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sitar_shah

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Reply with quote  #1 
I'm think this question has been asked before but a search did not yield any clear answers. I'm sure the vendors on here have the answer that i am looking for...

Questions:
How much should i expect to pay in customs duty to ship a sitar from India to the US?
What are the recommended declarations that should be made on the customs forms that would ensure that the correct tariff rates are applied?

Thanks in advance!
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Keshavdas

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Reply with quote  #2 
Actually - I have no idea how much or any of that stuff. Like most dealers I use a broker who handles all that stuff. Years ago I did bring some things in on my own and I can tell you that whatever you owe - will be minimal. Best I can recall there is no "duty" per se on wooden instruments from India.
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Robbie

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Reply with quote  #3 
Use a carrier like FedEx or DHL, they act as brokers and handle all the custom related issues. If you owe anyhting you'll get charged upon delivery.
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ragamala

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Reply with quote  #4 
I am a bit puzzled by the answers to this question -

Keshavdas - are you saying as a professional involving import of instruments to the US you have no idea of the import duties applied?

The mind boggles as to what business model this works on.

And Robbie's answer is hardly helpful - just do it and see what happens??

Come on - someone in the US must have a sensible answer to the question????
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Robbie

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Reply with quote  #5 
When you call up one of the carriers that I suggested, ask them what the applicable customs fee is going to be, as you are planning to ship an item internationally.
They will give you a close approximation, or percentage of declared value. I've used FedEx and the others many times to ship instruments all over the world and found them to be very helpful, especially with customs brokerage. They will probably want a bill of sale to accompany the shipment to submit to customs. Actually I've found that FedEx, UPS and DHL shipments clear customs quicker than the regular postal services.
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musicslug

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Reply with quote  #6 
when I got my (Indian, of course) vina shipped from Germany (to the US), I called customs to ask what the duties would be - they quoted me some figure which I don't remember, so I brought my checkbook to the customs office. the guy there asked what I was going to do with it. I said "play it!". he smiled, pulled out a big stamper, stamped it, and sent me on my way, checkbook untouched.

I've heard that this unpredictability ("it depends who's on duty that day") is normal.
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sitar_shah

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Reply with quote  #7 
Thanks for the tips and personal experiences.

Maybe its the sign of the slow times but I found myself browsing through the tariff schedules. Its totally unreadable at first but you can make some sense if you stare at it long enough

page 2, heading 9202.90.60 00 of this document
http://hotdocs.usitc.gov/docs/tata/hts/bychapter/0901c92.pdf
lists the tariff as 4.6%

This heading seems applicable to the sitar (string instrument, non-guitar, greater than $100)
______________________________________________
Page 9 of this document with heading 4202.92.50 00 lists the tariff on instrument cases to be 4.2%
http://www.usitc.gov/tata/hts/archive/0110/0110C42.PDF
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Lars

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Reply with quote  #8 
It can be easy or a nightmare. Most people just let FedEx handle it and pay the duty, 4% or whatever depending on the category the mostly untrained people at FedEx decide your instrument is. The harmonized tariff schedule breaks everything down for you for the most part. If there are problems then you'll need to know the origins of the materials, etc. Most customs issues can be solved by proper paperwork in India itself. Instruments are technically free under GSP rules but paperwork must be filled out properly. If the value is under 2k then it's informal entry, over that and you may need a broker which shipping companies will do for you and charge you. In Seattle it's minimum $500 broker fee, I usually send small shipment since it's all by air and would rather pay more for the shipping than the hassle. 1/2 the time I don't pay duties at all because I do the paperwork for India in Kolkata, it's easier for them.
If you're just sending one instrument you should be fine, most of the shops there send a single piece as a 'gift' so they don't pay any taxes on it. If you paid for your stuff via Western Union then odds are it'll be this way. So I wouldn't worry too much unless you're doing a regular thing.

I'd worry much more about everything being broken when it arrives! Have fun!

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sitar_shah

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Reply with quote  #9 
Thanks for your input Lars and the others.

My shipment is a single sitar and a one-time thing. I checked with the shipper and he is using Fedex. so far so good. Hopefully the sitar ( a barun gandhar pancham) arrives safely. I'll let you guys know if i have to pay any customs duty or not.
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Keshavdas

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Reply with quote  #10 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Lars"
It can be easy or a nightmare. Most people just let FedEx handle it and pay the duty, 4% or whatever depending on the category the mostly untrained people at FedEx decide your instrument is. The harmonized tariff schedule breaks everything down for you for the most part. If there are problems then you'll need to know the origins of the materials, etc. Most customs issues can be solved by proper paperwork in India itself. Instruments are technically free under GSP rules but paperwork must be filled out properly. If the value is under 2k then it's informal entry, over that and you may need a broker which shipping companies will do for you and charge you. In Seattle it's minimum $500 broker fee, I usually send small shipment since it's all by air and would rather pay more for the shipping than the hassle. 1/2 the time I don't pay duties at all because I do the paperwork for India in Kolkata, it's easier for them.
If you're just sending one instrument you should be fine, most of the shops there send a single piece as a 'gift' so they don't pay any taxes on it. If you paid for your stuff via Western Union then odds are it'll be this way. So I wouldn't worry too much unless you're doing a regular thing.

I'd worry much more about everything being broken when it arrives! Have fun!
Yeowsah! Glad I don't live Seattle. $500.00? My broker's fee for about $20,000.00 worth of inventory is only around $300.00 tops.

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Keshavdas

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "ragamala"
I am a bit puzzled by the answers to this question -

Keshavdas - are you saying as a professional involving import of instruments to the US you have no idea of the import duties applied?

The mind boggles as to what business model this works on.
Do you think Ali Akbar Khan knows what the import duties his company pays? He has
employees to handle the little details. It's all about delegating responsibilities my
friend. In ye olden days I used to drag as many as 15 huge cartons of instruments by
myself to the airport in Delhi and schlep them into a van at JFK and sell them out of my house. But that was a long time ago. BTW - I did say in my earlier post "there is no "duty" per se
on wooden instruments from India." which Lars has confirmed. Essentially - I was told
years ago by my broker that customs considers Indian instruments (made of wood) to
be "handicrafts". And don't worry too much about my business model. I jokingly tell
people that the business thrives in spite of me - but that's just me being humble.
It would be less than tasteful for me to quote actual numbers - but let me tell you that in
this recession, we cut the cost on some items, and still our April sales were as good
as those of last Christmas - so our business model can't be too far off.

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sohummusicals

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Reply with quote  #12 
As per the US Customs Rules..
You can import any handicraft Item from India which has a Declared Value of Less than US$ 1000/- Anything beyond that will be charged. US Policies are much better than any other countries. In south America, Sweden, Norway,and many other countries, they have 25% - 30% Import duty on any foreign good that enters their territory.
Using FEDEX or DHL is always Advisable, they handle it much better.
Going for the local Postal service makes things more hectic for you, if you dont have good contacts to get your goods cleared without trouble.
--
Upendra
Quote:
Originally Posted by "sitar_shah"
I'm think this question has been asked before but a search did not yield any clear answers. I'm sure the vendors on here have the answer that i am looking for...

Questions:
How much should i expect to pay in customs duty to ship a sitar from India to the US?
What are the recommended declarations that should be made on the customs forms that would ensure that the correct tariff rates are applied?

Thanks in advance!
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tablafreak

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Reply with quote  #13 
On a side note,

Keshav,

Why not post prices on your website? I do a lot of shopping on line and it makes things much easier when you get to price compare.

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Keshavdas

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Reply with quote  #14 
For multiple reasons. First off - prices change all the time and it's easier for me to update my pricelist that I send out than to constantly make changes to the site itself.

Secondly - my pricelist gives more detailed info than I can include on any given page without the page appearing overrun with text, like say the Sitars Etc site which is so busy with text that 70% of the text never gets read.

Thirdly because we have an inventory that is miles wider than what is pictured on the site - so when customers are required to email for a pricelist - they get the latest pricelist with all the newest inventory listed - not just what's showing currently on the website. I honestly don't have the time, energy or the skill to constantly update the website. We only do changes from time-to-time and those changes are done by my webmaster.

Fourth - it's been my experience that many customers who are not so knowledgeable will make superficial comparisons between something that looks similar on another website and never know that the instrument on my site is made by a superior luthier. For instance: many first time buyers will jump from site to site to site and see five or six seemingly identical VK style sitars and think they are all the same. But when I send them a pricelist that includes all the pertinent details - they are better able to discern why my VK model is (or may be) superior and why it's priced the way it is. When a customer has a pricelist it opens up a dialog. A first-time buyer could see the same set of tablas on my site and another and see that they are $25.00 cheaper elsewhere and that's all they see. But once they've taken the time to read the pricelist they are more inclined to call, and ask why we charge $25.00 more than so and so music shop. Speaking to them on the phone allows me to explain that all our tablas are freshly re-pulled before sending and that all our stock is fresh, that it's worth it to buy a set of tablas that are fresh from India, rather than getting the identical pair with the same name-brand, that's been sitting in a warehouse for four years.

Fifth: When customers scroll through my pricelist looking for one thing - they frequently see that yet another thing they've been looking at - is also available. Good for me - good for the customer. Everybody wins.

Sixth: In this day of short attention spans - I have found that when a customer has taken the time to request a pricelist - they are required to actually look through the pricelist and what information they gather stays with them and people actually keep my pricelist in their in-box for future reference. So it's like I'm bookmarked right in their in-box. Which is better than the alternative - where potential customers flit from site to site to site and then can't remember what instrument they saw, or where. I can't tell you how many times I have had customers call me up angrily on the phone saying: WTF? where is that set of tablas you promised to send me? ... only to realize that in fact they'd ordered the tablas from (no names mentioned) some other shop altogether. I had this experience twice this month alone.

Seventh: There are a certain breed of customers look at price only and never stop to ask about service and all the other factors that make for a superior shopping experience. You know the type - the cheapskate, bargain hunter who "knows the price of everything - but the value of nothing." They look at a sitar purchase generically the same way they would with cornflakes or a vise-grip. My way of doing business either discourages them from contacting me, which is fine, as I don't like doing business with this breed, or it forces them to slow down and ask why my price (if it is in fact higher) is higher.

How many people go looking for a sitar and fall upon the Rikhi Ram site and have never heard of Rikhi Ram? Happens all the time. The great majority of customers are not as knowledgeable as the folks on this forum. They look at the prices ont he Rikhi Ram site and they think: These prices are freakin' nuts! and they go on to buy some firewood piece of crap from Mid-East because the price fits their fantasy about what a sitar should cost. As much as I'd rather avoid this category of buyer, sometimes I get them anyhow - but when I have them on the phone - I am often able to persuade them to buy a nice student model Kanai Lal instead of some firewood piece of crap on Ebay. But that same customer, if they just look at prices only - will take a quick glance at my sitar page - see the price - and move on.


Last and possibly most important... when potential customers receive a pricelist from me there is personal greeting at the head of the pricelist. That greeting - in brief - answers many of the FAQs that people would ordinarily clog my phonelines with - which means I'm not on the phone 8 hours a day answering the same questions - but most importantly - the greeting is personal in nature and it establishes a connection - that invites folks to pick up the phone to ask me the questions that are pertinent. Also - because I am a confirmed email junkie I check my emails constantly and this allows me to answer customer questions at hours when I am not in the shop, like 7:00 a.m. or 10:00 p.m. - which again means I spend less time answering questions on the phone when I'm busy doing repairs at the shop or doing in-store sales. Once a customer has invested a minute of his time to read the pricelist he's encouraged to call and speak to a live human being (rather than jumping from site to site like an over-caffinated TV watcher with a channel-changer - hence there is a much greater potential for the customer to learn about our services and not get sucked in by some "bargain" on Ebay. This is especially true with older Indian customers who often don't speak great English. They appreciate that there is nearly always someone in the shop who speaks Hindi or Urdu or Tamil. The end result of all this is a more personal buying experience for the customer.


I hope that answers your question.

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"More harm is done by fools through foolishness
then is done by evildoers through wickedness."


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Nick Proctor

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Reply with quote  #15 
Hiya to all my friends here, from the UK. Now have a 'listen' to this.!!!

A few months ago I ordered one of those 8 inch decorative sitars from Kolkatta. Came fine via Fedex, no probs. 
Several weeks later I get a letter saying I owe Fedex custom duty of nearly £45 !!!!!
Excuse me but WTF ?!?!!?!? That's just a few quid short of what I paid for the whole thing in the first place!!!! The letter said the package weighed 0.4 of a KG NOT right I thought so I ignored it.
Then started getting email messages too so I called the number, yes I know, to see what the.....
Got a NON-Brit of course who couldn't really explain why so I did nothing.
Then decided to call again & got a 'proper' english speaker who could explain better although SHE couldn't explain why a package of less than half kg cost that.

She said she'd send a copy of the correct procedure, to my email, for charging but it wasn't clear really, at all ?!!? Some kind of estimated bill !?!?!?

Can ANYONE here explain this whole balls-up, please?
I still think it's some kind of scam, even after all this. There were office voices in the 'background' when I called but they're very clever these scammers !!!

Nick
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