Importing toys, these are the rules

Many toys in Dutch toy shops come from abroad. The Netherlands imports many gaming consoles, board game items, and plastic toys. China is by far the biggest exporter of toys to the Netherlands. Germany and Belgium are the largest suppliers within the EU.

Toys have to be safe. That is why there are product requirements. These depend on the material used and type of toy. Many toys are subject to mandatory CE marking. This article explains various product requirements and outlines other important issues when importing toys.

Product requirements

The European directive (2001/95/EC) on general product safety protects consumers from unsafe products. European producers and importers of products must provide information on the safety and health risks of their products. This is also mandatory for importers who import their products from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). In addition to requirements for general product safety, there are additional product requirements for toys.

CE marking

Toys intended for children under the age of 14 must meet the mandatory safety requirements of Article 10 and Annex II of European Directive 2009/48/EC, the Toy Safety Directive. These requirements are linked to physical, mechanical, chemical, and electrical properties as well as flammability, hygiene, and radioactivity. Toys subject to this Directive need CE marking. These products then bear the CE mark.

On the website of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) you can find the obligations of the Toy Safety Directive (in Dutch). For the manufacturer of the toy or its authorised representative, for importers of toys from outside the EU and for distributors importing toys from an EU country. Here you can also find a list of toys not covered by the directive. For example, playground equipment.

Electric and electronic toys

There are more European Directives that apply to toys, such as Directive 2011/65/EU, which is better known as the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS II). RoHS (in Dutch) contains provisions limiting the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, such as electric toy trains. These products are also subject to mandatory CE marking, regardless of the age of the user.

Electric and electronic toys may also be subject to the following Directives requiring CE marking:

RVO provides more information (in Dutch) on these guidelines.

REACH: restrictions on chemicals

Toys may contain chemicals that are harmful to health. European REACH Regulation protects humans and the environment from the dangers of these substances. REACH bans or restricts the use or import of certain harmful chemicals in the EU. For example, there are rules on the presence of formaldehyde and azo colourings in textile toys. And for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in playground equipment and plasticisers (phthalates) in toys. If you have questions about REACH, contact the REACH Helpdesk. 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 toys.

Since 17 October 2023, there has been a European ban on microplastics. As a result, you are no longer allowed to sell loose microplastics. Microplastics are also found in toys. For example, glitter for crafts and glitter on collectible cards. The ban also applies to plastic beads as filler for stuffed toys.

Batteries in toys

Batteries can be harmful if they leak chemical fluids. Or if a child accidentally puts a battery in its mouth and swallows it. That is why toys with batteries should have a battery holder that you only open with a screwdriver or coin. The batteries themselves are subject to European Directive (2006/66/EC). It aims to improve the separate collection and recycling of spent batteries and lead-acid batteries.

WEEE directive

Are you putting electrical or electronic toys on the Dutch market for the first time? Then you have to comply with the European WEEE directive. This directive concerns the collection and processing of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). You register with Stichting OPEN (in Dutch) and report what electric or electronic toys you put on the market. Stichting OPEN Foundation collects the end-of-life products and takes care of their sorting and recycling. The organisation also does this for used batteries and lead-acid batteries in toys. You pay a waste management fee for this.

Websites with product requirements

The websites below provide additional information on product requirements for toys.

Product liability

Do you import toys from countries outside the EEA? Or do you purchase toys within the EEA, but attach your own label or brand name to them? Then you are liable for damage caused by a defect in the toy. Make sure your toys comply with all requirements and rules. You can take out insurance against product liability.

Importing goods from EU countries

There is free movement of goods in the EU. You do not have to pay import duties when importing from another EU member state. You also do not have to submit an import declaration to the Customs Administration of the Netherlands. Your supplier will usually charge 0% VAT if you pass on your VAT identification number You calculate 21% Dutch VAT on the purchase and report it in your VAT return. Then you can usually deduct this VAT as input tax in the same return.

Guide to importing

If you want to import, you will have to make arrangements with your foreign supplier about things like transport and payment. Successful importing requires sufficient knowledge of the import process. The Guide to importing will take you through this process. From market research to concluding a contract.

Importing goods from non-EU countries

When you import toys from a non-EU country, you have to file an import declaration with Dutch Customs. You can do this yourself or have a customs representative or forwarder do so on your behalf. Customs representatives will usually charge a fee for their services but will also advance any import duties and VAT that may be due.

You will also need an EORI number, a mandatory identification number for anyone dealing with Customs.

Import duties

You might pay import duties when importing toys from a country outside the EU. You pay import duties on the customs value. This is the purchase price of your products plus transport and insurance costs up to the EU border or port of entry. For toys, the rate of import duty is between 0% and 4.7%. There are also toys for which you never pay import duty. For example, dolls' prams and electric trains. How much import duty you pay depends on the commodity code of the product you are importing.

TARIC codes

Import duty rates are linked to the 10 -digit commodity code, or TARIC code, of the toy you are importing. These TARIC codes are derived from the 6-digit HS codes (Harmonised System codes), uniform codes used by customs worldwide for classifying products.

For a full overview of TARIC codes and the corresponding import duty rates, you can use the Tariff Manual published by the Customs Administration of the Netherlands. Click on the ‘nomenclature’ tab, followed by ‘browse by nomenclature'. For toys, go to CHAPTER 95.

Commodity codes for most toys begin with the numbers 9503 and 9504. These high-level codes are for:

  • 9503: Tricycles, scooters, pedal cars and similar wheeled toys; doll’s carriages; dolls; other toys; reduced-size (scale) models and similar recreational models, working or not; puzzles of all kinds.
  • 9504: Video game consoles and machines, articles for funfair, table or parlour games, incl. pintables, billiards, special tables for casino games and automatic bowling alley equipment

Clicking on the sub-folders will eventually bring you to the ten-digit TARIC code of the toy you want to import and the corresponding import duty rate.

Our article ‘How much import duty do I have to pay’ has more information on how the Tariff Manual works. This article also explains how to look up import duties in the European Commission’s Access2Markets tool. Access2Markets also provides information on import regulations.

If you cannot find the TARIC codes and corresponding import duty rates for your toys or need help, read through the notes on chapter 95 of the Tariff Manual (in Dutch) or call the Customs Information Line.

Trade agreements and lower import duties

Are there import duties on the toys you want to import? If you import directly from countries with which the EU has a trade agreement, you often pay less or no import duties for these products. This is called tariff preference. The toy must then be of preferential origin from the treaty country. This means that the toy was entirely made (or ‘wholly made’) in the treaty country or sufficiently processed there.

You prove the preferential origin with a preferential certificate or declaration of origin, such as a EUR.1 certificate, invoice declaration or certificate of origin. Which certificate or declaration of origin is required depends on the treaty country. Access2Markets lists countries with which the EU has a trade treaty.

No import duties due to tariff quotas

For some types of handmade toys, you have a non-preferential tariff quota on imports from certain countries. This means you can import these products duty-free within a certain period. This includes, for example, 'hand-made decorative dolls dressed in a folkloric manner characteristic of the country of origin' (taric code: 9503 00 21 10). The tariff quota is used on imports from several Asian and Central and South American countries. You can see whether there is a tariff quota in the user tariff of the Dutch Customs.

The condition for import duty exemption is that you show a certificate of authenticity upon import. This is a special certificate for handicrafts or handmade products. Your supplier will request this certificate from the official body in its country.

Once the quantity within the tariff quota is reached, you pay import duties again from that moment on.

Paying VAT on imports

When importing toys, you pay 21% Dutch VAT. You may deduct this VAT in your VAT return as input VAT if you are entitled to a VAT deduction.

Do you regularly import from countries outside the EU? With an article 23 permit from the Tax Administration, you do not pay the VAT at the time of import. You may then reverse charge VAT to your VAT return. This way, you keep more money in cash.