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Arthur, I can't give you an answer specific to the United States but my
Canadian experience might be of some help. During the period when there was
no official Dupla distributor in North America, I used to obtain both
hardware and fertilizer products direct from Dupla UK. I discovered, much to
my chagrin and at no small expense, that what the shipment contained and how
it was described on the outside package mattered a great deal.
At least here in Canada, and quite possibly also in the US, the rate of duty
charged can vary depending upon what is being imported. In my case, when I
placed an order which consisted entirely of fertilizer products (i.e
Duplarit G, Duplaplant, Duplaplant 24), the shipments always came in without
duty. I was told that fertilizers from Europe were not subject to import
duties if they were described as such (i.e. "plant fertilizer") on the
Customs Label on the outside of the package. However, when I placed orders
for hardware (i.e. bits and pieces of CO2 equipment), those shipments always
attracted a 20% duty (aquarium accessories).
Mixed orders, which contained both hardware and fertilizers, should have
only had duty charged for the value of the hardware. But in practice that
never happened - I was always hit with the full 20% duty on the value of the
entire shipment, hardware and fertilizer. I tried repeatedly to obtain a
refund of the overpayments but bureauracy being what it is, I never got one.
You should be able to find out the various rates duty which are payable by
calling U.S. Customs. Make sure that you tell them exactly the types of
things you wish to import and ask if there are different rates for different
categories.Also ask what you should request that the shipper use as a
descriptor on the Customs paperwork so that your shipment receives the most
favourable rate of duty. You also have to carefully explain to the shipper
how to describe the contents on the paperwork that they will be completing
and attaching to the box.
By the way, it normally isn't only the duty that kills you - its the
shipping costs as well. It cost more to ship a box of Duplarit G from
England to Canada by boat than it did to buy it in the first place. No
wonder ADA products were so expensive when Art G. was importing them. And
don't even get me started on Air Freight rates........
Hope this helps.