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Duties and Customs in Colombia

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onthemove44
2/1/2014 19:27 EST

Hello To All,
This is my very first post to the Expat Exchange and I am in dire need of some information. I am planning a move to Medellin in May of this year, or no later than June. I have been reading a lot about the country, culture, banking, visa requirements, etc. I have run into what seems to possibly be a major roadblock however. I have sold all my furniture, appliances (large) art and so forth, so it would be an easier move. My problem however is my wardrobe, (personal clothes and accessories) as I have approx. 10 fairly large boxes weighing right at 100 pounds each. Eighty five to ninety percent is clothing, and I do not want to part with any of it. The remaining ten to fifteen percent is household items, including a $2500.00 coffee machine and a $500.00 blender that I purchased last September, but never unpacked or used them as I knew it would be easier to wait until my move to Colombia to use them. I have been trying for almost a week now to find out how I will be taxed when the shipment arrives and goes through customs. These are all my personal items and nothing is for resale. The rest of the contents are things like sheets, towels, a set of dishware, kitchen utensils, silverware, etc. I have contacted a local international shipping company here on the west coast of the USA, and have been quoted a shipping by ocean freight cost of about $1500.00. My question to any of you who can help is, will the Customs in Colombia tax me on my used clothing, and if so, how do they arrive at any kind of dollar amount? I am coming on a retirement visa, and the shipment, if at all, will come after I have arrived. Please, anyone with knowledge respond.

Warmest Regards,
on themove44

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masterita
2/1/2014 21:47 EST

Welcome. Why not just take the packages with you on the plane? Depending on the airline it is likely to be cheaper or equivalent to the shipping quote you received. Here is a tip. When traveling with extra bags and weight via an airline when you usually fly first class your baggage is free or discounted. Baggage handlers will take your packages out to the curb where you can have a truck waiting for you to pick you and your baggage up.

Hope that helps.

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onthemove44
2/1/2014 21:52 EST

Thanks Masterita for your response, but I am not worried about the cargo shipment. I still have to clear customs with all of my belongings. The question is how does the dept. derive at a figure on used clothing?

Thanks,
on the move44

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masterita
2/1/2014 23:42 EST

From my simple understanding of it you are allowed to import (with you) upto a certain weight of clothing and anything over will be taxed by weight. The same with shipping untaged clothing. I do not believe it is too costly though.

I am also told that you can contact the Colombian consulate for a tax exempt ment for importing into the country. At least up until this past June as this rule might have changed. There is a limit on how much you can bring in via tax exempted. This works via importing via air cargo, sea freight or bringing it with you.

In my opinion your export shipping company should know all of this, as it is their job. Also customs would likely look at 10, 100 lb boxes of clothing as intent to resell so you would likely be paying a 30% tax on their estimated value.

For the finer details I would suggest checking out http://export.gov/COLOMBIA/doingbusinessincolombia/traderegulationsstandards/index.asp

You should be able to find out more here.

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mawdsjeff
2/2/2014 07:52 EST

I have moved here twice, and you cannot predict the final customs charge! The last time, 18 months ago, they unpacked EVERY box, tipped it out and put it back again, sometimes in a different box. They make a fuss about some items, but you CANNOT do anything about it. They charge you millions of PESOS so allow a few thousand dollars for the final price. There are lots of different fees and people involved. You get so fed up with the process that you JUST PAY to get your stuff through. There is a charge after a certain time for every day the shipment is in their warehouse. Also some things DO go missing , so don't pack too many precious things in the same box!. The advice often given is NOT to bring anything in, but if you have things that are precious or sentimental - you cannot put a price to them. Regards Geoff

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quiskies
2/2/2014 08:09 EST

Hi Onthemove, you should reconsider bringing so much clothing. For cool weather stuff, keep one jacket for visiting Bogota or higher elevations, two dress up outfits, and sell or donate the rest of your cool weather things. I personally now use two pairs of long pants, two pairs of shorts, and a bunch of T-shirts.
Consider shipping some of your things by courier, which is not taxed (as long as there are no more than 6 of the same, brand new items), for about $2 a pound, plus $35, from the Miami area to any address in Colombia. The box arrives in just a few days with zero hassles.
I have used enviospembroke.com and I also see on the internet www.latincargoexpress.com/english.htm

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thelocogringo
2/2/2014 08:40 EST

Hello 44, I feel your pain. I brought my special coofee machine too. Was almost 60lbs but makes some great coffee! I ended up ordering a second as a back up and shipped it too. I bring in shipments on a regular basis and have found a company that works well. You can give me a call at 305 407-9218 if you want to discuss it.

Martin

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thelocogringo
2/2/2014 08:40 EST

Hello 44, I feel your pain. I brought my special coofee machine too. Was almost 60lbs but makes some great coffee! I ended up ordering a second as a back up and shipped it too. I bring in shipments on a regular basis and have found a company that works well. You can give me a call at 305 407-9218 if you want to discuss it.

Martin

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brson
2/2/2014 09:59 EST

First, use a reputable freight forwarder, like Via al Éxito (described in another post). Dutiies across the board are 30% of "declared value" except for tablets and computers which enter Colombia duty free. We've had little trouble declaring items (particularly used clothes and the like) at nominal values. The freight forwarder ought to help and even managed to get things shipped in that are ostensibly unallowed (like seeds). We've had little trouble except for electronics in one case, which customs insisted bore a higher value than declared. We merely paid it and had done. Glad to learn we weren't the only ones bringing in our heavy coffee machines! With just modest use after we arrived, it pooped out forcing us to import another type. Good Luck--Priscilla

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spank12
2/2/2014 10:06 EST

Let me ask? Anyone else had a problem with exito site. my computer kept telling me they had viruses and other issues. I am still thinking about using them. They only about a hour drive from my place in the states.

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Patricio
2/2/2014 14:45 EST

Where are you spank12? I am in Cocoa Beach, one hour from via al Exito on 436 in Orlando. My experience wth them has been fine.

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Exbury
2/5/2014 20:38 EST

Hi,
My wife and I moved to Bogota in December and did the following which may be of use;

1 - Worked out the shipping value per Kg (from UK it was around £3/kg). Weighed that into account as a lot of stuff is about the same in price here, some like baby stuff seems to be far more expensive but when adding the £3/kg it can work out leaving or selling stuff there. So furniture and heavy stuff was left.
2 - Added an extra bag on the place, and went with a generous Airline especially with unlimited handluggage, the little more was far worth the extra kgs in the hand luggage.....heavy work though.
3 - Decided to ship ourselves, via airfreight. The container shipping delivery was over £2000 UKP just from the port to Bogota.
4 - Shipping ourselves was fine as this allowed us to control the whole process, however you need to follow the customs receiving in the appropriate place. Bogota was ok, but it helped my wife being Colombian.
5 - I believe the limit import tax-free was around $1500 but we were slightly under this so not charged.
6 - Interestingly we were told by the DIAN inspector that you can import up to $1500 tax free PERSONAL items only EVERY 6 months. Note, certain restrictions and a max of 3 of any item. I dont have more information on this but maybe something to consider.
7 - As one poster said, you dont need that much clothing here, even in Bogota I use shorts and t-shirts a lot, Medellin is even warmer. We also left clothing and stuff not urgent with family, so when we go back to visit it will be with empty bags....literally and come back with full.
Good luck.

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jfriedo
2/6/2014 20:21 EST

I am also very interested in this topic as I plan to move to Medellin in the fall. My circumstances are a little different as I will be retiring from the U.S. Foreign Service and the government will ship my things, however, I will need to pay the import duties and customs. So where exactly does one get the information on exemptions, what the importing rates on, etc. I have a lot of things I've collected around the world like paintings, carvings, trunks and things I can't get rid of. Any advice is so welcome!! Thanks, Jeannie

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