Importing in China

Some of the factors that determine whether your goods will clear Customs or not include the goods value, their product code, and their description. These factors often also directly influence the clearance time at the port of import into China.

The introduction of Orders 33 and 43 have brought in some stricter clearance rules and regulations related to Customs.

Let’s take a detailed look at these.

China Customs: Order 33

  • HS Code: A HS Classification Number is mandatory for the import of goods (except documents) into China, and should be mentioned on the declaration form issued by the Customs.
  • De-minimis Status Change: In the past, the proclaimed value of the products was taken as the de-minimis value. However now, Customs will now check if the duty applicable is more than or less than CYN 50. Items that were previously duty-free such as; specimens, and advertisement articles, if now valued over CYN 400 are also now dutiable.
  • Customs Registration Code for Importers/Exporters: An importer/exporter must register with Chinese Customs Authorities to obtain either the CR Code or the importer/exporter Record. It is necessary to have a CR code present on the declaration forms (except personal belongings and documents) for the cargo issued by the Customs Authority of China.

China Customs : Order 43

  • A reasonable quantity has been allocated for personal effects. These are restricted to gifts and commodities or unaccompanied baggage, and could be sent from one individual to another. Things such as B2C’s (Business to Consumers) do not qualify as personal effects; this includes delivery of items bought over the internet. Therefore, these must pass the procedures of Customs clearance, and hence, the identification of an importer of record is mandatory.
  • Personal effects also have a value limit of about CNY 800.00 (approximately US$ 117.00) when shipped to or from Macau, Taiwan, and Hongkong. The shipping limit from or to the other nations is about CNY 1000.00 (approximately US$ 147.00).
  • Cargo worth more than the above-mentioned value is not eligible to be imported as personal effects. However, if it is only a single item and it crosses the limit value then it could be reviewed by Chinese customs and cleared on a case by case basis.

“Document” materials like manuals, photographs and catalogs, and business cards only need completion of the Air Waybill. The only exception to this is the cargo that contains private mail for international students and tourists that are unable to present a Chinese passport.

All dutiable cargo requires an invoice by the transporter; the inclusion of the following is mandatory:

  • Issue date and number
  • Address of the mover and receiver alongside full name and contact details of each party
  • Appropriate description of the products in simple, understandable language
  • Receiver and mover’s VAT numbers
  • HS Code
  • CR Code
  • The cumulative value of the products
  • Primary currency
  • Country from where the goods originate
  • Condition of payments (i.e. Customs value)
  • Delivery conditions
  • Signature and a stamp (if necessary)

There are quite a few products that fall under further shipping provisions. It is highly recommended that you seek guidance from your freight forwarder before you attempt to import any of the products below.

Grain samples, alcoholic beverages, food stuff and cosmetics: It is mandatory for an importer to get a Quarantine Certificate through the Local Inspection and Quarantine Authority before import will be allowed.

Computer parts and communication equipment: This consists of pagers, spare parts, mobile phones, communication equipment, and radio receivers & transmitters. Clearance of such goods requires an import license to be issued by the Provincial Mechanical & Electrical office; it further requires a China Compulsory Certificate issued by the regional Commodity Quality Inspection Authority.

CD’s and Diskettes, and computing software shouldn’t be undervalued. It is also compulsory that the usage reasons of the software are mentioned on the bill, e.g. if the software is for training, commercial, research, entertainment, company use, or for individual use. The importer is also bound by law to acquire import license for video and audio products. This is done through the Local Culture Authority. If the product’s primary use is research, internal company usage, or training, then the license isn’t mandatory.

Drugs: This applies to both prescribed and non-prescribed. The clearance of these items depends upon acquiring a Medical Inspection Certificate through the Bureau of Health and Sanitation. It can take up to 3 days to clear such shipment, again, depending on importer’s capacity to acquire a certificate.

Personal Effects: The copy of the importer’s residential permit or the passport is obligatory for the clearance of such items. Fully accurate contact details must be stated where necessary. Delays can take up to between 1-2 days.

Duty-free imports for Ship Spares: Clearance is the duty of the commissioned shipping agent; it is to be done at the port city where the ship has been docked.

Tape: The importer needs to acquire the import license through the regional Culture Bureau, or the Ministry of Culture for the import of tapes, cassettes, and master tapes.  This clearance could also be done through a permit concerning video/audio products, or the release of prototype tape; the permit is issued by the China Broadcast, Film and TV Bureau.

Tobacco: Importer must produce a Quarantine Certificate and an import license if they want to import cigarettes to China.

VAT on imports into China

The approved VAT rate in China is calculated in accordance with the CIF values and is set at 17% for imported items.

Products like newspapers, books, magazines, tap water, coal based products for domestic use, heaters, edible vegetable oils, and cereals are taxed at a rate of 13% by orders of the State Council.

Items which are up for sale by specific small-scale taxpayers have a special 6% VAT applicable to them.

Import duties into China

The preferential and the general tariff rates are the two kind of tariff rates for imported products into China that may affect you.

The general tariff applies to nations that don’t have most-favored-nation trade agreement with China. There are 20 separate rates on imports that vary from 0% to 8%, to a staggering 270%.

The preferential tariff applies to nations which are seen as most-favored-nation trade agreement by the Chinese. There are about 50 different variants of such rates that range from 0%, to 1%, to over 21.6%.

A guide to restricted goods

Some products are restricted from importation. These include items such as firearms, pornography, furs, gambling equipment, jewelry, military goods, radar equipment, antiques, Precious metallic and stone made items, etc.

In case you are intending to import such products into China, you must contact the Customs authorities of China and acquire the relevant documentation beforehand, if you don’t want your shipment to be destroyed or sent back.

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