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RepGuide #7 – Customs

Customs is the legal authority making sure that items imported are legal and taxed correctly. Here’s what you can do to avoid trouble: Declare the value right and send the right invoice and documents. Even if customs doesn’t have a case against you it will cost you time, so avoiding it in the first place is helpful.

Disclaimer: Nothing contained in this guide/email or on our network shall be interpreted as advising you. This is no legal advice. We do not guarantee that the information here is right, especially for your respective country. Act responsible and obey the law. We assume that the items you ship are legal in your country.

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Customs in your country

The laws and applications of customs depend on your location. They are different from country to country and from officer to officer, so there is no general guide that’s always right. Inform yourself on experience other buyers from your country had to determine how risky you can be. There are countries that are very easy on items from China.

Always be nice to customs, these people are not only just doing their job, their job is to protect your country and you. This should always be respected.

Customs applications

Customs is supposed to inquire a tax on the worth of your parcel, not what you actually paid. This is to prevent abuse, such as declaring everything a gift. But in reality, the easiest way to determine the value of a parcel is to ask what you paid for it.

A lot of legislations state that shipping costs are supposed to be added to the value. In reality we never had to declare or add shipping costs.

Each country has a legal exemption limit, a value under which it doesn’t make sense to spend time collecting tolls. If your parcel is determined to be under that shipping cost it will go through customs without any problems. Keep in mind that this has to be converted between USD and your local currency.

Declared Value

Declared Value

Remember, we talked about declared values yesterday? The declared value is written on the commercial invoice.

There is a solid chance that if you declare the value of your parcel to be under the exemption limit, your parcel will be waved right through and never inspected.

Just look up the value for your country and have Superbuy declare it accordingly. Maybe round down so it’s not too obvious. For most countries this is about $20.

The commercial invoice is not legally binding for you and Superbuy is in another jurisdiction, so this should be risk-free. But there is a fair chance that customs doesn’t believe you and inspects your parcel regardless.

Customs Declared Limit Per Country

We found out this data by researching the laws for the following countries. This is not legal advice. All technical exemption limits assume the VAT for clothes. Keep in mind that you have to convert currencies to USD.

United Kingdom:
VAT Exemption < 18 GBP
Not charged < 7 GBP
Technical exemption limit < 35 GBP

EU (Germany):
VAT Exemption limit < 22€
Not charged < 5€
Technical Exemption < 26,30€

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Which parcels does Customs seize?

Logic and experience tells a lot of customers that big and heavy parcels are more likely to be inspected. This is true to a certain extend. Most countries have laws that only allow parcels to be searched if there’s profound suspicion that you’d have to pay tolls.

For example, a big parcel that has 5 items on the declared value sheet that add up to $20, one of them being shoes for $4 is a little suspicious. But there have also been users who shipped parcels weighing more than 10kg and successfully declaring them as $20. In the end it is always luck.

The Problem with Customs

The problem with customs isn’t only that you’ll have to pay tolls, the parcel also can’t just be dropped off at your location. Depending on your personal circumstances this can be a big problem: You either have to receive it personally or go to a customs office to pay the tolls. Depending on whether you’re always home to receive it and how far the customs station is away this is a big or small problem.

How to deal with customs

Faking invoices

We know that it is possible to alter invoices or the Superbuy order screen with inspect element. You can just overwrite values in the developer’s menu. We are strictly against that. Especially using Photoshop gives you the extra risk of placing the text in the wrong spot. It is dangerous and unnecessarily complicated.

We advise against altering invoices, faking an invoice is illegal. You might get caught, because it’s easy to miss one of the decimal delimiters (,/.), or to use a wrong currency conversion rate for the date on the invoice.

Sending a different invoices

In the old days you used to be able to send them any invoice with Chinese letters and it was fine, so you didn’t even have to fake anything as long as you had an invoice at your disposal. To avoid trouble this would have to be less than 2 months old. An example for an invoice this worked very well with is an invoice for a top-up of $25. For lots of countries this might still work, and to be honest, it could very easily be an honest mistake because Superbuy doesn’t make it clear what the invoices are actually for.

Because they caught on to this trick, some countries require you to additionally send a screenshot of the items you buy. We explain how to deal with this later in this guide.

No matter what you do, always save everything you send so you don’t contradict yourself later down the line.

Customs Clearance Event

Seizure Level 1

This is the first step customs takes after deciding that your commercial invoice is not accepted. From our experience they will call you and give you an email address to send a proof of purchase to. This can be a Paypal invoice or credit card statement.

Do not try to send them the commercial invoice again. You can ask them whether they noticed it. If they did notice it, do not send it again. It doesn’t hold any legal value and will only be used against you.

Seizure Level 2

Level 2 is when customs doubts your proof of purchase. We’ve only had Level 2 once, after we’ve send an invoice that wasn’t altered but very old. They also complained that the proof of purchase only had 1 line, while the commercial invoice and the parcel had more than one item.

Customs asked for the whole content of the parcel and a screenshot of the Superbuy order screen that shows every single item. 

They were happy with screenshots from the agent’s shopping orders page. If you want to go through with it without problems, your orders should match the paypal amount. But if you want to do some explaining they should understand if you tell them that the sender is a shopping agent and that they combine items from different oders and thus the amounts don’t match.

Customs makes you pay customs toll fees

Don’t worry if this happens, you should still be saving money. What’s very important to know: This is not at all connected to any brand, trademark or copyright complaints.

Even if customs buys your customs declaration, you might still have to pay because their job is to tax you for the value of your import, not the actual items. So while they might believe you that you only paid $5 for a pair of jeans, they can say that jeans have a value of $25 in your destination country. Then you have to make a toy payment that’s as high as if you were importing something worth $25.

Destruction of items

Don’t be scared that your items could be destroyed. You might read stories about it every once in a while, but meanwhile you don’t read about the 10,000 parcels that haven’t been destroyed. Our community asks lots of questions about shipping, but we never heard of a case where a item got destroyed.

For your item to be destroyed, a copyright holder has to have an agreement with customs. Then the copyright holder has to determine whether it is authentic or not. You will get notified via mail and asked if you object the destruction. We recommend you don’t reply and take the loss. There has not been a case we heard of where a copyright holder takes further steps and some sellers might even send you a replacement for free.

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Disclaimer: Terms of conditions of CHWD apply. Nothing contained in this guide/email or on our network shall be interpreted as advising you. Act responsible and obey the law.
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