Do I have to pay import duty on items that have been exported from the United States that are being returned?
If you have an item that was previously resident in the United States, but for some reason was exported and is now being returned, be sure to inform US Customs about its status. Items previously exported are often considered duty free! This means that although you might have to pay a small entry fee, your goods will not be assessed taxes as a percentage of their value.
The logic behind this duty free status is simple – US Customs wants importers to pay an import tax at least once on items not made in the United States. That means that in general you can claim a duty free status under chapter 98 of the US Harmonized Tariff Schedule on items that were either made in the USA, or had already been imported previously.
When might this apply?
This scenario might come into play if:
- one of your products was exported, used in a foreign country, and is now being returned;
- you’re exporting something for repair;
- your item was exported as an exhibit for a trade show or similar;
- your item is a “tool of trade” used abroad temporarily.
Gotcha’s to avoid:
- Just because your entry is duty free does not mean you can avoid filing import paperwork. You might also be subject to processing fees.
- If your item was “advanced in value” while overseas, you will probably owe duty on the value of the improvement. Example: you exported a car made in the US and had a French radio installed. When the car returns, you will owe duty on the value of the radio but not the car.
- Depending on the product, there may be a three year window between the exportation and duty free re importation of your item.