How to avoid customs fees on return of my own computer
May 6, 2011 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Do I have to pay customs duties to have a computer I left behind in Ireland shipped to California?

Long story short: I recently brought a small computer with me to Ireland and left it behind. I need to have it shipped back to me here in California but I'd like to avoid extravagant customs charges.

What is the best customs declaration the sender can make that will a.) not cost me the price of a new computer on my end and b.) still value the item appropriately in case it gets damaged?

Should they mark it "return of personal property?" I've read this question, but it's the reverse direction.

Trivia: We'll be sending Royal Mail Express or Priority, unless that sounds like a terrible idea for the survival of a Mac Mini.

Thank you, AskMe.
posted by AndNeverWell to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ask whoever is mailing your package home to write "used personal goods returned" on the Customs declaration - but as a rule, all personal effects taken abroad by a US resident return duty-free.
posted by alynnk at 1:06 PM on May 6, 2011

Best answer: Here's an extensive PDF about Customs from Unigroup. In short, it is difficult to tell what the duty on an item will be ahead of time -- it depends on the harmonized tariff schedule (have fun trying to find the code that describes a "laptop" in there!), the value (values of more than $2000 automatically trigger special treatment), and the whim of the Customs agent. That said, in my experience you will pay nothing for the return of your own goods as long as you label the package correctly.

The PDF suggests writing "Personal Goods Returned" on the package. I'd also suggest listing the used replacement cost as the customs value (i.e. whatever it'd cost to get a comparable one on Ebay), and sending well-packaged via Registered Royal Mail.
posted by vorfeed at 1:10 PM on May 6, 2011

Best answer: A computer should fall into HTS code 8471.30.01, for which there is no US import duty. You're good to go, but pack it well!
posted by tommasz at 2:58 PM on May 6, 2011

Best answer: Sorry to chime in again, but this is kind of what I do for a living, so here goes - I Am Not Your US Customs broker, etc.:

The problem with classifying it under 8471.30.0100 is twofold: first, the classification calls for a product "consisting of at least a central processing unit, a keyboard and a display", which would only cover the Mac Mini if it's also being shipped home with it's accompanying accessories. Also, with this classification Customs is also going to assume it is new and will treat it as such and it's going to require FCC paperwork; importing computers is a little tricky for this reason.

If you're really looking for an HTS classification I'd go with 9804.00.45, "Articles imported by or for the account of any person arriving in the United States who is a returning resident thereof; All personal and household effects taken abroad by him or for his account". Duty-free, and no merchandise processing fee, either.

But really, you should be good with "personal goods returned" and a value of under $2000, as vorfeed says. The difference between the over/under value thing really only determines how much paperwork you'll have to fill out - anything over $2K is considered a formal entry and that's where the HTS classifications and some more forms will come into play.
posted by alynnk at 3:43 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: God, I love Metafilter. Thank you everyone! "Personal goods returned" seems like it will work perfectly.
posted by AndNeverWell at 4:06 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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