Buying from China without paying Customs Duty/Tax.

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The Boston Tea Party and Gandhi’s Salt March (1, 2) have taught us not to pay overpriced and sometimes unjustified taxes and duties. This is a small guide for buying stuff from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), not the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Don’t buy locally from importers who don’t provide legal invoices. They are actually buying stuff in small quantities from the above-mentioned sites without paying duties, yet charge you exorbitant profit margins. They’re cheating you as well as your country’s government. Also, they will not cover warranties.

 

Context

  • This guide is valid across the Indian subcontinent (South Asia), i.e., India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan.
  • Not valid for countries like Brazil, Russia, etc. where the Customs departments are more efficient.
  • Please comment with your experiences with your country’s Customs and correct me if I’m wrong.

 

Before buying

  • Use only reputed e-commerce sites like AliExpress, Banggood, DealExtreme, etc
  • Use mobile apps for more discounts.
  • Search for stuff and order by numbers sold.
    Buy from sellers who have sold highest number of orders, taking cost into account.
  • Chinese sellers are not very technically inclined, so don’t expect them to answer all your technical doubts/queries.

 

While buying

  • If possible, use only (China) Govt. post registered air mail/parcel.
    This might take 30-45 days for delivery, but it’s less likely to be held and charged by Customs than premium shippers like DHL or FedEx that typically deliver within a week.
  • Tell the seller to declare stuff as sample or replacement part in the invoice, and declare only 10% of the price. See that amount declared is proportional to the size/volume of the shipment.
  • Break down large quantities into smaller packages.
  • Order only to residential addresses.
  • Order not only to your house but also to your neighbours’ as well as your friends’ houses.
  • As a rule of thumb, don’t buy stuff that costs above $80-100. If it’s flagged by Customs, you’ll end up paying more than 1.5x of the price of the locally available alternative.

 

After buying

  • Do not confirm delivery. Allow protection period to run out.
  • Check the stuff for defects as soon as they arrive.
  • Before filing disputes, contact the seller once to see if they are reasonable. Most of them will tell you to file disputes. If they don’t, file disputes anyways.
  • Be polite to sellers. They like to be addressed as friend or brother/sister. Keep wishing them on Chinese festivals. If they like you, they’ll give you coupons and will also tell you about upcoming offers or new products.

 

Buy locally

  • When you don’t want to wait a month or more.
  • You have money to spend.
  • If you don’t mind buying from legal importers after shelling more money.
  • If you don’t think that corrupt politicians are milking your country more than you are.
  • If you are worried about your country’s trade deficit with China.
  • Want to make your country great again. 😛