By Robert Szostek
U.S. European Command Customs Public Affair Office
U.S. personnel stationed overseas can ship U.S. specification vehicles to the United States free of federal tax and duty. This exemption can mean big savings if service members meet the following conditions: take physical possession of the vehicle prior to shipment, have valid PCS orders and import it for personal use. However, the exemption does not free the owner from state taxation.
“Most people who miss out on the exemption do not take physical possession of the vehicle before shipment,” said Mike Dean, director of the European Command’s Customs and Border Clearance Agency. “If you have a car shipped directly from the factory, you risk having to pay the 2.5 percent federal import duty,” he added.
Registering a vehicle is the best way to show possession, but the vehicle owner can also prove it by simply putting a copy of movement orders in the glove compartment.
Second, the vehicle owner must have a set of official change of station orders in hand before shipping a vehicle. The exemption is not for people on extended leave or temporary duty.
Third, the vehicle must be for personal use or for use by immediate family members. “If you had six dependents of driving age,” Dean esaid, “you could justify importing seven vehicles duty-free; one for each of them and one for yourself.” However, it is illegal to use the exemption to import vehicles for third parties or in order to sell them.
People importing vehicles as part of a PCS can save federal duties and taxes, but state taxes on imported vehicles can be high. For more state tax information from the relevant department of motor vehicles can be found here.
Call the Stuttgart Customs Field Office at 431-2657/civ. 07031-15-2657 to find out more about federal customs exemptions, or call the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Personal Property Processing Office at 431-3338/2675 or civ. 07031-15-3338/2675 to learn about shipping procedures and fees.