I do not make, sell, or traffic in bootleg/recast dolls or any other product.

I do not provide information on where or how to buy them.

Any recast information on this blog is for information purposes only, for identifying recast products on the second hand market.

Monday, October 7, 2013

How Customs in the United States Works: An Unoffical Guide for Doll Owners

I am not familiar with the customs of other countries, but I'll definitely be researching more into that to hopefully write about in the future. For now, this post is about US Customs, what they do, why we have customs, what items can be taxed in the US and what can't, as well as how long you can expect a package to take once it enters customs.
It will probably have some errors, and I'll corect these as I find them or they are pointed out to me. Do you  have an experience with customs? Share it in the comments below. 

What is Customs?

Customs is an agency that intercepts all packages going into a country. The full agency name is the office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).They inspect the packages, sometimes opening them, to ensure that the items coming into the country are legal or fall into a taxable category.

There are 329 ports of entry in the United States. It is at these ports that US import and export laws are enforced. There are also 20 field offices that seem to do most of the processing of packages, based on what I can tell from the CBP website. For me, because I am in the Western US, most packages pass through Customs in California before heading to me.

Why do we have Customs?

We have Customs in order to protect us and to enforce national and international import/export laws. Sometimes Customs misses dangerous or illegal goods, but this is to be expected considering the massive amounts of parcels they inspect on a daily basis.

What are customs fees/import taxes?

Customs fees, also called import taxes or duty, are essentially taxes charged on goods purchased outside of the country and shipped into it (e.g. imported). This is pretty much the same concept as sales tax here in the US. It's how the government makes money on importing goods.

What kinds of items are taxed in the US? Which aren't?

The United States, in general, does not have import taxes on most items coming into the country. There are some exceptions, and for the purpose of dolls and this blog all you need to know is that dolls and toys are tax exempt. However, if your package value exceeds $2000 you can be charged customs fees. Goods valued over $2500 require a Formal Entry form. You can also contest any duty charges following proper channels.

Key points to remember:
  • There are no customs fees on dolls or toys coming into the United States.
  • Just because it doesn't cost a US seller customs fees to ship an item out it doesn't mean the foreign recipient will not have customs on their end.
  • Goods over $2000 can be charged customs fees.
  • Items considered to be in trademark violation can be confiscated and destroyed (long complicated topic and rather dead horse at this point).
  • Your individual state does not have different customs regulations than the rest of the country. Idaho has the exact same customs restrictions as New Mexico. That's decided at a national level (though individual states may charge additional sales taxes on internet purchases).

Will all packages be opened and examined?

Not necessarily. It depends on the value of the goods, from where the package has come, and the items declared on the customs forms, among other issues. There does seem to be a certain amount of randomness involved in the checking (kind of like the random luggage searches at US airports). I've only had one package over the years opened and searched at Customs.

How long does it take an item to pass through Customs?

In my personal experience, it usually only stays in Customs at most a few days. In the one instance it stayed nearly a week or longer, the package was opened, inspected, and resealed.

According to the Customs office website, they say that if they do need to retain your item in customs due to improperly filled out forms, possible trademark violations, or for another applicable reason, they will contact you in writing with the reason and the instructions for how to get the item released. This has never happened to me personally, nor do I think it happens often for most individual packages. If you think your package has been lost, the CBP suggests contacting the local post office first. This is why tracking is very important, and usually worth paying for. In my opinion, it's better to shell out the extra funds for tracking and insurance than risk losing the item altogether.

Terms to pay attention to:

Origin Post is Preparing Shipment: This means it may or may not have left the origin country yet, and it probably won't update until it gets scanned at a departure center and on occasion not until it enters the US. Once the item hits the air or sea, you won't get any updates as there aren't exactly any tracking points on the way.

Inbound into Customs: This means the package has hit the US and will now be examined by the CBP. If the package is detained you will receive a notification. If it still shows this status after a week or so, I'd get in touch with the mailing service. Courier services, like EMS which transfers to the USPS, FedEx, DHL, or UPS, seem to make it through Customs quicker. This is usually because the customer has paid for these expedited services.

Outbound out of Customs: This means the package has left Customs and is on it's way to you. You will probably see other updates as the package makes it's way to your house.

Tracking: You can track most foreign packages, including those sent via EMS, on the USPS postal track and confirm website. You'll have to track FedEx and UPS packages on their respective websites.

As a gal on facebook suggested (thanks B.B!) you can track packages from the different couriers on universal sites, like

Where can I learn more about Customs?

Thanks for reading, and I really hope this helps!

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Thanks for reading! <3 I try to follow up on every comment my readers make.