What Are Customs Charges?

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  • Written By: Kristie Lorette
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Customs charges are the fees that a country charges for the exportation and importation of goods. Exportation and importation may occur from the shipping of the goods or services, or from individuals bringing foreign goods they have purchased from foreign countries in from travel.

For example, if a company ships a package between the United States and Canada, a customs fee is assessed on the amount of the goods that are part of the shipment. Customs charges are also referred to as a tax or tariff. They are generally levied whether the shipment is done through the post office, an expedited shipping service, freight forwarder, shipping container company or another type of shipping provider.

Generally, it is the country that is importing the goods that pays the fee. Individuals or businesses that are shipping goods internationally can come to an agreement with the buyer of the goods as to which party is responsible for paying these charges. In other words, the shipper may add the price for the customs charges to the bill that the buyer pays for the goods. Customs charges are in existence because countries tend to control the flow of goods that are coming in and out of the country. Some goods are restricted for import and export in certain countries. For example, the United States may prohibit the importation of some fruits and vegetables.


Customs charges are also levied on goods that individual consumers bring into the country from another country. This is why cruise passengers and airplane passengers coming in from foreign countries must complete a customs form. On the form, consumers must list any items that were purchased while visiting the foreign country. The form also requires the buyer to list the price paid for the item.

Depending on the item and the amount paid for the item, customs charges may be levied. If this is the case, then the consumer must pay the fee on the goods prior to bringing them into the country. Different countries have different procedures for handling customs, but the United States, Canada and even the countries that are part of the EU have procedures in place in airports and cruise ship ports for handling consumers bringing in goods from their foreign travels.

Other places, such as Hong Kong, however, do not have a formal customs charges process in place. Residents bringing items into Hong Kong are not required to declare all of the items that they purchased while coming from a foreign country. Even places such as Hong Kong do, however, have to declare any goods that are liquor or tobacco products.


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