I wrote an article about online shopping in Japan at the site GaijinPot and was asked about tariffs on items shipped to Japan from outside of Japan. I hadn’t really given it much thought, but I’m glad that the reader brought it up. I had my eye on some Fluevog shoes and was on the verge of buying them. Fortunately, thanks to being asked about tariffs, I was able to stop a bad decision before it happened; Japanese duty rates on leather shoes shipped to Japan are heartbreakingly high.
What follows is a modified and expanded explanation of Japanese duties, built off of my original reply to the reader.
The taxes, fees and tariffs associated with shipping to Japan are fairly confusing, but according to several Japanese duties websites, these three types of taxes/fees may be applied at customs on consumer items:
- Tariff (Duties)
- Consumption tax
- Customs clearance fee
These Japanese duties, taxes and fees are calculated by 60% of the product’s price. For example, the consumption tax and duty would be calculated using 12000 yen for a 20000 yen camera. The customs clearance fee is 200 yen, the duty depends on the item, and consumption tax will be 8% from April 2014 (I believe this would be called value added tax/VAT). If a product is less than 16,666 yen, then the item won’t be taxed and the customs clearance fee won’t be applied.
If you know Japanese, this Japanese site about shipping through Amazon explains the import taxes best:
The site is a little old, so some of this may have changed. Also, several exceptions to the above-stated general rules do exist, as well as additional taxes/duties on some items (alcohol, etc.)
The tariff outlines aren’t clear and don’t seem to all items specifically, but might give an idea of what to expect on future purchases.
Unfortunately, it seems it may be hard to legally avoid taxes for items over 16,666 yen.
Going back to my shoes, the shoes cost $249, but looking at the World Trade Organization tariff rate for leather footwear, most categories have a 21% duty rate. The categories are fairly opaque and are also up to customs to decide on a case-by-case basis. A 21% tariff rate, though, is more than I’m willing to risk to pay for shoes. That would be 21% of 60% of the price of the item. For the shoes, 60% of the price would be about $149. A 21% duty rate would add $31 to the price of the shoes. So my $249 shoes would end up being $280, if my math and understanding of Japanese duties on leather are correct. That’s not even taking into account the value-added tax and customs fees. It’s not very easy to find my shoe size in Japan, so I’ll probably just wait to get shoes when I’m in the US.
Have you ever been hit with tariffs or sale tax on items shipped to Japan?