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Topic: Swapping vs sending gifts custom fee discussion  (Read 4006 times)
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Ruby Copperhead
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« on: September 17, 2010 03:02:53 AM »

I was at the custom office yesterday to pick up a swap package and it took a long discussion there to persuade them that this was not a commercial package. There was one point that I thought would interest you too...
The custom officer said if there is an exchange of packages, it's not exactly the same as sending a gift anymore. I asked how about exchanging christmas packages with a relative who lives abroad, and she said that wasn't a problem, but sometimes collectors swap valuable collector's items and those would need to be charged...

I got off without a fee as they saw it was really a private package.

But it got me wondering... what if I had been swapping with a craftster member who was indeed living off her creations? What I had received this time was crochet, and there just isn't a market for crocheted things in Germany, but for other things there would be... I guess in that case, I would have had to pay the custom fee for it...

Has anyone ever had that problem?

It can probably be omitted by filling in a low value in the custom declaration so it won't attract attention, but one never knows... it just had never occured to me that exchanging presents, if you do it often enough, could be seen as a kind of trade...
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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2010 03:40:43 PM »

ive asked about this one a couple of times (how to avoid having my partner pay for customs fees), but i dont think ive ever got a definitive answer.  i would hate for my swap partner to have to pay but i also want to make sure i get reimbursed should a package go missing.  normally i wouldnt care but most international swap packages cost me at the very least 20 dollars and thats if i can shove them in a flat rate envelope.  i know ive paid as much as 50 dollars just to ship.  in order to make it feasible to reship in the event of a missing package i have to be able to recoup some of the lost money.  so ive been marking gift and putting a 20-30 dollar value lately depending on what i send. 

i do know that on some countries shipping guidelines page (on usps.com) they list the value limit before they require a customs fees.  for the ones that do, it seemed pretty high. higher than the value of any item i would send. 

so far none of my partners have said they had to pay customs.  i would feel rotten if they did. 
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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2010 03:59:54 PM »

A postal clerk told me to declare "handmade" and that would avoid the fee.  So, handmade (aka unique, custom, crafted, etc) has less value that Walmart or sweatshop, eh?

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Ruby Copperhead
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« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2010 08:58:45 AM »

I hope not Cheesy It probably shows that the item is a personalized gift. Or that you aren't going to rival the country's industry. Hm, not certain...
I think it wouldn't really be so bad to pay a custom's fee. For the value that we are sending in swaps, it would just be a few Euros, at most. And if it really should happen that someone looks at a swap package and says, hey, this is valuable, I think that'd not be the worst thing that could happen Grin

The thing is, I've seen a lot of swap packages that ARE valuable, very valuable. In the IYP swaps, for example, or when someone just makes something mindblowing. Let's say something like a very elaborate quilt or a very well made doll or a miniature dollhouse... that could easily have a value of several hundred dollars if it was a custom made article... and in that case, the fee would be higher... I was wondering about it... because it's within the judgement of customs to decide if a present is being charged. And if you're in a big swap, with big international shipping costs, and the package you get will cost you another bigger amount... now that'd make it expensive...

By the way, my swap partner said she put the high value on because she wanted the insurance to cover it in case it got lost.
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« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2010 06:16:47 PM »

I was told by the PO to put 'homemade' instead of 'handmade' as they consider there to be a difference and then for the value put "NCV" - no commercial value.  I've never had an issue sending or receiving internationally.
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« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2010 11:27:24 PM »

      I believe that the key issue is sellability of an item. Garments coming in from foriegn factories are marked as samples to avoid custom fees. I have actually seen garments intended as samples with large holes cut in them by customs, if they were not marked with ink or embroidery.
  It would be wise to avoid any appearance of a commercial package. Putting in a birthday card, as well as labeling it as a home-made gift would help.
  Writing the label out by hand might be better than using your printer, etc. Put some cute stickers on the box. Anything to give it a non-commercial appearance.
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« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2010 11:59:55 AM »

      I believe that the key issue is sellability of an item. Garments coming in from foriegn factories are marked as samples to avoid custom fees. I have actually seen garments intended as samples with large holes cut in them by customs, if they were not marked with ink or embroidery.
  It would be wise to avoid any appearance of a commercial package. Putting in a birthday card, as well as labeling it as a home-made gift would help.
  Writing the label out by hand might be better than using your printer, etc. Put some cute stickers on the box. Anything to give it a non-commercial appearance.

I love the idea of putting a birthday card in there  Cheesy and I can just picture the custom people "didn't this person get a Birthday package three months ago?" Guess you'd have to tell them "It's my half un-birthday"  Wink You could also stamp "from Grandma" or something on the box to get extra sneaky (not implying that a homemade gift from Grandma isn't worth money, just implying that customs might think a homemade gift from Grandma is worth no money)  Cheesy
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« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2010 06:29:21 PM »

 That's so funny! But true, about grandma gifts. As for the birthday, you could send different types of cards to fit the season.
  I guess you really don't want to declare a value, huh?
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gavagai
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2010 04:21:57 AM »

Custom fees are not really that small, at least not in Sweden, because there is VAT that is calculated from the value of the package, but customs also take a handling fee that isn't related to the value of the item, so even an item that isn't worth much can cost quite a lot (compared to the value of it).

In my experience I would just advice everyone to tick the "gift" box AND write a low value. If not it could (at least here) become quite pricey. I myself always tick the "gift" box and write "no value" as value.
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Ruby Copperhead
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« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2010 02:55:20 AM »

I talked to the custom officer about the no value, I told her I sometimes write "no commercial value" on it, and she advised me against it, because not all gifts are tax-free, only if their value is lower than 45 Euros (for Germany, every country has their own limits), and if the value is higher, they have to decide whether they tax the package on a case to case basis. If it's clearly a present from private person to private person, it's usually not a problem (therefor, "from Grandma" sound good Grin).
Wow, gavagai, a handling fee, I hate those. I get them from community services often, as soon as they lift a finger... and I always think, hey, don't you get a salary already for doing exactly that, so why can you demand extra money for doing the job you get paid for? And in case of custom controls, you didn't even ask for your package to get searched, and still you need to pay for it? That sounds kind of wrong.
I second the gift+low value strategy, and in case of doubt, ask your swap partner to check on regulations of their country. I recently found out that you can't send alcohol per mail in the US (fortunately before trying to send a bottle of wine) - never would have thought of that, wine is hardly considered a public danger around here where I live in between wine yards Grin
I can understand that it's kind of hard to send a quilt and write a value that didn't even cover your expenses on fabric... especially if you want insurance on the package... in that case, maybe packing an extra that makes up for possible custom fees would be debatable...
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« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2010 10:17:27 AM »

the birthday card thing is sadly not a good idea if you live in the UK  Cry
i was asked on wednesday if the package i was sending (for the 'make me a plushie of my favourite character' swap) contained a letter, and since i've sent parcels containing letters, and even things like books overseas before at a much cheaper rate (i think the parcel gets classified as 'printed papers' rather than something like 'small packet', which makes it *sound* lighter and easier to handle, at least!), i told the lady 'yes'.... she then told me it would cost me 30 to ship instead of 10, because i'd have to pay the equivalent of a letter plus a tracking number + a package plus a tracking number  Angry
since i'd confessed, i had to open up the package and take the letter out before she would send it   Sad i sent my partner a PM today to apologise for sending her a plushie with no note attached, but i hope she'll be able to guess that it's from me!


i'm sure that i'm the only one silly enough to own up to having snuck a letter into a package that's otherwise filled up with yarn, beads and stuffing- but i guess that if customs open a package that isn't meant to have a letter in, and find one, you might be charged.
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2010 11:39:28 AM »

Wow, that's just about the dumbest rule I've ever heard of.
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« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2010 01:49:13 PM »

I would have a read on the royal mail website.. at work so I cant.. but i think your postoffice is making things up. If you send a parcel.. it doesnt matter if you have a letter in it. I send loads of swap packages to all over the place and i never get asked that.. 
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« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2010 01:10:07 PM »

I would have a read on the royal mail website.. at work so I cant.. but i think your postoffice is making things up. If you send a parcel.. it doesnt matter if you have a letter in it. I send loads of swap packages to all over the place and i never get asked that.. 

I've had the same thing too - if there's a letter (or, heaven forfend, a SEALED CARD Shocked) it's charged at more than a package with nothing in it. So, naturally, I lie through my teeth Grin
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« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2010 02:39:54 PM »

this is what it says on the royal mail website..

We can offer you a cheaper rate if youre sending gifts, goods or commercial samples. When using this service, please write SMALL PACKET in the top left corner on the front. You can also include a letter relating to the contents, but no other personalised correspondence

So if they ask that question again, just say it contains a inventory list.. in case they check.. TBH it's insane if you send gifts, you cant send an letter with it..
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« Reply #15 on: October 26, 2010 01:08:38 PM »

Wow, top left corner? I don't know... to me this sounds a lot like: 'We accept your package if you write the secret code word upside down on the top left corner while you are standing on one leg, humming the national anthem and wearing an orange sweater.' Grin Grin
It reminds me of the supermarket that had color coded shopping carts and forced you to sort them into the color coded line after shopping. I was like "yeah, and next time, you're also supposed to do a little dance." Grin
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jemimah
« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2010 07:07:13 PM »

You can also include a letter relating to the contents, but no other personalised correspondence ...

That is completely bizarre!! I'm starting to think NZ Post is pretty darn great after reading some of my fellow craftsters horror stories.

Recently I put 'jewellery' on the customs form to describe a non-precious metal bracelet, and the lady at the NZ Post counter made me change it to 'fashion accessory' so that it would be covered if it went missing (and they don't charge extra for you to be covered for missing parcels up to about $200?)
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Ruby Copperhead
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« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2010 06:36:02 AM »

They cover accessories, but not jewellery? That's weird...
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jemimah
« Reply #18 on: November 01, 2010 02:14:53 PM »

I think you have to pay extra if you want to cover jewellery (as in, precious stuff, gold, gemstones etc.). Presumably it's at higher risk of going missing? They put non-precious fashion items in the category of 'fashion accessories'.
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