The appeal of buying from overseas on-line retailers such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles is about to grow. Already these cyberspace-based bike shops have gained a huge following because of their massive product selection, low prices, and fast shipping. And now aggregate prices on higher ticket items or bundles of items is about to drop thanks to a bill signed in late February by President Barack Obama that increases the U.S. de minimis level on international shipments inbound to the U.S. from $200 per shipment to $800 per shipment.
In a nutshell this means U.S. consumers can now spend more without having to worry about paying additional import duties or taxes, or having their purchase get hung up in customs purgatory while all the math is figured out. The law is slated to take effect March 10, 2016.
Of course this may be viewed as bad news for U.S. based retailers, on-line or otherwise, who will argue that raising the de minimis level makes it harder for them to compete against these international on-line merchants because they have to pay higher taxes (including local sales tax) versus the overseas internet sellers. Proponents counter that a high de minimis promotes free trade and provides the consumer greater choice and lower costs.
Perhaps the greater benefit, though, is simply the streamlining of customs procedures, which had become more onerous in recent years due in part to increased security measures. With the raising of the de minimis level, processing for imports of $800 and below will be quicker, meaning you’re likely to get that wheelset you ordered more quickly, too. And for those concerned about the lost federal revenue, the simpler processing and associated cost savings may well outweigh any reduction in duty collected.
Have you had experience paying duty and taxes on goods purchased from an overseas retailer? Or maybe you had a shipment get hung up in customs? Tell us about it in the comments section below.