Mastering Jamaica Customs: Understanding Duties and How to Get More for Less

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The Customs Act and its role in importing goods

All ja customs activities are governed by Jamaica’s Customs Act. This Act was passed on July 21, 1941 and subject to various amendments. The most recent amendment was made to the Act in 2015. The Act was passed by the Jamaica Customs Agency, which imposes various taxes for import of goods into the country. Some goods are subject to more than one tax. Under the Customs Act, the transaction value is the primary criterion for assessing the amount that you will have to pay as duty for the imported goods.

As per the norms of the Customs Act, there are different processes that you must follow for the importation of your household and/or personal and commercial goods into the country. As an importer, to get your clearance, you will have to submit the import entry and a declaration of value using the C84 form if you are using the transaction value method to determine the value. Alternatively, you must use the C85 form if you are using any other value determination method. While it may take about three to five days for clearance of personal goods, the period can extend to seven days for commercial goods.

Mastering Jamaica Customs: Understanding Duties and How to Get More for Less

What is ja customs duty and how is it calculated?

Customs duty is applicable when you transport goods or products to/from Jamaica. Although most items are subject to customs duty, the Jamaican Central Government has the right to exempt items it feels fit from the tax. The customs duty amount is usually calculated as a percentage of the total of the value of the item, insurance and freight cost (CIF) and at rates decided upon by the Caribbean Community Common External Tariff.

Like in any other country, the custom duty rates in Jamaica vary from product to product. These rates are listed out in the Jamaica Customs tariff that is available at Jamaica Printing Services. You can contemplate laying your hands on a copy to keep yourself updated about the ja customs duty levied on each product before you begin shopping. This can help you buy more products for a lesser amount without having to spend much on the tax. Remember that any product that you plan to import also attracts stamp duty, standard compliance fee and environmental levy. The last two taxes are calculated at the rate of 0.3% and 0.5% of CIF respectively.

Stamp duty for products imported from Jamaica

The amount that you will have to pay as stamp duty depends on the product that you buy from Jamaica for use in your homeland. This does not depend on the jacustoms duty that you will pay for the same.

Tobacco, alcohol and motor vehicles are some of the popular items subject to 25% to 56% of their value as stamp duty in the country.

Mastering Jamaica Customs: Understanding Duties and How to Get More for Less

 

If the total CIF value is within JM$5,500; then you must be prepared to pay JM$5 for each item that you plan to import. On the other hand, if the value exceeds JM$5,500; then the amount is a steep increase to JM$100. Items like meat and aluminium products, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages are subject to additional stamp duty.

General Consumption Tax (GCT)

One thing that you must always remember for exportation is that the final price of the product that you plan to buy in Jamaica will often include an amount called general consumption tax. This amount is considered as a type of sales tax and is calculated at 16.5% of the actual price barring ja customs duty. It is usually applied to all products such as basic food items, medical supplies and prescription drugs. However, goods that are declared to be zero rated by the Jamaican Government are exempt from this value added tax.

Usually, any established store collects this tax on its taxable items. However, duty-free stores, open markets and craft vendors often do not charge this amount for their merchandise. So, you can consider checking out these places first for what you want so that you can buy more than what you bargain for.

Special Consumption Tax (SCT)

The Jamaican government levies this tax that is around 5% to 39% on certain items that include almost all tobacco products and alcoholic beverages. Selected petroleum-based products are also subject to this tax. This is more or less the equivalent of excise tax.

When you buy these products, you will also have to pay GCT for them. However, this does not mean that all GCT subject products are eligible for SCT.

Items subject to more than one tax

It is always worth keeping in mind that some products attract more than one kind of tax. Products like alcohol and tobacco products are subject to both stamp duty and special consumption tax. Similarly, you must be prepared to pay import duty and general consumption tax for household appliances such as radios, blenders and the like. Hence, you might want to keep off from buying such items to avoid paying a hefty amount as tax. Even if you must do so, it is suggested that you make sure the numbers are less so that the tax is within affordable limits.

Importing household and personal goods

When you import household and personal goods to Jamaica, you must be personally present in the country at the time of ja customs clearance. The Jamaican Government considers such goods that are at least six months old to be duty free. You must import the goods within three months of your arrival in the country. If you fail to do so, you will have to renew the unaccompanied baggage form C27. The duty for the items is levied after each of them is assessed separately.

You will have to keep various documents ready when you plan to import your goods. These documents include a copy of your passport and visa, the original airway bill or bill of lading, C27 form, residence permit, taxes compliance certificate and import entry form C28.

Mastering Jamaica Customs: Understanding Duties and How to Get More for Less

Importing commercial goods

If you are importing commercial goods as an entrepreneur, you will have to follow certain steps to obtain the ja customs clearance. Fill out the import entry form with the required details using the invoices for the items being imported. Make sure that the invoices have all the required information. Submit this form along with the supplier invoices, licenses and permits and airway bill or bill of lading at the lodgement desk of the Customs House to capture the required data. You may sometimes have to additionally submit a Taxpayer Registration Number and a Business Enterprise Number. The entry form is then passed on to the invoice branch for the next level processing.

After checking for anomalies, the entry will be cleared if there is no problem. You will then have to pay the duties to the customs cashier using over the counter or electronic payment. After this, you should take all the cleared documents to the Customs Manifest branch for stamping. You must present a copy of the validated airway bill or bill of lading to the keeper of the warehouse where your goods will be kept for location. A ja customs officer will then inspect them in the examination area to confirm the import of the invoiced items. If there is no discrepancy, the officer will hand over a customs release. Otherwise, the documents will be sent back to the Customs House along with the action to be taken. This can result in payment of additional tax.

Conclusion

The Jamaican Government has a ceiling limit specified on its website for most of its products. You will be required to pay ja customs duties and other applicable taxes only if your imports are more than the limit specified. So, to avoid duty payment, make sure that you declare the purchased items properly and that they are within the limits allowed.

A person over 18 years of age can carry 170ml of perfume, 340ml of eau de toilettes, two litres of alcoholic beverages and/or 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes or 230 grams of processed tobacco when entering Jamaica. He/she can also carry personal and household items that do not exceed a total of US$500 or the corresponding amount in Jamaica currency. These are also fully exempt from payment of duty. If you cross the permissible limits, you will have to pay the levied duties appropriately for the excess amount for each item.

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