Russian Customs Duties Continue to Create Anguish for Expats

Almost four months after expatriates and importation companies were promised that the strict and expensive customs duties governing the importation of household goods into Russia would be lifted, it appears that the customs charges continue to rile expats and foreign businesses.

The changes to the custom duty were initially introduced in July this year. The law, which came into existence as a result of a customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, dictated that all household items were to be treated as commercial goods, with any goods over 50kg being charged at a rate of 30 percent of the declared value, a minimum of $5 USD per kilogram. However, mayhem pursued, with many expatriates and importation companies finding themselves unable to pay customs fees.

In August this year, it emerged that the customs charges were to be lifted as a result of fears that the hefty import fees for personal belongings could negatively impact investment into the country. However, almost four months later, newspapers in Russia report that the government has yet to lift the regulations and expatriates are continuing to face extremely large customs bills for importing their personal household goods.

Speaking to the Moscow Times, a representative from the commission of the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan explained that the delay in lifting the regulations was the result of the fact that the initial agreement did not include a provision for the removal of the duty. He confirmed that the protocol would be going ahead as promised but that they were currently awaiting “finalization at the national government level.”

In the meantime the importation duty covering household items remains and Russian expats can expect to pay $5 USD, or 4 euro per kilogram after the first 50kg. Many expatriate families have reported paying customs bills in excess of $20,000. Many more expatriate families and business owners have opted to place their goods into storage until the promised law modifications are introduced.