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Import duty & taxes when importing into the United States


Import duty and taxes are due when importing goods into the United States whether by a private individual or a commercial entity.  The valuation method is FOB (Free on Board), which means that the import duty and taxes payable are calculated exclusively on the value of the imported goods.  However, some duties are based part in value and part in quantity.  In addition to duty, imports may be subject to a Merchandise Processing Fee, and in some cases to sales tax, and Federal Excise Tax.

NB: The Customs Territory of the U.S. includes the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  Therefore, Puerto Rico applies the same tariff codes and rates as the U.S., but it has its own fiscal jurisdiction. 

Duty Rates

Duty rates in the U.S. can be ad valorem (as a percentage of value) or specific (dollars/cents per unit).  Duty rates vary from 0% to 37.5%, with the average duty rate being 5.63%.  Some goods are not subject to duty (e.g. some electronic products, or original paintings and antiques over 100 years old). 

Preferential duty rates

USA has signed Free Trade Agreements with a number of countries.  To be entitled to preferential tariff treatment, a good must meet the "originating" criteria as set out on the Rules of Origin of individual FTAs.  A Certificate of Origin (COO) is required upon importation for preferential duty rates to apply.  See a sample COO for NAFTA here.

NB: FTAs signed by the U.S. apply in the Customs Territory of the U.S., therefore include Puerto Rico.

Sales Tax

Sales tax is not automatically charged on imported goods.  However, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) declarations are made available to state tax representatives that may occasionally claim state taxes from the importer. 

Minimum thresholds

Duty and taxes are not charged if the FOB is up to USD 800.

Other taxes and custom fees

CBP collects federal taxes and fees on behalf of other federal agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service, depending on the commodity being imported.  User fees depend on the type of entry and mode of transportation.

  • Federal Excise tax is imposed on imports of alcoholic beverages and tobacco.
  • Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF) is charged on formal and informal entries:
    - MPF on informal entries is either US$1, US$2, US$6, or US$9 per shipment, depending on the mode of transportation, and whether the entry release is manual or automated, and prepared by CBP personnel.
    - MPF on formal entries (for imports of goods valued over US$2500) is set at 0.3464% of the value of the goods with a minimum charge of US$25 and a maximum of US$485.

Duty refunds
In case of overpayment of duty, returns of imported products to the seller, or re-export, the importer might be entitled to a duty refund.  The relevant information and requirements can be found here.

Local Customs office and contacts

More information on import declaration procedures and import restrictions can be found at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  

Related topics: Import duty & taxes when importing into Puerto Rico , NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) , CAFTA-DR (Dominican Republic-Central America-USA FTA) , USA Bilateral Free Trade Agreements

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