Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Filling up delivery requests can seem daunting: is your package dutiable? Can you send bak kwa? Import Taxes? Packing Requirements? Prohibited Items?
Here are some things to keep in mind when you are shipping from Singapore to USA:
1. No custom taxes if you are shipping a gift under 100USD
The good news – if you want to send a gift to your friend in the USA, there is a duty exemption for gifts that are USD$100 or less per gift. To avoid any problems, please give a clear description of every item/gift you are sending.
However, keep in mind that perfumes containing alcohol, and bath/cosmetic/beauty products containing antibacterial agents do not receive this exemption.
2. No taxes and duties if you are shipping household effects
You will not have to pay taxes or duties if you are shipping household effects, provided that you have: (a) owned the effect for at least 1 year (b) are not intending to sell it.
There is a strict distinction between household effects and personal effects. Things such as clothing apparel, jewellery and other items used by you only are personal effects. They do not classify as household effects, and different restrictions will apply.
Additionally, you will need to fill in Customs Form 3229 (‘Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles’ (or Customs Form 3229) and provide the requisite documentation. You will also need to provide a detailed inventory of your goods.
3. Check Harmonised Tariff Schedule (HTFS) for all other commercial items etc.
All items shipped for all other purposes are taxed according to the Harmonised Tariff Schedule (HTFS). A full inventory can be found at https://hts.usitc.gov/.
While it is not necessary to indicate the HTFS Code in your shipment (otherwise known as the ‘HS Code’), inputting this code will help clear the item through customs much quicker.
4. Try not to ship Tobacco, Alcohol, Expensive Jewellery or Gold
While it is not illegal to ship these items, they are subject to heavy import taxes – not to mention massive amounts of paperwork!
Other restricted items (read: tons of paperwork to apply for permits) would be certain wood items (i.e. endangered species of wood). For more information, please refer to the full list of prohibited and restricted items on the US Customs Website Prohibited and Restricted Items.
5. Most packaged food items are ok, but no meat products or perishable foods (aka No Bak Kwa)
The U.S Customs permits sending packaged & prepared food items. Other items that are generally allowed are condiments, vinegar, oils, packaged spices, honey, coffee, and tea.
However, this does not apply to products that contain meat, even if it is sealed. Similarly, the importation of vegetables, fruits, rice, and other perishables is not advisable. Such prohibitions exist to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases into the USA.
6. You can ship electronics containing lithium-ion batteries, subject to certain conditions
While certain exploding phones may still be prohibited, you can generally ship most electronic products powered by lithium-ion batteries to the USA (except Alaska).
You should be safe if your shipment looks like this: (a) battery type is a Lithium-Ion Battery (b) batteries are equal to or less than 100whr (c) the battery must be contained within the equipment (d) battery weight is under 5kg.
However, note that this is merely for non-commercial shipping purposes. If you are a commercial electronics retailer exporting to the USA, you will likely require an import license.
Furthermore, given that transporting lithium batteries of any sort can be a risky matter, it is advised that the sender has researched thoroughly on the best practices for carrying such items.
7. Get a good box, preferably a corrugated cardboard box
A corrugated cardboard box is stronger than the typical cardboard box, and you’ve probably used it before if you have moved. The edges of this box will look as if they have been “separated” or “injected” with air. This design is deliberate, as these air pockets are what cushions the box and makes it more durable.
Trust us. You don’t want your box arriving crushed.
Still confused by taxes, or lacking the materials to pack your box? Contact us at JustShip. We can answer your queries and guide you through the process. But please, no bak kwa or exploding phones.
This article is an extremely condensed explanation of the various costs and restrictions one might face when delivering items to the USA. JustShip cautions all Senders to review the relevant information from the Official Website of the US Customs and Border Protection. We will not be liable for any loss or damage arising from reliance on this article.
For more information on gifts, see ‘Gifts’ US Customs and Border Protection For more information on household and personal effects, see Moving to the US – Household & Personal Effects For more information on food products, see 'Food Products (Raw and Prepared)’ & 'Fruits & Vegetables' under Restricted and Prohibited Items. For more information on lithium batteries, please see the IATA Lithium Battery Guidance Document.