Can I shirk my duty?
March 24, 2015 9:43 AM   Subscribe

I have to mail a large number of packages containing electronic devices, say printers, to a few dozen military sites overseas. If I am shipping to a foreign Air/Army Post Office (APO) or a Fleet Post Office (FPO) on a US Military Base, do I have to pay customs duties and taxes on those goods?

I am shipping from a commercial business for military use, not personal use. I have heard something like that US military bases are "US Soil" and thus all mail addressed within the APO/FPO system does not incur duties for the host country. Is that true? Can somebody point me to something official that would describe the policy about duties, taxes, and shipping to overseas military sites? (Google Fu failed me big time. I'm more confused now than when I started.)
posted by cross_impact to Law & Government (9 answers total)
Even if you're shipping from a civilian address maybe you could call the Military Postal Service Agency and ask? DoD website says their customer support number is: 1-800-810-6098
posted by Wretch729 at 9:53 AM on March 24, 2015

If I recall correctly, mailing to FPO/APO addresses are like mailing in the USA, both in terms of customs declarations and in terms of rates. You should be able to call any post office and have them confirm this. Or better yet, here's the relevant page from the Domestic Mail Manual.
posted by adamrice at 10:07 AM on March 24, 2015

Shipping from the U.S. to an APO/FPO is the same as shipping from the U.S. to the U.S. as far as duties and excise taxes and suchlike -- you will likely have to fill out customs forms, but you won't have to pay any extra for it.

Source: Am a former military postmaster.
posted by Etrigan at 10:26 AM on March 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

Caution: There are (or were the last time I shipped to APO/FPO addresses) a couple of different possible customs forms at the post office. So check that it's the right one as opposed to "oh, this says customs, I'll fill that out."
posted by rmd1023 at 10:53 AM on March 24, 2015

Yeah. You still have to fill out the Customs form for some unknown reason, but nobody actually pays duty (which would be on the recipient anyway, wouldn't it?).
posted by ereshkigal45 at 10:53 AM on March 24, 2015

If you have an APO/FPO address, YOU kind of aren't shipping anything overseas. You likely have a New York address and you will put that on your packages, and then the military delivers it from there.

Yes, you need to fill out forms. No, you don't incur duty and the postage is like shipping to New York.

Source: Former military wife who lived in Germany for a time.
posted by Michele in California at 11:06 AM on March 24, 2015

Nope. APO/FPO addresses are domestic as far as postage is concerned. The military picks up the cost of transporting them from the US to wherever the actual location in the world is, and there's no customs or duty.

However there are some fairly stringent rules on what can be shipped to various APO/FPO addresses. At least with APOs it varies by location. (There used to be a nice website called "" that had a database of what could be shipped where, but it seems to be dead. Too bad.) And there is some amount of paperwork that you will have to fill out describing the contents.

The form you will want—or at least, the one I have always filled out for APO shipments—is a "PS Form 2976-A" which is a "Customs Declaration and Dispatch Note CP72" ... despite its name, you won't owe customs, it's just to describe what's inside the package. My strong recommendation is that you go to the post office and get one, fill it out at home, and then bring it with you. They're a carbon form where you have to press and make like 6 copies, so do it on a hard surface with a fine pen, or use a typewriter if you have one. There may be an electronic way to fill it in now, if you use the website label printing thingy, but I have never done that.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:49 AM on March 24, 2015

On some additional thought, you may only need to fill out the 2976-A form when the package exceeds a certain size or weight.

I've always used the USPS Flat Rate Medium or Flat Rate Large boxes and they required the form, but if you are sending very small items you might be able to dodge the requirement to fill out the form. It might be worth asking beforehand as the form is sort of a mild annoyance.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:52 AM on March 24, 2015

You'll need to fill out a customs form, but you won't have to pay customs or import duty on it, and it's the same postage cost as if you were shipping within the US.

The USPS Click-N-Ship service lets you fill out customs forms electronically. I've done this a few times to ship things to Canada. When you're actually shipping to another country, there's a box of fine print that comes up toward the bottom of the webpage before you fill out the customs form that tells you what you can and cannot ship to that country. I do not know if they have that box depending on what country your APO/FPO/DPO is located in.

You can maybe try to guess based on the "state" your APO/DPO/FPO is in and/or the first three digits of the ZIP code:

If the "state" is AA, it means the APO/FPO/DPO is in North America (except the US or Canada) or South America:

ZIP code 340xx.

If the "state" is AE, it means the APO/FPO/DPO is in Europe, Africa, Asia, or Canada:

ZIP code 090xx, 091xx, or 092xx - Germany
ZIP code 093xx - Iraq, Afghanistan, or somewhere else in the Middle East
ZIP code 094xx - The United Kingdom
ZIP code 095xx - Naval or Marine ship at sea near Europe or Asia.
ZIP code 096xx - Spain or Italy
ZIP code 097xx - Greenland, Canada, or elsewhere in Europe.
ZIP code 098xx - Africa and parts of the Middle East.

If the "state" is AP, it means the APO/FPO/DPO is in the Pacific:

ZIP code 962xx - Korea
ZIP code 963xx - Japan
ZIP code 964xx - The Phillippines
ZIP code 965xx - Elsewhere in the Pacific
ZIP code 966xx - Naval or Marine ship at sea in the Pacific.

This way, you might be able to tell what country's regulations you'll need to follow in terms of shipping things into the country from the US.

posted by tckma at 2:01 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

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