able to place these in a tax context.

Customs value documentation in a group

There are often different transactions and payments between group companies. This has the tax consequence that a transfer pricing policy must be established. Intercompany transactions and transfer pricing however, are also of significance to the customs value of imported goods. Regulations in this area are complex, and are not always connected to tax or VAT regulations.

We offer an assessment of what is correct customs value, and preparation of customs value documentation that can be used towards the authorities in case of control. The documentation will show the principals the company has used for customs declarations, and justify the choices made in this connection.

Documentation of customs value is especially important for companies that import goods liable for customs in Norway, such as clothing and foodstuffs. The customs value is used to determine the basis for import VAT to Norway, and is therefore of particular importance for all who import goods.

Preferential customs treatment

Norwegian exporters can ensure that importers to other countries are granted considerable customs advantages. When goods are exported to countries with which Norway has a fair trade agreement, the importer may achieve so-called preferential customs treatment, which is a reduction or discharge of the ordinary customs tariff. These customs advantages apply only if the exporter has issued a valid certificate of origin.

The most practical variant of certificate of origin is a so-called invoice declaration, which is a standard text added to the invoice. However, in order to use invoice declarations on consignments with a value of more than NOK 50 000, it is a requirement that the exporter has a separate authorisation from Norwegian customs authorities (authorised exporter). The authorisation scheme covers both producers and exporters who resell goods. The authorized exporter may also obtain permission for the declaration of origin not to be signed, which otherwise is a requirement.

Shipping, offshore and oil business

There are several exemptions linked to VAT and excise duties that can be used by companies engaged in offshore and shipping, including exemptions for both purchases and sales of goods and services. In particular, it is crucial to use exemptions related to purchase/leasing and constructions/reconstruction of ships and oil instalments, and purchase of fuel and other large procurements.

The exemption schemes may vary from country to country, and are more limited in countries outside Norway. This applies to offshore in particular. Ships operating within one country’s territory over a long period may raise issues linked to high tariff rates and VAT which otherwise are uncommon within this industry.

Read more about Shipping, offshore and oil service here

International review

We can offer a tax review of the company's handling of VAT, both nationally and internationally.

This will give your business the necessary boost so that management can trust that VAT is not a risk area. A tax review will involve a total review with the aim to take care of potential risk areas and identifying savings within VAT in your business.

Our reviews will of course be tailored to your company's specific needs with regard to focus areas during the review, but also with a view to easing the burden such a review could entail for the company's financial department.

We therefore offer two alternative approaches for the review, either in the form of:

  1. An overall tax review: The purpose of the review is to sample relevant tax documentation to check compliance with current reporting requirements and safeguard any opportunities in the company. We will also ask the finance departments in the company responsible for the daily handling of fees,  control questions to examine their level of knowledge. 
  2. A detailed and thorough tax review: We will conduct a detailed review of contracts / POs, invoices and transport documents to analyse how the company has handled VAT. We will also combine the review with interviews of the company's finance department responsible for the daily tax management to examine their level of knowledge, as well as to a greater extent guide them through the VAT management. 

The detailed review will result in a written report with specific proposals for improvement measures.

Contact us

Espen Qvist

Advocate | Partner, Oslo, PwC Norway

+47 952 60 407