Customs tips for home biz

Robert Szostek
USAREUR Customs Public Affairs

A home-based business can be many things. You may sell baskets, kitchen storage containers or pots and pans. Maybe a fingernail studio or trading items on Internet auction sites is what you like best. There are many possibilities, but whatever your trade, you have to follow the home-based business rules.

The main thing to remember is that you cannot use your U.S. registered vehicle, the APO, base exchanges, commissary or the tax relief program for your business.

The first point is that U.S. Forces plated vehicles are for your personal use only. Using one as part of a business is illegal. “An example would be if you used your USAREUR-plated van to deliver goods to customers or pick items up from suppliers,” said David Kuik, acting chief of services, USAREUR Customs Executive Agency, in Mannheim. Register your business vehicle in the German system, he advised.

The second point is that packages that you send or receive for your business must go through an express shipping company or the German postal service. The APO system is a privilege for your personal use only. Therefore, using it to send or receive business wares is not allowed.

Third, you must declare any goods intended for resale to German Customs when you bring them into the country. Goods sold in the post or base exchange, AAFES catalog and commissary are tax-free so you cannot buy anything there for your business either. Not surprisingly, using your VAT form to support your business is off limits, too.

“Military regulations say that when people perform services or sell goods on a frequent and recurring basis, they are operating a home-based business,” Mr. Kuik said. He added that you are not running a business if you sell only personal items infrequently.

Mr. Kuik recommends that those with questions about their business status speak to their installation commercial affairs office. People may also download the pertinent directive, Army in Europe Regulation 210-70 or USAFE Instruction 211-16 (On-Post Commercial Solicitation), to get further information.