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Hello everyone.

 

I am brand new to this forum, so I would like to say hello to everyone and thank everyone for their collective ambition in driving a forum as well defined and intuitive as this one is. I've navigated through some of the threads and my first inclination that there is a wealth of great information to be found here. I hope to learn a lot from this team.

 

To get to the point of my thread, I am curious about importing goods from China to the US (in regards to associated import fees/duties, custom taxes, laws & regulations, etc). I've spent a lot of time researching government websites and personal websites, blogs & forums looking for some light to be shed, but, it's like answers to these questions are taboo and can only be found in the deepest darkest corridors of the deep web. 

 

To give you all a briefing, I am a first time ecommerce business owner operating in a general partnership. We are currently in the process of setting up our first ecommerce website.

 

Our business model is dropshipping from Chinese Wholesalers. I know what you're all going to tell me "Don't do that / Don't sell electronics / Don't don't don't". But, please spare me this lecture, as I have a long term goal in mind of getting away from dropshipping in general and maintaining a personal inventory and hopefully acquiring more reputable wholesale sources. On top of that, I have a close acquaintance who introduced me to this model, as well as the world of ecommerce,  He shares an office with me at our day job and he is very close to retiring to work for himself. He dropships from China Wholesalers and yes, he deals with a decent amount of customer complaints about long shipping times and occasionally has returns due to problems with the items (which he claims are, more times than not, users not understanding how to properly utilize the equipment...he sells straight talk cell phones), but at the end of the year, he still ended up profiting about 4 times his annual salary from his day job. That notion in itself is the driving factor and motivation that has me striving to be a successful ecommerce retailer. 

 

Now that I've forced you through a justification of my business model (if you've made it this far), I will get to the meat of the thread. Most all of the Chinese wholesalers that I have considered dealing with have the same policies explicitly stated somewhere in their fine print "IT IS THE BUYERS RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THEIR COUNTRIES LAWS AND REGULATIONS FOR IMPORTING GOODS. WE WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ASSOCIATED FEES, TAXES OR OTHER DUTIES APPLIED FROM IMPORTING GOODS TO YOUR COUNTRY, etc etc etc). As I stated above, I have yet to find the holy grail website in relation to these laws/regulations. Can anyone shed light on where I might go to find what items are not allowed to be shipped in the US? What type of items are going to accumulate an import fee, a custom duty, etc? Are custom fees more associated to the weight of your shipment than the content? Is there a way to predict how much money my customer might see if their item does accumulate such a fee or tax? 

 

My wife operates a co-op via social media. Basically she gets a whole bunch of house-wives together, all of them flocking to buy some adorable little hat or jewelry for their baby, or makeup or some other womanly item. Then my wife goes to a Chinese wholesaler and is able to get bulk pricing for the items and supply these items to her co-op members for dirt cheap prices and she still makes a little money. She has ordered tens of times from China, some packages in excess of 40lbs and has yet to be stuck with any type of custom tax or fee. Most policies on the Chinese wholesalers websites all agree that the event of accumulating a custom fee is rare, as customs actually investigate a very small percentage of product filtering through their hands. Additionally, my friend who has an established business, has been operating in full swing for a couple of years and he has yet to have an issue. But, I am a person who wants to know the law, I would like to have clear cut answers before I actually jump in to something that has a grey area.

 

If anyone can give me any insight at all, even if it is only slightly relevant to the topic, I would be very appreciative. I am open to all tips and suggestions as I am a noob. 

 

Thank you all for reading and I hope to get the opportunity to pick your brains.

 

-Alex

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Customs tariffs and fees are going to depend on the value and nature of the goods, rather than their weight. It sounds to me like you have no idea of how this stuff works. You might start at your local Post Office to see what would be involved in having something mailed to you from China -- do you (the recipient) have to pay the fee to claim your package, or does the shipper have to pay it for you? From there, you should be able to get enough information to help you get started in tracking down information. If you will be shipping from China by other than the mail (UPS, FedEx, container companies, etc.) they should be able to give you some idea what information to look for and where to find it -- it's their bread and butter, or at least they can point you to customs brokers who handle this stuff every day.

 

 

websites all agree that the event of accumulating a custom fee is rare, as customs actually investigate a very small percentage of product filtering through their hands.

 

There you go. You still have to properly declare your goods, file the right forms, and pay the appropriate fees and tariffs. If you don't, and they decide to open up your package and look inside, you could be in trouble. Even if it's not drugs or banned items (criminal prosecution), it will still be expensive.

 

A final note: if importing from Chinese manufacturers, be very, very careful about their selling you counterfeit goods (they're notorious for that). Also make sure that all trademarks are legitimate and you have permission to sell such goods. If you are trying to get around established sales channels in the US, be aware that they have very low tolerance for "gray market" goods, and will fight you (by fair means or foul) to stop you as competition.


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Thanks Phil. The common practice seems to be a statement in the shipping policy that the buyer is responsible for any additional fees due to importation. I intend to have the same policy, but, I would like to personally be able to have a rough idea of what kind of fees my customers could potentially run in to. If they run in to a $35 fee for an item they just paid $29.99 for, I don't want to sell it. And yes you are correct, I am green to the entire practice. Especially when it comes to this particular aspect of transporting goods across borders. But you have expressed what should have been the obvious answer from the beginning, "Go talk to the post office, dummy". I will heed your advice and speak with someone there to see how far down the rabbit hole I can get. 

 

And in regards to your comment about counterfeit goods, yes I have come across several in my search for product. I will not market or sell items that I can identify as counterfeit. I've been researching manufacturers and the associated model numbers of items prior to listing them to give me that peace of mind.

 

I appreciate the input Phil.

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To give an additional bump to this thread; Phil has given me good advice and a direction to go. However, if anyone else reads this thread and has any input at all in regards to any related topic, please communicate. I am eager to learn any knowledge that anyone is willing to share and open discussion so that I can be more confident in any action I decide to take. Thanks again.

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