Import Duties on Musical Instruments


Musical instruments are made all over the world. The import tax rate varies when importing musical instruments. There are several factors that play into the tax rate, including the country of origin, instrument type, instrument price and the material used to make the instrument. This import tax applies when shipping the instrument into the United States or if you carry it with you when traveling.

Origin Country

  • The country where the musical instruments was made or purchased from dictates the import tax rate. Countries that have normal trade relation (NTR) status with the U.S. have the lowest import tax, ranging from zero to six percent. Most countries have NTR status, the few that do not include Cuba and North Korea. NTR refers to normal trade relations. This is a status given to countries that have good trade relations with the United States. The import tax musical instruments from non NTR countries can be as much as 40 percent.


  • The type of instrument also affects the import tax. Chapter 92 in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States details the size specifications for each instrument. For example, an upright and grand pianos have a duty tax of 4.7 percent, sting instruments that are played with a bow, such as a violin, have a 3.2 percent duty tax and brass wind instruments a duty tax of 2.9 percent.


  • The price of the instrument, converted to US dollars, is the amount that the duty tax is calculated from. A very expensive instrument has a much higher tax payment than a less expensive one even if both are of the same type. The duty tax rate is the same, but the price of the instruments makes the tax amount very different. You need to have a receipt and explain how you converted the currency to US dollars. Normally, having a document with the currency conversion calculation and the date of currency conversion is all that is required. The document should also include the source of the currency conversion factor -- if it is from a bank, airport, website or other financial institute. Instruments that are considered antiques, or are more than 100 years old, do not have any duty tax.


  • Instruments that contain or are made of specific wood or other material are restricted from entering the U.S. Mainly certain types of wood and materials from animals such as turtle shells and ivory are restricted. These materials typically come from endangered species and the US Endangered Species Act protects these animals and restricts the trade of any material from endangered species. Instruments that are made of or contain Brazilian rosewood, Pernambuco wood, Honduras and black rosewood cannot be imported to the US. Ivory, mother of pearl and tortoiseshell instruments must have the proper paperwork that shows it meets ESA requirements. If you do not have the proper paperwork, or the materials were not gathered from legal sources of these material, the instrument cannot be imported.


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