Return of goods sold to the USA or South Africa

Question

Please could somebody tell me how to go about returning or replacing goods to USA or SA. We currently have a shipment held in customs as our customer is refusing to pay the import charge again. As far as we understood we could not put a zero value on the invoice.

Answer

If I understand your question, you have exported goods, and wish to ship them back to the UK as the buyers will not pay import charges: assuming this is correct, I suggest that you speak to the carrier who originally shipped the goods out & ask them to arrange the return transport. They will probably have to pay fees in order to release the goods from the Customs warehouse / office in the overseas country; this will obviously be added to your return freight bill, along with any rent or demurrage charges incurred.

If you find that the cost of returning the goods is higher than their value, another option might be to have them destroyed under customs control in the overseas country – again you would do this by contacting the carrier. You would have to pay for the destruction of the goods, along with all fees, & rent charges incurred.

I am not quite sure why you had anticipated that no import duty would have to be paid in those countries. As a general rule import duty may be charged on any goods imported into any non-EU country. There are some exceptions, such as if the product is of a very low value which falls below the minimum threshold set by that country’s customs department, if the goods are subject to reduced import duty rates as a result of a free trade agreement between the countries, or unless the goods are customs cleared via a special customs procedure such as temporary importation (if the goods are for an exhibition or rental contract, then re-exported).

Assuming that customs duty is due for the goods, you could arrange for this cost to be billed back to you ( by selling on Delivered Duty Paid terms) – otherwise it will be payable by the importer.

It is also worth noting, that putting a zero or other unrealistically low value invoice is not an acceptable option. Import duties are calculated on the VALUE of goods, not the sales price, so an unrealistic value may be rejected by customs. A realistic value should always be shown.

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