Importing home accessories

There are various different rules to take into consideration when importing home accessories. For example, you need to know the product requirements and what materials your product consists of. When importing from countries outside the EU, there are customs rules.

Home accessories such as baskets, vases, mirrors, lamps, figurines, small furniture, flower pots, bowls, and rugs come in different types and materials. Within the EU, Germany, France, Italy, and Poland are major suppliers, while the main non-EU countries that the Netherlands imports home accessories from include China, Vietnam, India, and Turkey. Read this article to find out what to look out for as an importer.

Product requirements

There is a European directive (2001/95/EC) for general product safety  that protects consumers. European producers and importers of products from outside the EEA, the European Economic Area, are required to provide information on safety and health risks. Home accessories are subject to additional rules and regulations. Product requirements depend on the material used and the degree to which the product may pose a health risk to consumers. Below are the most common product rules for home accessories.

Wooden home accessories

The European Timber Regulationprohibits companies from placing illegally harvested timber or products made thereof on the European market, including wooden frames for painting, photographs, and mirrors, as well as wooden crates and wooden furniture for living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. Wooden seating furniture is not covered by this European Regulation. As an importer of wood products covered by the Timber Regulation, you need to know what species of tree the timber came from and in what country the timber was harvested.

The EU Regulation on Deforestation-free products (EUDR) will largely replace the European Timber Regulation (EUTR) from 30 December 2024. The EUTR will then continue to apply only to timber harvested before 29 June 2023 and placed on the EU market from 30 December 2024 until 2028.

EUDR: deforestation-free products

The EUDR is a European law to combat deforestation. The law targets raw materials that often contribute to deforestation, including wood. But also on products made from wood such as furniture. As an importer, you have to prove that these products do not come from deforested areas.

The law comes into effect on 30 December 2024. For micro and small businesses, the law will take effect on 30 June 2025. Micro and small businesses, according to the EUDR, are businesses that meet at least two of the following criteria:

  • Less than 50 employees
  • Less than €4 million turnover
  • Less than €8 million as balance sheet total

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) checks that importers comply with the EUDR. You can find information about the EUDR on the NVWA website (in Dutch).

FLEGT permit

The EU has Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with various wood-exporting countries. VPA partner countries guarantee that timber and wood products from their countries are the product of legal logging. The aim of the VPAs is to promote the importation of regulated timber with a FLEGT license. FLEGT is short for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade.

You currently only need a FLEGT license when importing certain types of timber and timber products from Indonesia. Fo,r example wooden seating furniture and other wooden furniture for living rooms, bedrooms, and dining rooms. For a fulllist of products imported from Indonesia that require a FLEGT permit, please refer to decision (2015/1158) of the European Commission.

The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) has more information about importing timber and timber products (in Dutch).

Endangered animal and plant species

CITES is short for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna, an agreement signed by 183 countries about international trade and protecting endangered plant and animal species. CITES also applies to home accessories that contain endangered plant and animal species. For some species, commercial trade is prohibited altogether, while other species are subject to import restrictions.

Lighting products

Lamps and light fixtures entering the EEA market must bear CE marking to signify that a product meets certain minimum safety, health and environmental requirements. These requirements can be found in European directives.

CE guidelines

Lamps and light fixtures are usually subject to the Low-Voltage Directive (RVO, in Dutch), the EMC Directive (electromagnetic compatibility, in Dutch), and, in some cases, the Radio Equipment Directive (RVO, in Dutch). For example,  the Radio Equipment Directive applies to LED lights that have a transmitter and receiver for radio waves. Does the Radio Equipment Directive apply to the product? Then the EMC Directive does not apply.

Other CE directives related to lighting products are the Ecodesign Directive for more efficient energy consumption. And the RoHS Directive (RVO, in Dutch) for limiting the use of hazardous substances in electronics.

WEEE directive

On top of that, importers of lighting equipment also have to deal with the WEEE Directive. This directive is about collecting and disposing of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). You register with Foundation OPEN and report what lighting items you market. The OPEN Foundation (in Dutch) collects end-of-life products and takes care of their sorting and recycling. The OPEN Foundation also does this for used batteries in lighting products. You pay a waste management fee for this.

Restrictions on chemicals

Home accessories sometimes contain chemicals that are harmful to your health. Think of harmful chemicals found in or on textiles, wood, plastic, glass or ceramics. The European law REACH protects people and the environment from the dangers of these substances. REACH bans or restricts the use or import of certain harmful chemicals in the EU. REACH also has rules for chemicals in products. If you have questions about REACH, please contact the REACH Helpdesk (in Dutch). 

REACH imposes responsibilities on:

  • Businesses that import products from countries outside the EEA. REACH calls these businesses importers.
  • Businesses that import products from countries belonging to the EEA. REACH calls these businesses distributors.

Food contact materials

There are also rules for food contact products such as dishes, bowls, bowls or storage boxes. These products can give off substances that end up in food. This causes a different taste or smell, for example, or harms health. The NVWA provides information on the risks and legislation for food contact materials (in Dutch).

Useful agencies and authorities

The following agencies provide information on product requirements and import regulations.

  • CBI. The Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) helps exporters from developing countries export to the European market. CBI's website provides information on the European product requirements for home accessories, as well as product-level requirements for baskets and hampers, candles, garden furniture, table and kitchen linens, and more. Select the product in question under 'Product studies' and open the 'Market entry' document.
  • The NVWA monitors the safety of consumer products and provides information on the product requirements and rules (in Dutch) when importing various products.
  • VeiligheidNL and RIVM. The website Waarzitwatin (what contains what) from VeiligheidNL and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) provides information on the presence of chemicals in home decorations and textiles (in Dutch) and kitchenware (in Dutch).
  • European Commission. On its Access2Markets portal, the European Commission provides information on import regulations for products imported from outside the EU. On the site, you will find guidance on how to use Access2Markets, as well as information about product requirements.

Video: Want to know the rules when importing? Use Access2Markets

Product liability

You are legally a producer if you:

  • Import home accessories from countries outside the EEA.
  • Purchase home accessories within the EEA, and attach your own label or brand name to them.

If you are a producer, you are liable for damage caused by a defect in your products.

Importing goods from EU countries

There is free movement of goods in the EU, which means that you do not have to pay import duties when importing home accessories from another EU member state. You do not have to declare these goods to Dutch Customs, but they are subject to VAT.

VAT

Your supplier in the other EU country will usually charge 0% VAT. Pass on your VAT identification number to your supplier. Add Dutch VAT to the purchase and report it in your VAT return (Belastingdienst, in Dutch). You will usually be allowed to deduct it as input tax in the same return.

Import step-by-step guide

If you want to import, you will make arrangements with your foreign supplier about such things as transportation and payment. You can start importing successfully if you have sufficient knowledge of the import process. The Import step-by-step plan will help you do just that. From market research to concluding a contract.

Importing goods from non-EU countries

When you import home accessories from a non-EU country, you have to file an import declaration  with Dutch customs. Your carrier or customs broker (FENEX, in Dutch) will usually file this import declaration on your behalf for a fee, as well as advancing any import duties and VAT that may be due. You will always need an EORI numberwhen dealing with Dutch customs.

Import duties

You may have to pay import duties when you import home accessories from a non-EU country. Whether import duties are due and, if so, how much, depends on the commodity code  of the product you are importing. You need a 10-digit commodity code for every product you import.

For a full overview of commodity codes and the corresponding import duty rates, refer to the Tariff Manual (in Dutch) published by Dutch customs. Home accessories have various commodity codes. Below is a list of the first four digits of commodity codes of some home accessories.

  • 3406: candles and similar products
  • 3926: figurines and other decorative objects made of plastic
  • 4420: figurines and other ornaments made of wood
  • 4602: basketwork made of wicker fabrics
  • 5701 to 5705: carpets
  • 6302: table linen, bed linen, and household linen made of fabric
  • 6911: tableware, kitchenware, other household articles, and toilet articles made of porcelain
  • 6912: tableware, kitchenware, other household articles, and toilet articles made of ceramics other than porcelain
  • 6913: figurines and other ornamental objects made of ceramic materials
  • 7009: glass mirrors, framed and unframed
  • 7013: glassware for table, kitchen, toilet or office use, indoor decoration or similar use
  • 8306: figurines and other ornaments made of base metals
  • 9401 and 9403: miscellaneous furniture
  • 9404: bed products such as mattresses, as well as decorative pillows and poufs for sitting rooms
  • 9405: lighting equipment

In the article How much import duty do I have to pay, there is an example of how to look up import duties in the use tariff. If you cannot figure it out, call the Customs Phone, 0800 01 43.  You can also find commodity codes and import duties in Access2Markets. The video above shows how to look up this information.

Trade agreements and lower import duties

If you import home accessories from countries with which the EU has a trade agreement, you may have to pay lower import duties or have full exemption from import duties. This is known as tariff preference. To qualify, the products have to be of preferential origin from the treaty country, which means that they were sufficiently processed or produced in the treaty country.

You can demonstrate that your products meet the rules of preferential origin with a preferential certificate or declaration of origin, like a EUR.1 certificate, invoice declaration, or Certificate of Origin. Which certificate or declaration of origin you need depends on the treaty country. If the product is already exempt from import duty upon importation, regardless of the country it comes from, you will not need a certificate or declaration of origin.

Non-preferential tariff quota

Imports of some handmade home accessories may be subject to a non-preferential tariff quota. A tariff quota means that you can import these products duty-free within a certain period of time, provided they were handmade in certain countries. To import goods under a tariff quota, you have to present a certificate of authenticity, a certificate for handmade products or handicrafts, upon importation. Your supplier can request this certificate from the competent authority in their country.

As the word quota suggests, the number of products that can be imported under a quota within any given period is capped. If this cap limit has been reached, at which point the tariff quota is exhausted, you will have to pay duty at the full rate.

VAT

When you import home accessories into the Netherlands, you pay Dutch VAT. You are allowed to deduct this VAT as input tax in your VAT return if you are entitled to deduct VAT. If you regularly import goods, you can apply for an article 23 permit from the Dutch tax authorities to avoid having to pay for VAT at the time of import. Instead, you can file the VAT with your VAT return, which will benefit your liquidity.