Import regulations and customs duties
Since the first of January 1993, the European Union, of which Austria is part, has been a single market, without any customs barriers, which ensures free circulation of goods. On May, 1st of 2004, ten "candidate countries" became new members of the European Union: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia. Trade within the European Union is totally free from customs duties, provided that the merchandises' country of origin is one of the 25 European Union Member States. Nevertheless, when introducing merchandises into Austria, exporters shall fill in an intrastat declaration.
When the country of arraign of the merchandises which are exported to Austria is not part of the European Union, customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value of the goods, according to the Common Customs Tariff (CCT).
The duties for non-European countries are relatively low, especially for manufactured goods (4.2% on average for the general rate); however textile, clothing items (high duties and quota system) and food-processing industry sectors (average duties of a 17.3% and numerous tariff quotas, PAC) still know protective measures.
In order to get exhaustive regulations and customs tariffs rates regarding their products, exporters shall refer to the TARIC code and its database, which includes all applicable customs duties and all customs trade policy measures for all the goods.
Moreover, many bilateral and multilateral agreements have been signed by the European Union, in order to define specific customs duties with the following countries:
- Customs agreements with Australia, Canada, United States, Mexico and South Korea.
- The EU-EFTA (European Free Trade Association) Agreement was signed in 1972 with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
- Free trade agreements with Bulgaria and Romania that hope join European Union in 2007.
- Mediterranean Agreements, concerning: Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.
- The ACP agreements, with 95% of the tariff lines with a 0% rate for developing countries in Africa, Caribbean Islands and Pacific. The Cotonou Agreement, signed in the year 2000, defines the new EU-ACP partnership.
- The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP): 54% of the tariff lines are at 0% for developing countries outside the ACP framework.
To get an exhaustive list of the foreign trade agreements of the European Union, click here.
>> To get further information on customs policies in the European Union, please check the exhaustive report by the European Commission.
Excise duties are also levied on certain products, especially on spirit.
>> To get further information on the VAT rates in Austria, please check the list of vat rates applied within the European Union, as well as the Ministry of Finances web site.
>> More detailed information on excise duties is available concerning alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, energy products on the European Commission website.
Despite being a relatively small country, Austria is an important strategic player because it is geographically located at the crossroads of the European Union. Today, the Austrian market is saturated in all major sectors and in order to penetrate this market advertising is a must; all the more so because Austrian consumers are becoming less price sensitive and care more about in-store customer service.
The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
In 2004, nearly 80% of the retail market in Austria was controlled by foreign companies, with German companies having a strong presence. In fact, Germany plays a very important role in Austrian commerce, and it owns more than 15% of the capital invested in some 500 companies.
Since 1995, Austria has set its sites on Eastern European countries, thus changing its import channels. This phenomenon further strengthened after 2005 with the entry of these countries into the European Union.
In 2003, the retail food market was valued at 14.3 billion euros, an increase of 3.9% as compared to 2002. Two groups dominate this market:
- Rewe austria (German origin) has a 30.2% market-share and is the market leader in the food distribution.
- Spar (Austrian origin) has 28.2% of the market-share.
Discount stores also constitute a huge market as they account for 25.6% of the total turnover of the retail food market. Hofer controls 16.2% of the market-share which is far beyond Lidl with only 2.6%.
Food distribution is very consolidated and is dominated by a few big groups which control 2/3rd of total sales in the country. Amongst these, the major foreign groups are Bipa dealing in drugstores, Lutz and Ikea dealing in furniture.
The retail market is dominated by big German groups like Markant and Metro. The largest chain of stores in the country belongs to the group Billa.
The Business to Business (B to B) market
Transportation of goods
The organisation in charge of developing the activities of normalisation is called the Österreichisches Normungsinstitut. It is a member of the CEN (European Committee for standardisation).
Patents and brands
The body responsible for the protection of intellectual property in Austria is the Österreichisches Patentamt.