Paying Duty: The importer is ultimately responsible for paying any duty owed on an import. Determining duty can be very complicated, and while shipping services will often give an estimate for what the duty rate on an item might be, only Customs can make a final determination about what is owed. You should not be misled into thinking your purchase price includes duty because the seller cannot say with absolute certainty what the duty will be. As a rule, a purchase price that includes shipping and handling does not include duty or any costs associated with clearing the goods through Customs. First time importers are often surprised by bills they receive for duty, U.S. Customs merchandise processing fee, and something referred to as “customs fees,” which are actually charges for the services of the broker who cleared your goods through Customs.
How you pay duty depends on how your goods were shipped. If your goods were shipped through the International Postal Service, you will need to pay the mail carrier and/or go to your local post office to pay any duty and processing fees owed when your package arrives at that post office. If your goods were sent by a courier service, that service will either bill you for the duty they paid on your behalf or require payment on delivery.
If your goods were sent by freight, there are two possible scenarios for paying duty.
- If no arrangements were made to forward the goods to your door, you will need to either clear them through Customs yourself, in which case you will pay duty directly to Customs at the port where your goods arrived. Alternatively, you will need to arrange for a broker to clear your goods. If you hire a broker, they will bill you for their services and any duty they paid on your behalf.
- If arrangements were made to forward your goods to you, you will be billed for any duty owed, and for the services of the broker who cleared them through Customs.
Reminder: Customs holds the importer – YOU – liable for the payment of duty not the seller.