Every entrepreneur must know the list of goods for foreign trade statistics. Every day many goods are imported and exported within the European Union or to third countries. In order to maintain an overview of the countless shipment processes, to better analyse any particularities and to be able to deal with them accordingly, the foreign trade statistics in Germany are kept as official central statistics by the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden.

Foreign trade statistics document all imports and exports of goods and merchandise between Germany and abroad. Foreign trade statistics break down the quantities and values of imported and exported goods by type of goods and country. The most important survey characteristics for the publication of the list are the value, quantity, commodity code and country of origin or dispatch of a good at import, and the country of destination of the good at export.

In Germany, the statistics are collected according to the eight-digit statistical goods number of the list of goods. The list of goods has formed the basis for foreign trade statistics since 1975.

Why foreign trade statistics and reporting obligations exist

Foreign trade statistics are a systematic collection of import and export data ordered by the legislator. On the basis of the reports on imports and exports from and to the individual countries, the Federal Statistical Office compiles new foreign trade statistics every month.

Foreign trade statistics then show Germany’s cross-border trade in goods with foreign countries. All physical goods entering and leaving the Federal Republic of Germany are recorded and verified here. Statistics then distinguish between intra-trade and extra-trade.

The surveys on foreign trade statistics became necessary on 01.01.1993 with the completion of the European internal market. At the same time as the completion of the internal market, customs controls on goods at the internal borders of the Member States of the European Union have also ceased to apply.

In order to be able to keep foreign trade statistics effectively without these customs controls, it has become necessary to impose special reporting obligations on companies in the context of importing and exporting goods. Every taxpayer who is registered as an entrepreneur in Germany in accordance with the Value Added Tax Act (UStG), i.e. who has been assigned a German (turnover) tax number, is subject to registration. Private individuals are generally exempt from the obligation to report or provide information. Domestic companies, on the other hand, which ship goods to private individuals in other EU Member States are still subject to a declaration requirement.

In exceptional cases, private individuals may also be subject to a reporting requirement in individual cases, i.e. if someone acquires a new ship or aircraft as a private individual. In such a case, this private individual is regarded as a taxable person under VAT law and is thus also obliged to provide information in the field of intra-Community trade statistics.

For small and medium-sized enterprises, the reporting obligations were somewhat eased, which had the background in this area in particular to provide a noticeable relief for companies. In Germany, companies subject to turnover tax whose shipments to other member states of the European Union did not exceed the value of € 500,000 or whose arrivals from other EU member states did not exceed the value of € 800,000 in the previous year are exempt from the reporting obligation. If the above-mentioned value limit is not exceeded until the current calendar year, the obligation to report begins with the month in which the threshold was actually exceeded. This means that the first statistical report for this month has to be submitted for the respective traffic direction.

It should be noted here that the Federal Statistical Office does not automatically send notification of the obligation to report to companies obliged to provide information. The obligation arises automatically only when the thresholds mentioned above are exceeded. The same applies to the elimination of reporting obligations. If the threshold is fallen below, the reporting obligation ends automatically and a corresponding request for exemption from the obligation to provide information no longer needs to be made.

Excluded from the statistical survey are goods which are listed on an exemption list as well as goods which pass exclusively through the German survey territory and in doing so have no or only one stay connected with the transport.

Tip: Intrastat declarations must be kept by you as a company for a period of two years.

The list of goods – what exactly is it all about?

The statistical data for external trade statistics must somehow be systematised. The required data is collected by the Federal Statistical Office via commodity codes.

As in almost all areas of international trade, commodity codes are the central classification feature here as well. The commodity codes make it possible to classify goods according to their technical characteristics. The commodity code can be used to decipher a great deal of information that you as an importer or exporter of goods absolutely need. You can use the goods number to research the customs duties levied before your goods are shipped or to determine whether your goods have been subject to anti-dumping duties or import or export restrictions.

The commodity tariff numbers which are uniformly defined for the European Union in the Combined Nomenclature (CN) are, however, also subject to annual changes. Commodity codes are supplemented or deleted. However, since the commodity tariff numbers are of enormous importance in trade and it is almost impossible for the individual to keep track of the large number of commodity numbers, the Federal Statistical Office Wiesbaden publishes the list of goods for foreign trade statistics every year.

The list of goods appears every year in October and replaces the previous list of goods with effect from 01.01. of the following year. Changes to the list of products will be necessary annually in order to adapt the list to the changes in the Combined Nomenclature (CN). This is because the Combined Nomenclature of the European Union always changes on 01.01 of each calendar year and with it the commodity codes it contains. The number of changes in the Combined Nomenclature is always different. For example, there were hardly any changes in 2018, while companies had to adapt to a large number of changes in 2017.

Amendments to the nomenclature are necessary in order to adapt the information it contains to economic and technical developments. For example, deletions of obsolete scientific designations, the deletion and addition of codes as well as the creation of new subheadings are conceivable.

In October 2018, the European Union already published the Combined Nomenclature for the year 2019. The Federal Statistical Office has already published an overview of the change on its homepage.

The structure of the list of products and differences to the CN

The following structure applies to the list of goods for foreign trade statistics:

I General rules for the interpretation of the list of goods

II 21 sections in Roman numeralsIII 96 chapters of the Combined Nomenclature, each with two digits

IV HS positions, each with four digits

V HS subheadings, six-digit number

VI Chapter 98-99

VII Appendix (Index of keywords and countries)


The list of goods for external trade statistics corresponds in its chapters 1 to 97 completely to the Combined Nomenclature of the European Union. The content of chapters 98 and 99 of the List of Goods for Foreign Trade Statistics is mainly based on national aspects. Its headings serve to simplify the declaration of goods where the conditions are met.

The sections and chapters are preceded by general rules for the interpretation of the list of goods.

The list of goods is a logically subdivided, hierarchically structured classification of the goods and goods eligible for trade in goods. These goods are then each assigned an individual commodity code. It is analogous to the commodity codes of the CN and corresponds to the first eight digits of the TARIC.


Dieser Artikel wurde am 6. December 2018 erstellt. Er wurde am 02. January 2019 aktualisiert. Die fachliche Zweitprüfung hat Rechtsanwalt Dr. Tristan Wegner durchgeführt.

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