Why is software expensive in the US

Customs duties & Co .: Buying technology in the USA - is it worth it?

At first glance, smartphones, cameras & Co. appear particularly cheap in the USA.

In the US, the iPhone 5S with 16 gigabytes of storage costs $ 649. According to the exchange rate from the beginning of November 2013, this corresponds to around 480 euros - compared to 699 euros for a purchase in Germany. So it seems advisable to order new technology in the USA or to bring it with you from a trip. But if you don't pay attention and forget possible customs duties and import sales taxes, you end up paying more than when buying in Germany. In addition, different power plugs or radio standards can restrict use.

Total cost higher than the retail price

Unlike in Germany, the prices in the USA are gross prices without VAT. This varies depending on the state and city and fluctuates between zero and ten percent. Some retailers lure tourists with discount cards when buying on-site. In the example calculations below, it is therefore taken into account that US sales tax is not mandatory.

Purchased while traveling: VAT

If you simply convert the dollar price into euros, the savings potential is sometimes huge. The iPhone 5S seems to be 219 euros cheaper. But if you pay the local 8.875 percent sales tax in New York, for example, the price advantage melts to 172 euros. In addition, German customs levy an import sales tax of 19 percent on entry as a replacement for German VAT if the travel allowance is exceeded (see below). An iPhone 5S brought along is only 77 euros cheaper in the end. With other electronics, a customs fee may also apply.

Purchased while traveling: Customs

When entering Germany, customs levy not only the import sales tax, but also a fee on new goods, depending on the product. The corresponding tariffs range up to 14 percent. At the moment, however, you are still allowed to import smartphones duty-free - for navigation devices, for example, there are currently 3.7 percent fees. It is uncertain how long new smartphones will be allowed to enter the country without customs duties. Germany lifted the duty-free guarantee for these devices back in 2008 when there were plans in the European Union to impose tariffs on cell phones. However, these have not yet been implemented.

Sample calculations: technology import from the USA (status: 11/2013)

Purchased while traveling: travel allowances

For all goods and thus also technology products that you buy on a trip, an exemption limit of 430 euros applies to air and sea trips. On land routes, this tax exemption drops to 300 euros. Up to this limit (cancel the invoice!) You do not have to pay any customs duties or import sales taxes. However, the limit applies per person and not per device. The decisive factor is the value of the goods including foreign sales tax. This means that taxes are due for the iPhone 5S and, for example, the cheaper Nexus 5 enters the country free of charge - provided you do not use up your allowance for other goods.

Tricks on entry

It is not advisable to buy a whole range of consumer electronics in the USA, unpack it and declare it as a long-term companion when entering Germany - you would not have to shell out any fees or taxes for technology that has already been brought with you from Germany. The customs officers know the trick, however, and examine the devices for signs of use, with their main interest being possible forgeries. If the customs officers find unrecognized purchases from abroad, what was previously cheap technology quickly turns into an expensive pleasure.

When buying over the Internet: shipping charges

When shipping, the purchase price and the shipping costs together count as the value of the goods, on the basis of which the customs authorities calculate taxes and fees. In return, there is no sales tax in the USA when shipping abroad. For the iPhone 5S, the cheapest and slowest tariff from US Postal saves 106 euros. However, not all shops use the low tariffs, some rely on faster but more expensive shipping methods. While some traders take care of all customs formalities, others generally do not send goods abroad. For certain products, there are also statutory export restrictions or restrictions set by the manufacturers.

Disadvantages of importing technology

Import from other countries

The regulations for the USA also apply to imports from other countries. The EU states are an exception, because the movement of goods within the European Union is fundamentally free. There are neither customs duties nor import sales tax, but possibly the sales tax in the country of purchase and local special taxes. Great Britain in particular should be of interest when buying from abroad, as some products are available on the island earlier than in Germany.

Counterfeit and Regulations

The customs not only levy taxes and fees, they also keep their eyes open for plagiarism and forgeries. An Android smartphone that looks exactly like an iPhone 5C does not cost much, but it may be confiscated and destroyed by customs. In addition, the customs officers monitor compliance with regulations and guidelines. This includes, among other things, that the CE logo must be emblazoned on every technical product. This means that the corresponding device complies with the conformity guidelines of the EU. If the symbol is missing, the chances of getting an Android TV stick across the border, for example, are slim.

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Importing technology from the USA is only worthwhile for selected products - for example, a Nexus 5, which you bought from a dealer without local VAT, if possible. For other devices, you have to calculate and add the lower purchase price in the store with additional taxes and fees.