We often receive inquiries from entrepreneurs, who are willing to import cellphones or tablets from China, but are not sure how much duty they are supposed to pay.
First of all, some basic facts: European Union countries have unilateral customs policy, which means that duty rate is the same in the every member state and is regulated by the EU law, not by the particular countries legislative. Sometimes, the EU raises duty rates in order to protect the internal market and local producers, recent conflict over solar panels with China is a fine example of this policy. Nevertheless, cellphones are exempted from duty, duty rate is 0%, (VAT rates vary between the countries, and this should be checked in the particular country’s customs office). In order to verify duty-related information, you can use TARIC database, which provides information for EU countries. The products are categorized, every product has its code, which, in the case of cellphones is 8517 12 00 90. If you search for products using the code, you may determine the duty rate and find its legal basis.
The tablet – what it is after all?
Cellphones and tablets from China – European duty rates
The case of tablets is a little bit more complicated, because this is a relatively new product, and law regulations usually cannot keep up with the technological development. Since 2010, when the first iPad hit the market, the definition of “tablet” is more or less stable：it is a one-piece mobile computer that typically has a touchscreen, a Bluetooth keyboard or other accessories may be also connected. Among the TARIC goods nomenclature categories we find the products called Portable automatic data-processing machines, weighing not more than 10 kg, consisting of at least a central processing unit, a keyboard and a display (code 8471300000), which mean no more less than laptops, but typical tablet doesn’t (usually) have a keyboard, and I’ve never heard anybody calling any part of it “CPU”. Practice shows that customs officers often treat tablets just the same as laptops, so the 0% of duty is applied. As with the cellphones, VAT taxation rate differs from country to country.
We need to mention another important aspect of importing electronic equipment from China. Among the thousands of products, which every year enter the enormous Chinese market，there are many fake replicas of the real product of the world-renowned companies, such as Samsung or Apple. Because of the rather liberal approach towards copyright in China, they are being sold there without major obstacles, but during the EU customs clearance will be – most likely – confiscated.
The duty is the important factor that should be calculated carefully before importing from China. The duty rate may determine whether the whole undertaking will bring us profits or not. Therefore, we need to check what is the duty rate in the case of our products of interest – otherwise we may suffer high losses.