Duties and Taxes When Importing Goods into the U.S.

To expand your business, importing goods from other countries shall be the top strategy that comes to your mind.

Before getting started on your business, you may need to know the rules and regulations when importing goods from overseas, especially the penalties when breaking a rule. As a mid-professional in the industry, I will guide you through the whole process and correct steps when scaling your business from overseas.

Firstly, there is a question you may want to ask;

Why are duties and taxes charged on imported goods?

It is a huge support to local businesses when adding these duties and taxes on imported goods. These charges help protect local industries and jobs and control the flow of restricted and prohibited goods.

What duties and taxes are charged on imported goods?

In some cases, it is calculated on both the value of the goods and the quantity being imported. Regardless of whether you are trading as an individual, or for a business, you can expect to pay import duties and taxes.

Assuming your business in the U.S., you can get an idea about the current rates for duties and taxes from the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. However, fees and charges are updated regularly so it pays to do thorough research before you authorize a major import of goods.

Other charges may be applied too, including:
· Sales taxes, which are not automatically applied but may be payable to the state
· Federal excise taxes on the import of alcohol and tobacco
· Processing fees
· Harbor maintenance fees

Read more at U.S. customs duties.

Do I need to pay a Customs bond?

Yes. Customs bonds are also required by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for businesses importing goods with a value of over $2,500.

It is a legally binding contract you buy in order to give assurances that your import taxes and fees will be paid. Customs bonds must be arranged before the goods leave their originating port.

Often, businesses use customs brokers to arrange the bonds because of the frequency and agility they have to complete the bond request. Single entry bonds are useful if you will only need a one-time-only import, while continuous entry bonds cover your shipments over the course of the year.

What goods attract duty and tax charges?

Some goods do not attract charges. Again, it is worth doing your research about any specific entry requirements that apply to the particular goods or commodities you wish to import.

In most cases, although it does depend on the nature of the product, duty is not charged if the value is less than $800.

Countries with tariffs or free trade agreements

There are different costs associated with importing from certain countries.
The United States has entered trade agreements with Canada, Mexico, Israel, and many Caribbean countries, which means that lower or no import taxes are applied.

There are reduced taxes on certain goods from other countries too, including Israel, Jordan, Chile, and Singapore.

To receive your entitlement for tax discounts, ensure you are supplied with a statement known as a ‘Certificate of Origin’ from the country where the goods originated.

Conversely, additional tariffs were put on goods from many European countries, including France, The Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Ukraine.

What other charges are applied on imported goods?

Duties and taxes are paid on top of the cost of transporting the goods, and that is often not a cheap exercise either. Charges applied on imported goods can usually be defined as either freight costs or landed costs. Freight costs are calculated on three variable factors:

· The weight of the goods
· Shipping method
· Speed of shipping

Goods sent by air typically attract a rate that is measured per kilogram, while sea freight most commonly has a cost per container applied. Many services offer discounts or reductions in costs for importing where there is no urgency on the delivery of the goods. Landed costs can include transportation or warehouse costs.

Questions to consider

To ensure you are handling the process of importing goods to the United States with adequate consideration, ask yourself these questions:

· Do you know exactly what you are importing?
· Do you know what it is made of?
· Do you know where it was made?
· Have you properly valued the goods?
· Have you reported any costs or payments associated with the imported

merchandise which could include commissions, rebates, or royalties?

· Are the goods restricted or are there any conditions on the import of the goods?
· Do any conditional free trade agreements apply to the importation?
· Does a Customs bond need to be arranged?
· Do you have all of the documents required to ensure the goods will be granted entry?


There are penalties for carrying out misleading or fraudulent activity regarding importing goods into the United States. Because taxes are based on the value of goods being imported, it’s critical that you are truthful and accurate about the value of the goods.

Imports are often audited and there are penalties for providing an inaccurate value estimate.

As this Importing into the United States document says “Reasonable care is an explicit responsibility on the part of the importer.”

There are also penalties for importing illegal material and, for non-payment of duties and taxes.

If one thing remains in your mind from reading this article — it’s that you should fully understand your responsibilities to honestly describe and declare your imported goods and pay any charges that are owed.

Use a professional freight forwarder

You may see some products at a price that is too good to refuse but get a rude shock when it comes to paying the fees that are payable for importing goods.
It pays to do your homework before you order goods that may incur import duties and charges, but it’s also worth engaging the experts for help.

Our freight forwarding professionals at ZakeSports have unrivaled expertise when it comes to importing goods from the United States and can help you understand the duties and taxes you are required to pay.
Get in touch with us today to learn more.