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Import, Q&A

Importing Software from India to the US

November 13th, 2007


A US company wants to outsource software development to India. Will the US company have to pay import duties on the software? If so, what is the tax or range?


Electronic transmission and data exchange have evolved at an alarming rate in the last ten years. Mulit-million dollar projects are outsourced and completed overseas with the final result often delivered simply by email or FTP. The US International Trade Commission addresses the import of data in a some what archaic manner by exempting electronic tele-communications under General Note 16(b) of the HTSUS. Data imported in a physical form (on CD or diskette), however, is dutiable under the classification of the physical media itself. It is important to realize that value of the data contained in physical media may directly influence the value of the media itself. An importer importing a $0.50 cent compact disc containing a $30,000 software bundle may be liable for paying import duties as a percentage of the $30,000.

Importers considering outsourced software projects should also note that imports and exports of cryptographic hardware and software are regulated by the Bureau of Industry and Security.

Please note: This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not specific legal advice. As

Import, Q&A

Do I need a license to import fashion jewelry and fashion accessories?

November 13th, 2007


My friend and I would like to purchase fashion jewelry and fashion accessories, such as: belts, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, watches, etc. from countries outside of the U.S. and then sell them on e-bay or our own website. We have a sellers permit in California. Do we need any other kind of license and/or permit if we purchase goods outside of the U.S. and sell them in the U.S.? Also, how do the taxes work on those items?


Most fashion accessories with the exception of those made from textiles (cloth or clothing items) will be free from any additional licensing or import requirements of other government agencies, so your main obstacle will be US Customs – filing the proper paperwork, paying import duties, etc. This is assuming you are importing items from a country that maintains normal trade relations with the United States. Importing will be very difficult if your product is manufactured in Cuba or North Korea because they do not enjoy normal trade with the US.


There are large export markets for fashion accessories in both China and India. I would recommend dealing with Chinese markets for non-textile related goods and India for textiles. China currently has some quota restrictions with regard to the import of textiles whereas India does not. It might be also be easier to find an English speaking vendor in India.

Import Taxes and Valuation

When you import any good into the United States, you are required to pay an import duty (also called an import tax). Some goods have a duty rate of free while others can climb to over 20% of the value declared. The average duty rate in the US is between 3-5% of the value. The value of an import is typically considered the current US market rate for that good. For example, if you are going to sell a silver bracelet for $20 in your online store, you would declare its value to US Customs as $20 and pay duty based on that.

Because you plan on importing multiple items, I recommend becoming familiar with the US Harmonized Tariff Schedule. Each item you import must be assigned a ten digit classification number which will determine its rate of duty and eligibility for special trade programs. I’ve included a few sample classifications for your reference below.

Other Notes


You mention wanting to import watches which can be challenging without the proper research. Instead of having one classification number per item type, watches (even if they are assembled) are imported with multiple classifications per piece (one for the band, the crystal, the movement mechanism, etc.) and declared separately.

Before you commit

Once your vendors are established and you are ready to import, take several precautions before you send payment overseas:

  • Ask for samples of the item you intend to import to verify quality.
  • Make sure you have considered transportation costs when negotiating your final price.
    • Who will be paying for the goods to leave the country?
    • Who pays for the air/ocean freight to get it to the United States?
    • Who pays for the transportation from the airport/oceanport to your place of business?
    • What about insurance?
  • Take a moment to research incoterms and do not be shy about discussing it with your vendor.

Sample classifications:

Item Classification Duty Rate Special Trade Programs
Imitation jewelry: of base metal, whether or not plated with precious metal: Cuff links and studs 7117110000 8% Eligible for reduced duty rate
Articles of apparel & clothing accessories, of plastic, nesoi 3926209000 5% Eligible for reduced duty rate
Ties, bow ties and cravats, not knitted or crocheted, of silk or silk waste 6215100000 7.2% Eligible for reduced duty rate
Straps/bands/bracelets of tex. mat. or base metal, whether or not gold- or silver-plated entered with wrist watches of subheading 9101.12.80 9101122000 Free Not eligible for reduced duty rate

Please note: This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not specific legal advice. As an importer, it is your responsibility to meet all the legal requirements for importing goods.


How to Import – Internet Purchases, Electronic Transmissions

November 13th, 2007

Information and materials downloaded from the Internet are not subject to duty. This applies to any goods or merchandise that are electronically transmitted to the purchaser, such as CDs, books, or posters. However, the unauthorized downloading of copyrighted items could subject you to prosecution. Downloading child pornography is also a crime. U.S. Customs Service has the authority to investigate and prosecute persons involved in this and other illegal activities.

US Customs

Customs Form 7501 Entry Summary

November 13th, 2007

Download Customs Form 7501 (.pdf)

US Customs Form 7501 is one of two essential forms required for an import transaction. Form 7501 details origin and importer information, but its main purpose is to act as a receipt for US Customs. Blocks 27 through 40 are used for an imported item’s Harmonized Tariff Classification, the amount and quantity imported, and the value of the goods. With this information, US Customs can confirm the total amount dutiable and request payment from the importer.


Wood Imports into the United States

November 13th, 2007


I am considering importing items from New Zealand, made from ancient kauri wood, items ranging from jewelry pieces to coffee tables, for re-sale. What are the import/duty requirements of such an operation?


Country of Origin

New Zealand maintains normal trade relations with the US, so there are no specific trade restrictions that would interfere with imports from that country.


The duty amount payable would depend largely on the types of item being imported rather than the material they are made from. Coffee tables, for example are found in chapter 94 of the USHTS, while wooden jewelry would likely be found in chapter 71. You will need to classify each type of article being imported and assign it an HTS number to determine the rate of duty for that item.

Imports of Wood

The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) publishes regulations regarding the importation of wood products (including craft products manufactured from natural plant materials) in chapter 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations. One of their primary missions is to prevent the spread of insects and disease that could have an environmental impact on the United States.

Although there is no mention specifically of kauri wood in chapter 7, import restrictions of wood products from New Zealand are mentioned in 7CFR319.40-5, but they are with regard to logs and unrefined lumber. A list of regulated products can be found on the USDA website. To ensure your import is not regulated by the USDA, you should determine the class and genus of the wood used in your commodity and check it against this list or with your local USDA office. Some woods may be subject to a visual inspection, and if determined to be pest free, will be allowed entry into the United States. Others must be treated to ensure that they are pest free before they can be brought into the US.


I am going to import solid oak floor and engineered oak floor from China. Do I need a license for doing this?


Wood from China is a tightly restricted commodity due to a concern for disease and pest carrying imports. Manufactured wood products that undergo intensive heat and pressure in their fabrication are exempted, but solid oak flooring may be subject to the USDA Suspension of Manufactured Wood Item Imports from China which states:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service APHIS), beginning April 1, 2005, will suspend the importation of craft items from China that contain wooden logs, limbs, branches, or twigs greater than 1 centimeter in diameter and with intact bark. Manufactured wood items that have been heat treated or fumigated with methyl bromide and have had 100 percent of the bark removed are not subject to the import suspension.


Is there a requirement for fumigation for pallets made of plywood?


There is no fumigation requirement because plywood is a product of heat and pressure that by nature of its manufacturing process is free of pest and plant-born disease. You can read about the requirements for wood packaging material on the APHIS (Animal Plant Health Inspection) portion of the USDA website.


I am undertaking a trip to Australia in October and a friend who is a woodworker has asked if I could bring back some native wood for him to work with in his backyard woodshop. He uses the pieces to make small bowls and things out of and doesn’t market any of the finished wood commercially at all. What would be required to bring in 3 pieces about a foot long each for him?


Regardless of whether the wood is for commercial or individual use, you will be asked to declare it to US Customs when you return to the United States. Many types of wood are subject to inspection, and if declared pest-free, will be allowed to enter the United States. Some, however, must be fumigated or subjected to heat treatment before they can be imported. Before leaving the US, you should determine the scientific name of the wood you will be importing and check with US Customs and the USDA regarding the import requirements for that species.


I have shipped household goods from the U.S. to Papua New Guinea and would now like to return some of them in one of my original crates that was constructed from American plywood and dimensional lumber. I have heard that the dimensional lumber used is an issue with international shipping now. Do I have to remove and replace the 2×4 braces in my crate or would it be allowable for return shipping?


Yes, you will have to replace or treat the dimensional lumber according to the Wood Packing Material Questions and Answers (Phase II):

  1. Dimensional lumber used as a bracing in pallets/crates otherwise constructed of plywood must meet proper heat or chemical treatment to ensure that they are free from pests and disease prior to importation.
  2. Because country of origin will be nearly impossible to confirm for imported pallets and crates, all wood packing materials are assumed to be of foreign origin and are subject to the Wood Packing Material requirements.

Please note: This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not specific legal advice. As an importer, it is your responsibility to meet all the legal requirements for importing goods.


What should I consider before importing something?

November 13th, 2007

Requirements for importing specific commodities depend on a wide variety of things. Some information, such as whether an item is subject to quota restrictions, eligible for reduced rates of duty, or restricted from entry because they originate in an embargoed country, can be determined only if you know the item’s Harmonized Tariff Schedule classification number. Determining an item’s HTS number can be extremely complicated. Please see our information under Duty Rates in the Import section of this web site.

Other requirements depend on other agencies’ safety, energy efficiency, health, etc. standards. Many of the items governed by these various rules cannot be imported without a permit from the related agency. See the chapter on Special Requirements in our publication “Importing Into the U.S.” for more information.
Another thing to consider is marking of county of origin. Everything imported for use in the U.S. must be marked with the country of origin, but some things are very hard, or impossible, to mark, such as diamonds, flowers, or water.
Finally, the distribution of many trademarked and copyrighted items in this country is restricted by contractual agreements that give exclusive rights to specific companies or individuals to distribute the product in this country. If you attempt to import a product covered by such an agreement, it could be seized at the border. For more information please see our information on Intellectual Property Rights.
We have attempted to give some thumbnail guidelines about things to consider in this Q&A format. However, circumstances change every day, and it is advisable to call your local port for specific guidance in importing your particular commodity. We also advise you to review our series of Informed Compliance Publications. They provide very detailed guidance on importing a variety of items, only some of which are listed in the FAQ category for Requirements for Importing Certain Goods.

How To, Import

How to Start an Import Business in Jewelry and Clothing from India

November 13th, 2007


I am trying to start a business in jewelry and clothes from India. I do not know how and where to start from. I want to make sure I have all the necessary licenses or documents that I may need in order to do this….please advice. Where do I start from? Which licenses do I may need? Any legal documents I may require to prove that I do have a small business in items such as jewelry, clothes home decor, etc. The jewelry is all artificial and clothes are our everyday usage type, nothing pricey or outrageous. All answers are welcome – thanks for your time.


India is an excellent choice for trading. They have a thriving textile industry (textiles are items made of fabric or cloth like clothing, table cloths, etc.) and are eager to do business with the United States. Before starting your business, you’ll want to check with your city, county, or state resources to confirm what requirements you’ll need to meet in order to operate. That’s outside the scope of this article, so I will leave that part to you. So far as importing your items are concerned, you’ll need the following:


If you do not have one already, locating a reputable vendor will be a difficult part of the process. One of the advantages of dealing with Indian importers is the widespread use of English, which should make things easier. Once you have found a vendor, consider placing a sample or small quantity order to get an idea of transit times, quality of the goods, actual pricing after shipping, insurance, etc.


No license is required to import the items you have described from India (or most countries). You can file the import paperwork yourself at your local port office, but since the process can be complicated, I highly suggest you consult with a Customs broker who is licensed to transact business on your behalf.


All import shipments coming into the United States must be accompanied by the following documentation:

  • Commercial Invoice stating the country of origin of the goods, their value, the currency used, and the number of units being imported.
  • Packing List – listing quantity and weight for the goods.
  • Customs form 3461 – A formal paper request to Customs to allow the entry of your import. A licensed Customs broker will be able to provide one to you.
  • Customs form 7501 – This form serves as a receipt for US Customs and yourself. It lists the items being imported, their value and the approximate duty you will be expected to pay. This will also be provided by a Customs broker.

Other considerations

Before importing, take some time to research or pay for a sit down visit with your import broker. Talk to them in detail about the type of goods you intend to import (including pictures or samples) and where they will be coming from. They will be able to provide an estimate for the amount of duty you will be responsible for, the classifications for your merchandise, and will be able to advise you on any special trade programs that might be applicable.

Please note: This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not specific legal advice. As an importer, it is your responsibility to meet all the legal requirements for importing goods.

Trade Notices

How to Import Granite

November 13th, 2007


How Do Import Granite?

I am interested in importing granite slabs into the U.S. for fabrication and re-sale purposes. I would like to know the following:

  • What license or permits are required?
  • What forms are necessary to obtain the licenses/permits?
  • Where can I find the necessary forms?
  • How much does it cost to obtain the licenses/permits?
  • How long does it take to receive the licenses/permits?
  • What is the likelihood of receiving the necessary license/permits?
  • Is it necessary to obtain separate credentials for each country from which I would like to import the material or will one set of credentials will allow me to import from various countries?


These questions are all very common for first time importers. Because you did not state otherwise, we’re going to have to assume that you’re importing granite from a country that maintains normal trade relations with the US (not Cuba or North Korea) and that you have not been previously restricted or barred from importing by US Customs.

What license or permits are required?


No licensing is required to import granite into the US. You can file the import paperwork yourself without obtaining any kind of license. Since the process can be cumbersome, it is recommended that you consult with a licensed Customs broker. A Customs broker will have to have a special license that allows them to transact Customs business on behalf of others. This is a confusing point for many importers.


Since you are importing an agricultural commodity – you may be asked to fumigate your shipment. Granite slabs are potentially home to slugs and other parasites that might impact the US ecosystem. A Customs broker or freight forwarder can get you a quote for any fumigation that is required.

What forms are necessary to obtain the licenses/permits?

Again, no licensing is required. The basic paperwork that accompanies an import includes:

  • A commercial invoice and packing list (that you or your vendor must produce). For granite be sure to detail the quantity you are importing in both metric tons and cubic meters on the invoice.
  • The traveling paperwork created by the carrier (either an airline or steamship line). This if often referred to as a Bill of Lading.
  • Customs form 3461 (which a Customs Broker will fill out for you) that serves as a formal request to Customs to allow import of the shipment.
  • Customs for 7501 (which the Customs Broker will also fill out) that serves as a worksheet/receipt for US Customs detailing the amount of duty you owe.

Where can I find the necessary forms?

Your local Customs port office will have all the forms on hand that you need or will be able to direct you if you need anything unusual.

How much does it cost to obtain the licenses/permits?

Instead of a licensing fee, US Customs collects revenue based primarily as percentage of the total value of goods being imported. Unworked granite slabs will be between 0-3% depending on their level of workmanship (totally unworked or cut into blocks for shipping). The classification for granite is found in chapter 25 of the US Harmonized Tariff Schedule.

How long does it take to receive the licenses/permits?

It may take a few days for your broker to arrange a Customs bond, but no additional approval will be required.

What is the likelihood of receiving the necessary license/permits?

Unless you’ve previously been denied importing privileges by Customs or you are dealing with an unscrupulous vendor who has had problems in the past, chances are good.

US Customs is there to administer and facilitate international trade while protecting the economy of the United States and will not deny your shipment unless they have good reason.

Note: first time importers stand a higher chance of having their shipment detained by US Customs for exam. You may want to pad your budget/timeline to allow for the possibility.

Is it necessary to obtain separate credentials for each country from which I would like to import the material or will one set of credentials will allow me to import from various countries?

No licensing is required. You can import freely from Canada, Brazil, Italy, South Africa, etc. with the same process.

Additional information

If you’re looking for a supplier, here are the trade statistics for unworked granite or granite cut into rough blocks for 2005. This list contains country of origin and quantity in metric tons for your product to give you an idea of where most imported granite is coming from.

Customs Value where quantities are collected in metric tons
Brazil 10,559
India 6,763
China 4,649
Italy 4,180
South Africa 464
Canada 442
Mexico 392
Spain 276
Vietnam 161
Saudi Arabia 141
France 96
Hong Kong 57
Australia 43
Zimbabwe 40
Taiwan 39
Subtotal Product Group (Quantities Collected in metric tons) 28,302
All Other: 89
Total 41,177

Please note: This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not specific legal advice. As an importer, it is your responsibility to meet all the legal requirements for importing goods.

Import, Q&A

What is the duty rate on rechargeable revitalizing skin care product using LED’s?

November 13th, 2007


I plan to import on a commercial basis late this year a newly developed consumer product that uses Light Emitting Diodes and gentle vibration to revitalize facial skin. This is a consumer product similar to hair dryers and the Sonicare toothbrush that draws less than 500 W and is rechargeable with an electric charger. What will be the duty on these products?


It can be especially difficult to assign a Harmonized Tariff Number to manufactured goods, especially those based on an emerging technology because the Harmonized Tariff Schedule may not specifically account for the item being imported. As this is a manufactured or refined product, it will be found in the later chapters of the Tariff (as opposed to imports like wheat, steel, etc. which are found in earlier chapters). The more refined a good, the further back it will be listed in the tariff. This prevents us from classifying your LED skin-care tool as simply an article of plastic or metal.

My first thought with this was to look in section XVIII, chapter 90 of the tariff which covers medical items. After looking at your description again, you’ve listed it as a consumer item and not a medical tool which makes this chapter unsuitable. Chapter 90 covers medical devices like dentist drills, medical diagnostic tools and other items you might find in a doctor’s or veterinarian’s office.

From there, the next logical choice is Section XVI, chapter 85 which encompasses

Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers, and parts and accessories of such articles

The unit contains a light-emitting diode (which is specifically accounted for in the tariff), but it also vibrates and functions as a hand-held appliance. Based on your description, I believe the essential character of the item is less an LED, and more an appliance or piece of electrical machinery. With this assumption, I would classify this item under:

8509.80.0095 – which provides for electromechanical domestic appliances, with self-contained electric motor, and parts thereof, other appliances, other.

Assuming your import is coming from a country that maintains normal trade relations with the United States (China, India, Great Britain, etc.) this item carries 4.2% duty rate and is eligible for several reduced rate of free trade programs.

Other things to consider are the possible import restrictions placed on consumer cosmetic devices by the FDA as well as the possible implications of shipping hazardous materials in the form of rechargeable batteries.

Please note: This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not specific legal advice. As an importer, it is your responsibility to meet all the legal requirements for importing goods.


Do I Need an Import License?

November 13th, 2007

For general merchandise (those items not specifically regulated by another agency), importers may file Customs entries for their own account without applying for an import license and without the use of a Customs Broker. This is often the case when receiving a package via the US Mail from overseas, or travelers returning from business abroad.

Filing Customs paperwork for your personal business imports can be a way to reduce overhead, especially for importers brining in the same merchandise from the same vendors time after time. Please note that importers (and not their brokers or agents) are ultimately responsible for properly declaring their goods to Customs, filing the proper paperwork, and paying the appropriate amount of duty regardless of whether they import for their own account or utilize a Customs Broker. If you are an importer and are considering filing Customs entries for your own account, take the time to research your commodity, and browse this site for articles on classifying with the USHTS and properly determining the value of your goods. Also be aware that in many cases Customs port offices are not accustomed to dealing with individuals since the majority of entries are filed by brokerage houses through the electronic ABI (Automated Broker Interface) system.