Importing knives into the USA
Importing Japanese kitchen knives into the United States
Import Duty, CBP processing fee
If your order with Knife Japan is under $800 there will be no duty or fees to pay on import into the United States. Over $800 you’ll pay import duty and a processing fee to the US government. Over $2000, things get complicated.
Chef’s knives shipped through the international postal service to the US are forwarded upon arrival to one of U.S. Customs and Border Protection International Mail Branches for clearance.
If the item is less than $2,000 in value, a Customs and Border Protection official will usually prepare the paperwork for importing it, assess any import duty, and release it for delivery by USPS.
If the declared value of your purchase is under $800 (this amount is called the ’De Minimis Value’) then you won’t have to pay anything to receive your purchase from Knife Japan. It would be the same if you carried a knife back on a flight – it would form part of your duty-free allowance.
If your internet purchase has a declared value over $800 then US Customs and Border Protection will levy import duty and you’ll be asked to pay a CBP processing fee (you can’t say no). We’ve read that the minimum fee is $25. Import Duty and the processing fee are usually paid at your local post office, where your package is forwarded.
Customs duty will vary, but not by much. Most of the knives on Knife Japan are given the 8211.92 classification code under the international harmonized tariff system. The US duty rate for knives under this code is 6.1%. So if your order’s declared value is under $800 you’ll pay no duty or fees, if it’s $801 you’ll be asked to pay $48.81 import duty plus the $25 processing fee. Ouch.
Reading the various definitions of knives in the international harmonized tariff system can make your head swim, but the main thing to know is that duty on knives other than kitchen knives is under 6.1%. For example, hunting knives with wooden handles attract duty of 4.4%. But remember, that’s only payable if your total import value exceeds $800.
Your $800 duty-free allowance resets 14 days after your last import, so if you’re thinking about buying more than one knife and the total value exceeds $800, it will be best to split your order. Note that this doesn’t mean sending the two parcels at the same time and hoping one of them makes it through undetected. It means sending the balance of your order two weeks later. We’ll cover the additional postage cost for you in this case.
It’s worth noting that if the declared value is over $2000 then your purchase becomes what’s called a formal entry, your delivery will be withheld and you’ll have to deal with further paperwork or consult a customs broker.
Sometimes Knife Japan is asked to understate the declared value of an order so our customer can avoid import duty. We don’t do that.
One reason is that many customs jurisdictions understand that Japanese sellers commonly do understate the value if they’re asked to. A good outcome if your understated-value order is detected is that you pay the duty you owe and still get to enjoy your knife. More likely is that the authorities save time and effort by confiscating your import, which they are legally allowed to do. Game over.
A note about state sale tax
State sales tax, if it applies in your state, is levied at the point of sale.
It's only relevant for an overseas vendor if sales per annum exceeds a certain threshold (that figure varies, but it's a LOT of knives). We don't exceed those thresholds for any state, so state sales tax will not apply to your order.
If you've ordered from an overseas vendor on a platform like Ebay or Etsy and found yourself paying state sales tax, that's why. For state sales tax purposes sales on those platforms aren't calculated on seller-by-seller basis, but on the sales of the platform as a whole. As a result they will collect state sales tax on every transaction. We don't.
If you have any questions about our products or how we can deliver them to you in the USA, please drop us a line using the form below.
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