How to avoid paying import duty and tax in an international move?

RapidWorld Relocations is a leading international moving company in China. Call us at +86-21-5443-6852.
RapidWorld Relocations is a leading international moving company in China. Call us at +86-21-5443-6852.

Generally speaking, shipping personal used goods and household effects is free of customs duty in most of the cases when certain customs requirements are met. These requirements usually are –

  • You are moving to a foreign country with work visa /residence permit etc. 
  • You are moving back home after working/residing in a foreign country for a period of 1-2 years. (some countries such as France, Mexico require a 3rd party proof either from your employer or your embassy/consulate in that country)

Although there are some commodities that are dutiable, such as alcohols, tobacco products, excessive amount of goods of one kind (for example, a family of 4 ship 10 bicycles), you won’t need to worry about the customs duty if you meet the above paperwork requirement and don’t ship the dutiable goods. Also when you move to a 3rd country, you need to make sure that your household shipment doesn’t arrive in there until your work visa/residence permit are issued. 

There are always exceptions. 

There are countries that impose import duty and tax anyway. I’d like to name a few here, 

  • Russia and a few east Europe/Central Asia countries such as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, etc. – they charge import duty and tax for about USD 5 per kg worth of goods
  • Egypt – they charge about USD 300 to USD 5,000 depends on the value and the size of the shipment
  • Colombia – they charge about 15% of the CIF (cost, insurance and freight combined) value of the shipment
  • Philippines – they offer duty free to the first USD 5,000 worth of goods and duty is charged for the excessive amount of the value of your shipment
  • China – returning Chinese nationals will need to pay import duty for furniture, electrical/electric items, books etc. Expats who shipped before and used that first duty free allowance will need to pay full import duty on everything. 
  • India – they charge import duty on furniture, electrical/electric items such as TV, stereo and sound system, etc. 

This is not the full list of these countries, there are other South American countries, countries in Central America, and Southeast Asia that charges import duty anyway. 

So, how to avoid or minimize the import duty amount when you move to such a country? 

  • Make sure you contract a professional moving company, not a general freight forwarder because they could prepare the wrong paperwork for customs
  • Avoid taking new items and the heavy duty items 
  • Avoid taking alcohols and such goods
  • Ask advice from your moving company on how to declare and lower the value of the shipment as much as possible (customs allow you to declare a 2nd-hand value to some extent)
  • If your move is sponsored by your employer, ask the moving company to estimate the duty amount and have it included in the quote to begin with. 

If you are moving and have concern or question about import duty and other customs issues, please feel free to contact us. 


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