Importing a Bike To Japan

Malte

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Sep 26, 2011
496
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48
Tokyo
#1
Hello,

I plan to buy a new bike abroad (Germany) and would have the option to get it send by the retailer directly to me (www.rose.de). Now I am trying to calculate the benefits of this option compared to picking it up myself and bringing it with the airline. I was using the search function on "import tax" and "consumption tax" but could not find a clear statement here on the forum.

This is what I found:
  • import tax in Japan depends on the good and some people say it's up to 10%, do you know how much it would be for a bike? Is a bike a "sport goods"?
  • import tax is sometimes not applied, seems to depend on luck and the personal order history and the type of shipment. Any guess what the chances are depending on the size of the packet?
  • consumption tax in japan is 5%, but I couldn't find any clear reference that it was applied before, any experience?
  • any other taxes/fees?

Thanks a lot!
Malte
 

gavsaway

Warming-Up
Mar 2, 2010
5
0
0
Tokyo
#2
Hi Malte, I brought in a bike 2 years ago and got stung with big import duty. 10% but considering the bike was over 2000 pounds it was a bit of a nasty surprise. My wife had one sent the same time and didnt get any tax put on it. I think you have to be lucky. Customs actually rung me up and asked me to list every piece in the box, down to the brands of the hubs, wheels, bell, all sorts.

Depeding on how much the bike is might depend on whether they go after you.
Good luck.
Gavin
 

GSAstuto

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Oct 11, 2009
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www.roadfixie.com
#3
Import Duty, Personal Duty and Consumption Tax are all different.

1) ALL Items purchased FROM Japan and delivered TO Japan are subject to consumption tax of 5%. So - you could be dinged on this regardless of any Import taxes.

2) All items Imported INTO Japan may be subject to IMPORT Duty - with ALLOWANCE based on whether you are inside Japan (no allowance) , or outside Japan (personal allowance). Duty on bikes is complex because the customs inspector has many ways to schedule it - if you're lucky - it's just 'bike parts' and is duty free. However, they can also schedule it as 'toys' or other merchandise and ding you 10% (or more).

3) If you buy the bike outside the country, while travelling, then ship it separately, you MUST file an unaccompanied baggage form. Otherwise, your bike may end up in Customs limbo for weeks. If you file this form, then when the bike arrives, it is considered under your personal duty free allowance.

If the sending party has no clue about shipping to Japan, they'll generally mess it up and you'll get dinged the full amount and likely to have your stuff sitting in Customs a couple weeks. To be preapred:

1) Have a full manifest prepared.
2) Have included invoice that corresponds with the manifest
3) Have any export stuff taken care of
4) You have copies of everything so can 'prove' if the customs officer calls you on it. They may even ask you to show evidence that the payment you made matches exactly the amount on the invoice included in the shipment. (CC, PayPal, Bank Transfer, etc)

You <could> just wing it and have about a 50/50 chance of the shipment just passing through. But for larger items like full bikes, this is a big risk.

As an FYI - I ALWAYS indicate my items are BIKE PARTS TO BE ASSEMBLED IN JAPAN. NEVER a complete Item.
 

jdd

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Jul 26, 2008
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#4
I've used the unaccompanied baggage route several times. They usually call and want to see the stamped form--can't recall if I mailed or faxed it to them.

A couple times I had the foresight to prep some large self-adhesive labels that I sent to the shipper to put on the cartons. (with "unaccompanied baggage" written large in both english & japanese)

Also, even if you're not anticipating a new bike or something else, you can still pick up the form and get it stamped on the off chance that you might decide to buy something over the next six months. You don't have to list items/contents on the form, it can be applied to anything.
 

joewein

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Oct 25, 2011
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#5
I ordered my current bike from Green Gear (Bike Friday) in the US. It was shipped here by FedEx. The total declared value in USD on the Air Waybill was the exact price I paid for it, but excluding the shipping charges, which were listed separately on the commercial invoice.

A few days after receiving the bike, I got an invoice from FedEx for the consumption tax, plus a 500 yen fee for handling, for an amount less than I had expected.

For some reason the amount used for calculating the consumption tax (5%) was not the "Total Commodity Value" listed on the commercial invoice, but a dollar amount about 1/3 lower. I have no idea why but did not complain.

Bottom line: I only paid about 3.5% on top of the USD price in taxes / duties.

For goods shipped as unaccompanied luggage (if you buy something on a trip abroad and have it shipped home separately), your customs allowance should be 200,000 yen per person if I remember correctly (wouldn't apply in my case, since I ordered from Japan). That's a lot of o-miyage.

Consumption tax on foreign order seems to be hit and miss. When I mail-ordered my current cell phone (about USD 400) from Hong Kong I wasn't charged any consumption tax. Other times that I bought electronics, I was.

The customs rate depends on the article category. For example, my Bike Friday was listed as "BIKE OTHER 24INCH<WHEEL, N.E.S.". Categories seem to be quite detailed.
 
Aug 20, 2010
76
25
38
Minato-ku
#6
I flew on ANA Economy from NYC, where I bought my bike. ANA class bicycles as sporting equipment and allow them to be checked-in as part of the regular allowance. Of course, you should ensure that it's all packed securely. In my case, the bike shop packed it for me.

After arriving in Japan, I collected my luggage and walked through the Green Channel (nothing to declare) with my huge box and nobody stopped me. I had the receipt handy in case anyone wanted to challenge me. If your item crosses the customs value threshold, you may want to prepare a "special" invoice to show to customs, if you see what I mean, :D
 

Phil

Maximum Pace
#7
Maybe I've just been lucky, maybe it's just that I tend to buy cheaper bikes, but I've bought five bike frames from online retailers (US, UK, and Switzerland) and had to pay either about 5000 yen or 0 yen in taxes/duties. I bought one complete bike online (US), and paid I think 6000 yen duties/taxes.

In one other case, I sort of did as Nizhniynovgorod, brought a new, complete bike over on the plane (from Canada), and more or less accidentally went through the "nothing to declare" line and was waived through after ascertaining that the huge box did in fact contain a bike.

Not sure how the rules apply if you buy the bike abroad, ride it a couple of times there, and then bring it back with you (as personal property, rather than a new product). I suppose it depends if you are considered resident of Japan or not.

In most cases, I think airline extra baggage fees will be less than shipping fees charged by your shop.

If I were you, I'd bring it on the plane (get the shop to box it up for you). Cheaper than shipping, and you'll probably get away with no/reduced duties. (If I recall, the minimum allowable before duties apply is 200,000 yen, so if it's a cheap bike, then you'll be duty-free anyway.)

(We had a thread going here a while ago with import duty experiences, might be useful if you can find it.)
 

zenbiker

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Mar 4, 2008
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Chofu
#9
There is NO.... That is ZERO import tax on cycles!
You should be charged the consumption tax of 5%.
However, you may get lucky and not get hit for this.
 

bird

Speeding Up
Nov 30, 2010
322
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Kawasaki
#10
There is NO.... That is ZERO import tax on cycles!
You should be charged the consumption tax of 5%.
However, you may get lucky and not get hit for this.
Right. And that 5% tax (if charged) is applied to 60% of purchase price, which results in 3% really. Also, if 60% of purchase price is not more than 10,000 JPY, no tax will be charged.
When they charge you, they also charge you additional 200 JPY for handling cost.

Examples:
A. 15,000 JPY purchase ---> TAX FREE
(15,000 x 0.6 = 9,000 JPY)
B. 18,000 JPY purchase ---> About 700 JPY
(18,000 x 0.6 = 10,800 JPY) x 0.05 +200
Of course, may not be charged if you're lucky.

I made above cases simple, without considering shipping cost.
 
Likes: joewein

Desune

Speeding Up
May 7, 2008
64
0
26
Tokyo
#11
Years ago, when I moved here to Japan, I had a box of misc. stuff shipped over (no bike, but stereo, clothes, etc...nothing brand new) It took a couple of weeks, some explaining, and I had to fill out the unaccompanied baggage form to be applied retroactively before they would let my things in.


I've had various other smaller things shipped here over the years, but the only time I've ever had to pay any tax was a few years ago; I had a complete bike shipped over from the US directly from the retailer. ~$2500 USD bike, paid around 7000 yen directly to the delivery guy; they called ahead to make sure we could prepare the cash.

Recently had some wheels delivered also from the US, ~$1000 USD, paid nothing in taxes or import fees.

Christmas is coming up soon, I think maybe they relax their rules a bit because they know it would suck to have to pay taxes on a "gift".
 

theDude

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Oct 7, 2011
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#12
Recently had a complete bike shipped from the US via FedEx.

Declared value was rather low, 800 bucks or so (vs a couple thousand), shop did that without me even asking.

The minus I suppose is if something happens, insured value (I presume it was insured) would be lower, but if the shop did it on there own and there was damage, not sure.... thankfully didn't have to deal with that.

Anyway, box arrived. I expected something in the mail from fedex but never got hit with anything later in the mail....

Shipping contents was "Demo Bike"
 

zenbiker

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Mar 4, 2008
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Chofu
#13
Recently had some wheels delivered also from the US, ~$1000 USD, paid nothing in taxes or import fees.

Christmas is coming up soon, I think maybe they relax their rules a bit because they know it would suck to have to pay taxes on a "gift".
If it's a gift it won't have a commercial invoice (legally required by the shipper) The shipper(shop) may be persuaded to to write a false price on the invoice, but would be in a pile of trouble if found out.

As far as I know the Japanese tax authorities aren't big on Christmas.... Try KFC!
 

GSAstuto

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Oct 11, 2009
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#14
Shipper ALWAYS has to declare the value. Period. If it's a gift - then it has to be substantiated by a personal relationship. A 'company' is going to get heavily scrutinized if they send stuff labelled as 'gifts'. You guys are all referring to packages and stuff sent a year or years ago. Sorry, it's all changed. In the last few months Japan has tightened up hard on their informal entry of products.

Any questions? Just go to the website - http://www.customs.go.jp/tokyo/english/index.htm It explains pretty much everything.

As far as individual experiences - your mileage may vary - but it's better to have something in the tank, then to follow the -U-ME method.
 

GSAstuto

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Oct 11, 2009
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#15
Assuming they classify your bike as a bike or bike parts , rather than 'toys' or some other classification. And , if the customs inspector is having a bad hair day, they will tear apart your shipment and go through it piece by piece and classify accordingly - any 'natural fabrics products' , 'electrical components' , etc - get my drift?

I've seen it all ways - slide through with no issues, hung up for explanation of charges or invoice discrepancy, and complete strip search.

Most of you gents are 'personal importers' so they tend to be less stringent - however if you put ANY Company Name on your recipient / import name - you are setting yourself up for even higher degree of scrutiny.

Right. And that 5% tax (if charged) is applied to 60% of purchase price, which results in 3% really. Also, if 60% of purchase price is not more than 10,000 JPY, no tax will be charged.
When they charge you, they also charge you additional 200 JPY for handling cost.

Examples:
A. 15,000 JPY purchase ---> TAX FREE
(15,000 x 0.6 = 9,000 JPY)
B. 18,000 JPY purchase ---> About 700 JPY
(18,000 x 0.6 = 10,800 JPY) x 0.05 +200
Of course, may not be charged if you're lucky.

I made above cases simple, without considering shipping cost.
 

joewein

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Oct 25, 2011
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#16
Right. And that 5% tax (if charged) is applied to 60% of purchase price, which results in 3% really.
Now the numbers from my FedEx bill make perfect sense :) I wrote before that the consumption tax in my case appeared to be calculated on 2/3 of the price excluding freight. It actually was exactly 60% of the price *including* freight.

In the customs form field it said "CIF -USD-". CIF stands for "Cost, Insurance, Freight". The 5% consumption tax is imposed on 60% of (cost of the merchandise + insurance paid + freight charge) listed on the invoice. So if for example you buy a $1800 bike and pay $200 for shipping and insurance and the exchange rate is 75 yen/$, the taxable amount is 2,000 * 75 * 0.60 = 90,000 yen, so expect to pay 4500 yen consumption tax + a few hundred yen for handling.
 

Phil

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#17
Right. And that 5% tax (if charged) is applied to 60% of purchase price, which results in 3% really. Also, if 60% of purchase price is not more than 10,000 JPY, no tax will be charged.
When they charge you, they also charge you additional 200 JPY for handling cost.
You know, this has cleared up a lot of the mysteries duties/tax on imported stuff. Thanks.
 

theDude

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#18
Most of you gents are 'personal importers' so they tend to be less stringent - however if you put ANY Company Name on your recipient / import name - you are setting yourself up for even higher degree of scrutiny.

Yup, this is true. I had some REI stuff held up at customs, thought it might be some beef or vegetable as part of some dehydrated food I bought. But it turned out that they just wanted to know if I was a corporation or not. Mostly cuz my surname makes me sound like a company.... i guess. Clarified ("yes, that's my name") and sent on thru to me.
 

dgl2

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Nov 3, 2007
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#19
Shipping + Import duty vs EU VAT on Bike or Frame from Germany

One thing to keep in mind, if you buy in Europe and take delivery there, you will get hit with 19% VAT (or in Los Angeles 8.75% sales tax, or NY about the same. In Oregon -- still zerol).

For my frame from Canyon in Germany (mine this year), not paying the VAT because it was shipped directly covered most of the shipping charge. If I remember correctly, there was no import duty on delivery.

It could just be more randomness, but I think country of origin also might make a difference. My frame was listed as a "Germany" product ... even though it presumably starts out in China. ... if you buy "made in Japan" Shimano products from Wiggle, why would you get charged duty when they come back in?
 

joewein

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Oct 25, 2011
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#20
One thing to keep in mind, if you buy in Europe and take delivery there, you will get hit with 19% VAT (or in Los Angeles 8.75% sales tax, or NY about the same. In Oregon -- still zerol).
Not necessarily. If you're a resident of a country outside the EU, you can claim a VAT refund for purchases in EU countries if you follow certain procedures. For example, >> here << are the UK regulations.

It involves some paperwork and getting forms stamped by customs, but it's doable. I've never done it on something as large as a bicycle though, only things that go in hand luggage.