How to Calculate Import Costs

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Importing goods to the United States from other countries can make you a lot of money, or lose you a lot of money, depending on how fully you understand the process. You will spend money at every step along the path of importation, so you need to be sure that you can sell your products for a high enough price to cover your expenses and still make a profit. Do the math before you spend any money, not when you are standing on a dock with pallets of goods and no way to sell them.

  • Find the best price for buying the goods you will be importing. Contact wholesalers in different countries and try to get samples. You are looking for both low price and high quality. You can afford to pay more for merchandise that is closer to you -- for example, Mexico vs. China -- because it will cost less to ship it.

  • Find a reliable and reasonably priced shipper to move your products. Most international shipping is done by cargo ship using large steel shipping containers. If you are moving large volumes, you will need to rent one of these and pay someone to move it for you. If you are moving smaller volumes, you can pay for an LTC -- Less Than Container -- load. In this process, your cargo is packed on a pallet and put into a shared container with other shippers' smaller loads.

  • Contact the USCBP, United States Customs and Border Protection, to determine the duty you will be required to pay on your particular imports. Duty costs vary over a wide variety of merchandise, all of which is itemized in a USCBP publication called the United States Harmonized Tariff Schedule. If you itemize your imports yourself and have all the required paperwork at the border, you will save the fees that will be charged to you if not done yourself.

  • Factor in the taxes that you will be required to pay when your merchandise enters the United States. In most cases, this is equivalent to the tax that you would pay if you bought the items in the United States. You will recoup these taxes when you sell your merchandise in the United States and charge tax on it.

  • Hire whatever trucking services you will need for moving your products within the United States. If you are a wholesaler, this may only involve a single truck trip from the point of entry to a centralized warehouse. If you are a retailer, the process will be more complicated and involve distribution to a large network of retail locations.

  • Add up all of the above costs to determine the total cost of importation. Subtract this number from the total selling value of your merchandise to determine your profit.

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