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Importing from Europe (customs Q's)(7 posts)

Importing from Europe (customs Q's)king of norway
Feb 12, 2002 8:17 AM
I was thinking of picking up a bike in europe (Italy) and was wondering about customs. Does anyone know the proper customs and duties one must pay and is it possible to ride it, dirty it up and bring it back as "used' and not pay. If anyone has brought a new bike back . . any advice, precautions, warnings, experiences, etc. I realize the time factor of ordering from Europe but this isn't a factor here.
re: Importing from Europe (customs Q's)MJ
Feb 12, 2002 8:57 AM
items purchased in Europe by EU citizens will include a VAT tax usually around 17% or so - non-EU citizens do not have to pay VAT- they recoup the tax at the point of departure (at the airport it's prior to checking bags) - for items that are not shipped from the point of purchase recouping means that you get a form stamped which you fill out and mail back to the store where you bought your item - Italy, a fantastic place, has a huge black economy and is notoriously slow and bureaucratic - you need to be assured that the store is running a proper VAT book (they may not pay in the first place!) and that they will actually process your VAT reimbursement form when they receive it (ask how long) - customer service is not a European strong point

be warned many retailers do not know how to cater to non-EU citizens and assume it's something that the customer takes up directly with the government and that they don't have to do anything - this is wrong - the retailer must provide relevant forms, invoices and receipts

I am not certain if you can get VAT back on an item used in Europe and if there is an associated time limit on the use - contact the Italian embassy in the US before you go - you do NOT want to be asking the guy at the Italian LBS any of this stuff
re: Importing from Europe (customs Q's)maximum15
Feb 12, 2002 9:32 AM
I bought a bike in Germany a few years back. My experience at the shop was difficulty in communcations as I needed the box to bring the bike bike. When I got to the airport (you should have seen me carrying the bike on the bus and the trainas well as my luggage), I checked the bike as oversize baggage (about $50). Before my flight, I realized I needed to go to the customs office in the airport for the proper paperwork. They were reluctant to give it to me as I couldn't show them the bike, but since I had the baggage claim check, they finally believed me (show them the bike). US customs didn't care (just brought some new skis and bindings accross the border w/o issue too). All of the VAT refund paperwork was in German, but luckily my neighbor is from Germany, so he filled out the paperwork for me and wrote the cover letter to the bike store. Got my money after a couple of months. Beware of those instant VAT refund places in the airport -- they will keep half your refund or more for the effort.
re: Importing from Europe (customs Q's)king or norway
Feb 12, 2002 11:57 AM
My situation is a little differnt. I've already paid for the bike without being charges VAT as It was going to be sent to the US and I would have to sort out and pay us customs duties. At this point, I am not entitled to a VAt refund as I did not pay it in the first place. If I go over and pick up, that might change. My main concern was not having to decalre or pay US duties and if I have to how much would that be?
re: Importing from Europe (customs Q's)MJ
Feb 13, 2002 5:33 AM
whatever VAT arrangements the shop has are their problem - you should know that you may incur some further charges - all items purchased in the EU that are not shipped out of the EU are liable for VAT unless the store is breaking the law (which is not your problem and happens alot - more in Italy than elsewhere) - if you pick it up in Italy the VAT situation may change as you pointed out

re US duties - a used bike is yours and will not incur customs duties - though a strict intepretation would most likely see you pay US import duties - it's a matter of how much you feel you can convince the friendly US customs agents that the bike is yours and that you didn't buy it recently in Europe...
re: Importing from Europe (customs Q's)pmf1
Feb 12, 2002 1:24 PM
I did this in the fall of 2000. I went on a bike tour in Italy with my wife. We ordered 2 frames from the shop working with the tour. They were sent to us after we returned (about 3 months later). Customs was 3.9% on the declared value for the frames. I had to fill out a form declaring the value to be $1800 (ok, I lied a little, it was closer to $5000). Customs was a bit of a hassle and held things up for a week. Eventually, we got them.

If you were to buy a bike there and bring it home with you, especially after you use it, how will they know it isn't your bike? You could be honest and declare it, or just check it as a piece of your luggage. If they look at it, how can they prove you didn't haul it over there for a vacation? People do this all the time. If you took an empty bike case with you and returned with it full, no one would suspect.

As for buying a bike there. Make damn sure its ready to pick up when you get there. Italy is not Switzerland ... people don't pay much attention to deadlines and schedules.
If you actually owned before handjagiger
Feb 14, 2002 6:38 AM
When traveling outside the US with things that you own already, it's a smart idea to register expensive items with US Customs to avoid any hassles. We did this with a camera & had no problem, but we did have peace of mind.