Buying from overseas retailers about to get cheaper

U.S. de minimis level on international shipments to rise from $200 to $800

The U.S. is one of the largest customers for on-line retailer Chain Reaction Cycles, which is based in suburban Belfast in Northern Ireland.

The U.S. is one of the largest customers for on-line retailer Chain Reaction Cycles, which is based in suburban Belfast in Northern Ireland (click to enlarge).

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.

Whether it's one high ticket item or a basket of lower priced goods, U.S. consumer will now be able to spend up to $800 without having to pay import duty when purchasing from overseas sellers.

Whether it’s one high ticket item or a basket of lower priced goods, U.S. consumer will now be able to spend up to $800 without having to pay import duty when purchasing from overseas sellers such as Chain Reaction Cycles (click to enlarge).

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.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.

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  • FritZman says:

    Damn, Canada has a $100 Cdn no-tax limit which is only like $25 USD…

    Wiggle and Chain Reaction are great to deal with though.

  • AC says:

    This is great news, for shopping from UK based sellers and direct from China components. CRC ship so amazingly fast that it puts other retailers to shame. Universal used to have stuff to me the next day (portland to seattle – should be extremely quick), yet they have degressed, while CRC has improved. Now CRC is just as fast as near local domestic retailers, with better selection and prices. Next question is what impact will the Wiggle/CRC merger have.

  • df says:

    Bought from chainreaction a few times and then had to return something. The return shipping fee was so high that I’ll never order stuff like clothing from them again. It isn’t worth gambling that a potential savings won’t be overshadowed by a massive return shipping fee.

  • Tony Lapinskas says:

    If you are ordering more than $180.00, take a look at Evans cycle. Blew CRC into the weeds Shimano M8000 parts. CRC does have a lower minimum for free shipping however. Evans got the parts to me (NC) from Britian faster than Jenson did from CA.
    Jenson does have an occasional great deal now and then.

  • Steve says:

    I’ve used Merlincycles multiple times. Never paid import fees. Great prices and service.

  • I'mright says:

    I have more spare parts and bikes than my LBS. “we can order it”, well so can I. Shipping is important if you think people want to wait you’ll be out of business. My LBS offer two brands of bikes with matching clothes. It’s that or nothing. You can browse at a whole lot of nothing for about five minutes then your online shopping.

  • LBS vs. Overseas says:

    Plenty of folks ready to slam their local shops here… So what if you’re town has a shop that does stock loads of small parts and is super responsive if they have to order something now and then? Would you support that shop? Or would you send your dollars to the UK?

    Don’t get me started on how many shops have “lost their way”. I get it. Plenty of those out there that will not get my business. But what about the shop that is trying really hard? You know, the one who supports your community, hires local bike fanatics, does key repairs with high dollar tools? What about those shops? Anybody on this thread supporting a local shop like that?

    • James says:

      Well stated. We that love our sport the most are the very ones hastening its demise. We send so many dollars overseas to companies that do nothing to create new cyclists like the local lbs does. Participation per capita in cycling in the US continues to dive ever deeper.

  • Eric says:

    Living in a larger US metro, I have a large choice of LBSs. I have found two that I will frequent for some items. If I need an item and my LBSs have it in stock… I will pay extra to go local. I, like I presume most others here, have the knowledge and skills to do my own bike builds and maintenance.

    However, and LBS pay attention here. When I call or visit… DO NOT give me an attitude that I owe you squat. You need to earn my business and it doesnt necessarily mean the lowest price.

    An example.. while searching for shoes, I purchased a set of heat moldable Shimanos on ebay. While doing research, I wanted to find a LBS that I could purchase the service of doing the heat molding. I was willing to buy a new set of shoes if I liked them from a LBS. I just wanted to try a used, cheap ebay pair first. One LBS told me that the place I purchased from should do that. I explained I was simply looking for a business that I could purchase the service from. The guy said.. well if you would have bought them here… we would do it.

    That type of response is laughable. They seriously turned down a service fee to be jackwagons. Needless to say… I don’t buy anything from that LBS.

    I did find another LBS, 20 miles further away, that did the service and happily took my money. They did a great job and I buy items and services from them because of how I was treated upon initial contact. So… the pompous, woe is me, brick and mortar shop can bite me. You deserve what you give.

    LBSs… pay attention to what you or your employees are saying to people.. in person or on the phone. You’ll get what you give.

  • eric m says:

    indeed ,your lbs hates ebay . whenever i sell a complete bike via ebay , i recommend the buyer (pay to) have it professionally assembled at there lbs , but i also warn them about the attitude they can expect the moment they mention where they purchased the bike from . i even go so far as to recommend they do not reveal the source or just tel them they bought at a garage sale or something. I have had multiple problems with shops making the buyer feel like they got ripped off or there is an issue with the bike , and then giving a quote for unneeded repairs at a ridiculous price . I realize brick and mortar have a tough battle , but the reason is they are very expensive . yes my local shop can and does give me a discount , if i ask for one , but I dont like feeling like im always busting there balls for a discount or wanna squabble about prices. i used to work retail sales , i know what its like . i dont wanna be that guy . plus lbs never has what I need . if they have to order it , i can order it for cheaper . now if lbs could do price matching from online stores that would be a different story . sure they would make no money on certain items but if thats what it takes to get people in the store and excited about your local store than its worth tit. write it off as promo costs.

  • Alan says:

    Can someone advise me as per the following scenario:

    I as a US based citizen buy some clothing from Europe and there were 3 separate packages, each worth $400 and each with their own separate tracking number, but all of the packages coming to me from the same retailer. And let’s say that all 3 of the packages entered into the same US customs on the very same day.

    Would the value of those 3 entirely separate packages be consolidated and hence count as being $1,200 imported thus be subject to the duties/taxes? Or, would they definitely be classed as 3 separate imports each at $400 thus I wouldn’t be charged any import duties/taxes?


  • kj says:

    I just received notification that my 110.00 order requires a payment for duty of 46.00 before they’ll deliver it. So much for the 200 or 800 dollar thing. It says on the gov’t website that MOST orders less than 200.00 won’t be charged duty. Why most?

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