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Importing/Exporting and Customs queries and advice


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In light of some recent questions and issues, I am leaving this topic up to ask questions about the above issues, and am hoping to add some tips and procedures for successful imports, exports and dealing with customs.


A few good threads have already given some good info on this subject. Here are some basics that are important to follow if you want a hassle free import or export:



What you want to say is that you are going to import an antique art sword from Japan, that has a "harmonized tariff code" of 9706.00.00.90. You would like to know the duty rates (it will be duty free 99% sure), and tax rates (some countries have reduced taxes on antiques).


Have the seller or sender put a photocopy of the NBTHK or NTHK papers for the sword in with the external paperwork. This is justification for antique status (if it is more than 100 years old). Translate the key items, like for instance if it just has a mei or a mumei attribution, translate the mei. Indicate then what period the swordsmith or school worked in. Write this right on the photocopy.


If no papers, and the sword is dated, put in a scan/print of the nakago, both sides with date. Same for mei if you can match up to a book.


Customs will just want justification for a lowered duty/tax rate.


If it is not more than 100 years old and it is an art sword, it is a "collectible item of historcal/ethnographic interest." 9705.00.00.90. You will need to justify why... one thing is that it is a 1,000 year old tradition, only made in Japan... WWII and earlier swords are easiest to justify, newer ones may be harder. See my posts on this subject for more info.


9705 has the same properties as 9706 in terms of duties and probably taxes.


If you have no date, no papers, no mei, no nothing, then you can still claim this status but the agent may deny it and assign you 9307.00.00.90 (swords). That will get you duty and max tax rate. You could probably appeal afterwards, but it's better to get this stuff straight in advance.


Calling customs, and talking to an agent in advance, getting their name "if you have more questions" can certainly help if your sword is stopped on import. If you call and can say that you talked to agent X in advance and did your best to document everything, then you are informed and prepared and that makes a customs agent feel more comfortable giving you the benefit of the doubt that you're not pulling a fast one.

I am not from Belgium but from the Germany, but I think the processes in the EU are almost the same for the different countries. Whenever I import a sword from a non-EU country into Germany I am notified by the customs that a package arrived for me and I have to bring various papers to the customs to get the sword handed over.

- Passport/ID card

- Invoice (or an ebay printout)

- any other papers that tell about the age of the blade (if available).


The package then is opened at the customs and they inspect the blade and compare it with the printout. You eventually have to proof how much you paid for (e.g. printout of your bank account, displaying the sum). In Germany the customs then check the Internet (if it was purchased on ebay or another internet selling platform) to confirm the sum and that this auction really existed.


Based on the total amount (auction price + dispatch costs) I have to pay 19 % VAT and 1,5 % import tax. You may avoid the import tax if you are able to proof that the item is over 100 years old. But the customs are very odd in accepting any ebay statements. They want a rather official certificate (in German) which is of course hardly to get when you did not have to sword in hand before. Therefore all in all I have to pay 20,5 % on the final price (which is quite a lot for basically no additional value). But that's the way it goes. In Germany with the customs checking either via Internet or wanting to see a printed bank account, there is hardly and space for cheating them.

If the sword is more than 100 years old, you need to make sure it has a Harmonized Tariff of 9706.00.00 attached to it. That makes sure it falls into the correct tax rate.


There should be no VAT assessed on EU goods traveling from country to country. The VAT should be assessed only on things coming from the USA or from Japan, etc.


There are no duties on a 9706.00.00 (antique item more than 100 years old). If the item is true gendaito or shinsakuto, then 9705.00.00 should apply (collectible item of historical and ethographic interest). The argument for 9705.00.00 on a modern made sword centers around Japanese swordsmiths being trained for a set period by a licensed smith, and then licensed by the Ministry of Education if their work passes the standard to sustain the historical art. An Iaito or a Japanese-style work made in the USA would not fall into this category. An older modern sword like Sadakatsu's work applies also as being historically important.


Both of those codes insure against duty charges, and you may have to support them with documentation.


Always with customs in any country, getting all of your documents lined up in advance and attached to the shipment shows an intent to be clear about the contents and that you have done your homework, and this will give you a much better time than playing catchup with a package marked "Japanese sword" with nothing else.


Something to keep in mind is that the VAT rates are different for various countries in the EU. As well, VAT rates in individual countries are *different* for items that fall into different categories. For instance, the import VAT rate in England for a 9706.00.00 is 5%. For other goods may be as high as 17.5%.


In Italy, a 9706.00.00 is 10% VAT, without that code it is 20% VAT.


So it pays to go and visit customs in person or to call and ask about the VAT rate in particular in regards to this harmonized code. Ask them what they need to substantiate the age, and provide it. It can save you a lot of money.


It is not fully clear to me, but it may be that doing your import into the EU into a country like England with 5% VAT on 9706.00.00 gets your VAT paid at the lowest rate, then importing to your own country from England should be 0% VAT since it has been properly imported into the EU already. I am not a European, so I don't know if that is how they intend things to work. That is, if you demonstrate to your customs that it was imported to England at 5% VAT, if they will allow this or else say that since the goods originally came from outside of the EU when you bought them, that you need to pay the difference or else the VAT all over again. So it bears asking a customs officer what happens in this situation.


At the very least, you need to find out the proper tax rate for a 9706.00.00 in your country during import. I have had friends tell me it can be hard to get customs to do this properly. I live in a country where customs is pretty fair and is interested in getting things right rather than getting things at the max tax and duty rate, so if it is more than 100 years old and you have the documentation to back it up, it automatically gets the correct code and correct duty/tax rates. Unfortunately no tax break here for 9706.00.00, just duty-free.


Do keep in mind that I am not an EU citizen and am writing this based on what I have read online in trying to figure out tax status for shipping to various places. Don't take what I write as gospel, I may be wrong, and as importer of a particular object you always have final responsibility to get everything right even if someone is sending to you and signing documents. You have to make sure to get it right, and customs in various countries usually have some unusual and eye-opening powers to enforce the law

Also most importantly for you, import taxes on a 9706.00.00 to Belgium should be 6%, which is quite nice. This is based on a shipment I made in the past year that cleared customs properly.


I put in the sales invoice, photocopies of the Tokubetsu Hozon papers, translated the characters that described the piece (1 katana, etc) on the photocopy. The sales invoice stated explicitly what the item was, the age, and that it had been certified in Japan by the NBTHK as work of a particular smith, while explaining what the NBTHK was. I put in prints of pictures of the piece, which ideally eliminates a need to open the box and prevents damages.


I made sure the harmonized code was clear and explicit everywhere, and as always, ship by Fedex whenever possible.


The items I sent to Belgium have sailed through customs with no problems, and at a 6% import tax rate you're in one of the best places to import swords. Note that this may not apply to 9705.00.00 and additionally you do not want to get the dreaded 9307.00.00 (swords, bayonets, etc) code. This is why it is so important to establish the code up front, rather than to give a description and count on the broker to assess the code.


Because multiple codes will always apply. For instance a sword can fall under sporting goods (for iaido), swords bayonets etc., historical collectible, or antique object. It's up to the customs broker to assess which, and if they get it wrong your tax rates can go up and you have a paperwork mess.


Your arguments are always better received when established clearly and openly up front with backing documentation.

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I'm going to outline the steps of a good import, along with pitfalls and why you want to do things right at each stage. I learned this over the period of years, of making errors and corrections, and of educating myself as to what my responsibilities are. It seems to be a moving target as there is a lot to know. Truly, people have their professions built around import/export, but since we deal with such a small scope it should be something that each of us can master if given the right start.






I am not a customs broker or a lawyer. This is intended as a guideline to help you get your stuff straight, comply with the law, and protect your sword. If it fails to do any of the above, it's not my fault. Always confirm advice like this by calling customs in your local country. You are the only one responsible for an item being imported. Not me, not the exporter, only the importer! I hope this helps you and provides some useful information, but once again, *everything* needs to be confirmed by looking up the specifics for your country.



Your Goals


Your goals are simple: compliance with the law, payment of proper duties and taxes, safe and undamaged arrival of the item. Ideally you want to avoid inspection, because it is during inspection that careless handling will cause damage to your piece. I had a Tokubetsu Juyo sword not returned into its saya properly. As a result on the final stage of shipping the sword was bouncing around inside the saya and caused three abrasions in the ji. This could have been prevented if I had in advance educated myself properly in the import process.


First a note on Customs Laws. Customs laws are draconian. They are written so that Customs can determine you guilty of smuggling without any proof necessary. You are required then to establish your innocence. Given the number of people who purposefully improperly declare to customs, it is easily imaginable why customs requires this kind of power. In general it is used responsibly and given their role in trying to fight major smuggling operations, and/or narcotics and firearms, the tools are very necessary in order to defend a border. In general the average citizen will not encounter them other than in a situation where a package is missing some required information and a customs agent is skeptical over it being a case of duties and taxes trying to be avoided. Because customs can make these "findings of fact", it is in your best interest to answer every possible question in advance by providing proper paperwork and descriptions. This shows that you know your responsibilities, you have made a good importation declaration, and now you are no longer arguing uphill. Things will go your way if you have a professional quality import declaration.




Duties and Taxes


I am a bit familiar with other countries because of my export experience, and am most familiar with Canada for my imports. Here is generally what you are facing duty and tax wise for various countries for your imports.


Antique Swords


An antique sword is one that is made over 100 years ago.


Italy: duty free. VAT 20% reduced to 10% non-EU origin, 0% EU origin.

England: duty free. VAT 17.5% reduced to 5% non-EU origin, 0% EU origin.

Belgium: duty free. VAT 6% non-EU origin, 0% EU origin.

Canada: duty free. GST 6%. Provincial sales tax applies as well, Alberta has no provincial tax.

USA: duty free. State sales tax applies. Montana has no state sales tax (as well as a couple other states).


This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, just shows that antique swords in general are duty free, and often come into reduced VAT rates. In several cases importation is totally duty and tax free. It is just your job to properly support this claim you are making with extensive information. Remember, soooo many people lie to customs, they have to regard a duty and tax free claim with skepticism. As long as you have the right backing information it will be fine.



Non-Antique Swords


There are two types of these swords by my determinations (which obviously don't carry a ton of legal weight). Generic "swords" such as a bayonet, and then an ethnographic sword. And example of an ethnographic sword would be a hand made Kukri from around 1920, or a hand made Japanese sword right up until modern era. Customs allows for duty free importation of a special class of items which is fairly wide. In this class falls things like mineral specimens, dinosaur fossils, and the items we are concerned with which are historical and/or ethnographic interest items which are collectible. Gendai collectors and Shinsakuto collectors need to be aware of this, because their swords should fall into the same duty free provisions as antique swords, where a generic thing like a bayonet probably won't unless it has some special historical significance.


The two components of historical and ethnographic interest are embraced through the fact that Japanese swords are an important part of the cultural heritage of Japan, and are made nowhere else in the world. For example, a piece of silverware could be made anywhere... even if it has some regional flavoring, it is not going to fly as being culturally or ethnographically important. Because the Japanese Ministry of Education continues to sponsor the system wherein swordsmiths must pass certain criteria to be licensed and their output is limited by law, it really proves the point that these items are culturally significant (i.e. ethnographic) and as well since the ministry is acting to preserve a historical lineage of skills from teacher to student that goes back 1,000 years, the historical aspect is also secured (you only need one or another). Individual items like a Gassan made for an Admiral in WWII will have an additional piece of historical significance allowing for a duty free and tax reduced claim. The last component that they be collectible is self-evident and shouldn't be worried about being established. There is a point where 2+2 = 4 has to be assumed and not proven.


If you are a gendai collector, it will do you some good to research the Ministry of Education program and have a little document prepared in advance.




Guiding your Item through the Process


Here are the stages then:



1. Describe Your Item in Full




Japanese sword -or- Japanese sword more than 100 years old.




Antique Japanese sword, ca. 1666, by "Sukehiro", approx. 350 years old. Harmonized Tariff 9706.00.00.90, accompanied by scabbard approx 150 years old, Harmonized Tariff 9706.00.00.90.


When your item passes a border it is processed by a clerk who works for the shipper. This clerk takes the information you present on the package and submits it into the customs computer system. If the information is incomplete or dubious, it will be stopped for inspection. A customs agent will probably have the shipper bring the item to customs, which will delay the shipment, introduce the possibility of damage, and put you in a situation of arguing "uphill" for your case in regards to duties and taxes.


The worst case situation over an improper declaration includes criminal charges, and seizure/destruction of your item. Even if an exporter has signed the document for importation, it is the *importer's* responsibility to ensure it is correct.



2. Include a Third Party Attestation


In addition to the description paragraph, attach photocopies of any paperwork that the sword has, and translate key areas. For the above Sukehiro, I would translate the swordsmith's name, and the date if necessary, and write that the documents were created by the Nippon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (Japanese Sword Museum), in Tokyo Japan. This is very important for customs, as it is a third party attestation to the item as being genuine, and from here I can easily establish the work period of Sukehiro with a photocopied page of a book. I would not supply the page in advance but I know I can supply it having established this as a genuine work of Sukehiro.


If the sword has no NBTHK or NTHK papers, it should have at the very least an evaluation by someone of standing. Someone holding a directorship position of the NBTHK/AB with a long standing reputation as a sword vendor would work. A well regarded auctioneer, such as Christie's or Sotheby's is a very strong attestation and maybe in the eyes of a layman might be the strongest since these are very high profile.


At the worst case, a single page from the vendor, documenting the maker, period, and that it is a "guarantee", with a signature and date is going to go a long way. For my clients I put this information into the sales invoice, for the most part I am deferring the judgment to the NBTHK. If I am to guarantee something I am only going to guarantee within the scope of my skill. This should be a separate document from the commercial invoice, something that would go with your files for the future, like something you would keep with the sword to assist you with a future sale.



3. Establish the Value


Make sure it is exact. Even though the exporter signs these documents, you are the one who has the responsibility for correction if the information is wrong. It is possible to include a photocopied proof of payment (i.e. wire transfer receipt, photocopied check), if you want to go that far.


If the item is a return from polish/shirasaya/lacquer/etc., the value is simply the value you were charged for the work. There are special codes for modifications, see below.



4. Fingerprint the Sword


Not real fingerprints of course! If you bought it on ebay, have the vendor include a copy of the ebay transaction page, showing photos, vendor and buyer. If it is a Juyo Token you bought from a dealer, have them photocopy the oshigata and put it in. If a Tokuju, photocopy the picture. I have sometimes included pictures of my swords that I took myself.


This helps you in the case you are accused of swapping pieces, and also if you pay your taxes and the item arrives and you need to return it (example: you're on a payment plan, can't make payments and want to return the blade), this will help you because you can on re-export establish that this is the same piece.



5. Establish Importation History


If you previously imported the piece, keep your documents forever! It will show that it has already been processed. If you are sending an item out for polish, keep your receipt from the post office or whomever! Ask the polisher to save your box and be sure to use it for return. You can then fax them a copy of your export receipt if necessary, to attach to the return documents, that help establish your item was previously imported. If you were taxed once, you should not be taxed again, but again it is *your* responsibility to verify this claim with customs. It is easier to verify the claim in advance then it is after the fact.



Arguing Uphill or Downhill


Once your item gets stopped because of a sloppy, incomplete, or unsubstantiated declaration, you are now depending on the good graces of the agent. Once stopped, I would consider that effectively the judgment is made that you have to pay duties and taxes and you have to disprove the situation. This is not going to be because your customs are corrupt: it is probably because so many corrupt people are trying to sneak stuff by them, that you now have to bear the brunt of all of that.


You just don't want to be here, so that's why it's important to support your claims as much as possible in advance rather than after the fact. You will get two different attitudes as a result of how much you support the facts. If you are claiming it to be an antique for instance, you need to support the claim... so you have either (1) third party attestation (2) photo of the date on the blade with a translation (3) photo of the signature and then a page out of fujishiro with the work period for the same smith. Anything that shows you are trying to support the claim is better than asking a customs officer to accept your word that you should not be taxed or dutied. If you put yourself in their shoes for a day you would understand why that doesn't fly. Also remember, they're not sword experts so they can't just glance at your blade and know.


Always put yourself in a position where you are arguing downhill. Help yourself as much as possible, in advance.




Notes on Harmonized Tariff Codes


This is probably the most important part of your entire declaration. This allows someone at a glance to determine what the item is and what its tax and duty status should be. If you don't state one yourself, then a clerk is going to pick one for you. Sometimes even when you *do* state one if the clerk is sleepy they will pick one for you and that's really irritating. However if you have stated one, at the very least if they pick a different code you now have the luxury of returning to customs with the discrepancy and you are arguing downhill rather than uphill.


On the codes: these harmonized tariffs are common to the WTO and are the same for most countries. The first two numbers refer to the chapter under which the item falls in the tariff document. An antique sword of 9706.00.00 is item 06 in chapter 97. The other four numbers provide for fine tuning, and then there are an additional two which may show up like 9706.00.00.90. The last two are for statistics, in this case they say the item is made of iron or steel. Your country is collecting this information and using it to negotiate trade pacts and duty rates, etc.


Some important codes to remember:


9307.00.00: swords, bayonets, etc. A serial number stamped Japanese sword falls under this category. There is no duty preference to it, it will receive some charge. It's a generic category where repro swords would fall under it too... if there is nothing special about the blade, this is where it goes. Use the code when the item is part of a transaction.


9706.00.00: antique item more than 100 years old. Remember, you need to support the 100 years old claim! Most swords will fall under this. Use the code when the item is part of a transaction.


9705.00.00: item of historical or ethnographic interest (etc.) claiming special duty/tax provisions as a result. If your sword is less than 100 years old but handmade and NIHONTO, you should use this code. Use the code when the item is part of a transaction.


9813.00.00 or 9802.00.40: these codes are used to establish temporary import/export for repair. For instance, if I find a sword in Canada, and send it to Bob Benson in the USA, I use 9813.00.00 to describe it. To US customs this says "this is an item being sent to the USA for temporary import, to be returned to the sender after repairs are done." When Bob sends it back to me, he would put on the *same* code. To Canada customs, it says "this is an item that *was* sent to the USA temporarily, and is now returning to Canada." So the same code describes it, there is just a slight change in interpretation based on which way the item is moving. If you are in the USA, and found a sword locally and are sending to Japan, you would need to find the right export code to Japan, but their return code to you would be 9802.00.40. You should call customs and confirm these codes if you use them, especially in other countries than Canada/USA.


9814.00.00 or 9802.00.80: item previously imported to your country, which was subsequently exported for repair, and is now being re-imported. A Canadian who bought a sword in the USA, would initially say receive it as a 9706.00.00 (antique sword). After review, it is sent to the USA to a sword polisher. The Canadian labels it as 9813.00.00 (temporary export to the USA for repair), and puts it in the mail. Polisher receives it, polishes it, and returns it to Canada... this time though it is a 9814.00.00 (not 9813.00.00) because the Canadian initially *bought* the sword abroad and imported it paying his duties. This is where some country-specific stuff falls into place and why you need to call customs to fine tune these for your use.


In these cases where an item has its value adjusted abroad, the *new* importation value is set not to the cumulative value, but to the value of the alterations. So the polisher would set the import value to be the charge related to his work. Taxes may apply.


If a shirasaya is made, same thing, even though the shirasaya is NEW it is considered a MODIFICATION to an antique item. You should not be paying duty on it, just sales tax, the classification of your sword does not change... and this is the general group that your re-importation falls under. You should call customs and confirm this code if you use it, to be sure I am not citing something Canada-specific. People in the USA receiving back their previously-exported-for-repair (i.e. to Japan) would use 9802.00.80.



9992.00.00 or 9801.00.10: item was exported, no changes made to it, and now it is being re-imported. Example: I sent a sword to the NBTHK/AB for an educational presentation in San Francisco. It is sent back to me with a 9992.00.00 code. Note that when I send this sword out, I need to find the right code for a temporary import to the country in which it is being sent (USA is listed below). 9992.00.00 falls under a section of the tariff code that is reserved for "temporary assignments", each country can use these parts according to their own desires, so it can be different. Don't use a 9992.00.00 unless you're sending something back to Canada. If another country, you need to find the right code. The USA uses 9801.00.10 for "products of the USA being returned without being advanced in value." If it was a previous import, then 9801.00.20. There are a lot of these codes for the USA for specific items. Your first step: Call Customs. They are usually very happy to help you get your imports and exports correct in advance!


8211.92.00: A Japanese hocho you bought would fall under this code.


9812.00.20 or 9813.00.70: 9812 is the code used for importation into the USA for a temporary exhibition by an organization devoted to the advancement of arts (or sciences). If I am sending a sword to San Francisco for display by the NBTHK, I would attach this code to it. It would help me when the sword is returned as well when I claim it is not a new import, to show the matching export paperwork to customs. It might be different in your own country, so look up the code. 9813.00.70 would be the code used by a lecturer to bring in swords to accompany his lecture, for instance what Gordon Robson would do when bringing swords from Japan to the USA for an NTHK lecture in San Francisco.






All of these codes should be available online. They are really important to make your life as easy as possible, and all imports you make are your responsibility to get right. If you are having trouble finding the right code, default to a letter to customs attached to your import stating at length what went on. That you sent it out on X date for polish in country Y, and it is now being returned, the cost of the polish was Z."


Always keep your import documents, and your export documents. It will help you to establish that a piece has already been processed and taxes/duties paid.


Remember, you can always call customs in advance... get the agent's name and write down his advice. Say that you want to be sure you export and re-import an item correctly and use the right codes. They should be happy to assist you.

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Amazing work as always!

I will add the duties calculation here for South Africa, and if anyone would like to add their country's calculation, I will add it to this list so that we don't bog down Darcy's post above with a long list of them.

That is an extremely detailed article, and I think Milt might have found his next JSSUS article if Darcy is willing :D


Thanks Darcy. fantastic.




Duties Calculations:


RSA - Duty Free. 14% vat applies.

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I shall not enter into details but including "file fees" taken by the Customs Agent the cost is 5% for Antiques more than 100 Years old.


It is some kind of Bingo with French Customs duties.


I had swords coming from Japon which went through Customs - Tax free

Others which were taxed (5% all-in) - small items as tsuba/kogatana often can go through Customs tax free.


From North America, nothing escapes Customs but small parcels (tsuba)

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  • 3 years later...

For Holland:

I am a newbie, so I called Customs. They said I would have to pay regular BTW (19%? Strange, we'll see!), no import duties and that I should mention code 9706.0000.90. I'll let you know how it goes and ::edit:: the post!


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Hello Mark, The VAT (BTW) you pay in our country (Netherlands) will be on the stated value when importing things from outside the EU, for instance America, Japan, Australia etc.


So if someone states on the customs paper the item has a value of 4.000 Euro, you pay import taxes. The postal services do not care if you are a private person or a business. I have had that experience buying RC aircraft.


Also sometimes, when there is no statement of value but up close inspection reveals an antique, they will get advice from professional auctioneers/experts on the market value after which they will come up with an estimate over which you will have to pay the import tax. There are as far as i know only difficulties when importing rifles (sometimes even the exempt before 1870 ones) without consent or weapons permit. Swords are allowed without problems (that is, if you dont find a customs man who is having a bad hairday..) basically if they want to cause hassle, they will.


You can also try ask the Token society here in the Netherlands for info, as well as the weapon collectors society.






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Well - how much are you willing to gamble :crazy:


I have imported as "Japanese wall ornament" - oriental decoration" - "movie prop" - "wall hanging" - "metal decortation" and some others that I would rather not share - no duty - no customs - no value -


then again for the one they open out of 3000 - :bang:

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  • 2 years later...

depends on the shipping agent. parcelforce is slower and less able than Fedex often holding items and requiring additional proof of age and value. This can cause several days delay.

Provided the invoice clearly states age and value it should not be a problem. You will have to pay 5% VAT (standard charge on antiques) Parcelforce also charge a handling fee.



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depends on the shipping agent. parcelforce is slower and less able than Fedex often holding items and requiring additional proof of age and value. This can cause several days delay.

Provided the invoice clearly states age and value it should not be a problem. You will have to pay 5% VAT (standard charge on antiques) Parcelforce also charge a handling fee.




Thanks Paul,

I had to pay 5% antique tax for a sword imported from USA but I never paid any VAT even for shinsakuto from Japan. The only time there was a delay was about 14 years ago my 400 yrs old wakizashi was held at customs and I was sent a letter asking the purpose of the import even though the dealer Aoi Art had all the invoice statement explaining the item to custom.

My reply to UK custom was it was an art object of historical value for educational purpose. They promptly released it.

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Well I've just got hit with VAT charge for importing a katana makura from Japan, actually the handling clearance fee cost more than the VAT.

For small items of low cost I would avoid using EMS from now. Cost of shipping is higher and likely to attract VAT. I never got charged when using SAL, it cost less and took longer.

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  • 1 year later...

For anyone importing into Australia you dont have to pay the duty on an antique sword but you have to pay the GST (10%) of the value of the item including the postage.  When the sword arrives in customs you will receive a leter from them saying they have your sword.  They will give you a link to download the Declaration form (N10) the important bit is the tariff Calssification code.  For an antique sword it is 97060000 and the Stat Code is 07.  Once you email that form to them they will reply with a bill for you to pay and then they release the goods.  All in all not to stressful (except the first time when you have to find out the tariff code) and they have never unwrapped any of my swords.

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  • 2 weeks later...

More info, added by Darcy from another thread.


Swords have organic materials in the shirasaya and koshirae so it is not unusual for them to stop and do an inspection, and in fact inspections seem to be going up. If it is flagged as a sword or as an antique then this is going to pattern match with things they want to stop and inspect. There is no getting around that.


One thing they are looking for is ivory. This is a big problem and anything with ivory in it should not be shipped.

Same, I have heard has been stopped in the past, and after identification as rayskin, it came back with a question, "Which species?" So apparently there is something on a list somewhere. Not surprising since sharks at the moment are under a great deal of attack for shark fin soup (which is ridiculous, they take the entire shark just to get the dorsal fin and toss it back to die).


Because our eastern friends consider everything under the sun to be food, we can't have nice things anymore. They will scrub the planet clean shortly of elephants, tigers, sharks, you name it... because they like the ivory decorations, they need powdered tiger penis (when they could just get viagra), and so on. Not like western culture is immune to criticism, but frivolous destruction of endangered species for what amounts to very small entertainment value (or placebo value) is horrific.


That is creating some backwards pressure on any channel that may be using materials from endangered species, and specifically is affecting us with shipments of antiques.


I had fittings stopped for inspection because I did not indicate the material. I didn't want to write "gold / shakudo" on the label because I felt it would just be a reason for someone to steal it while handling. Customs is welcome to inspect to check the material if they wish past the antique declaration, I don't mind, I am more concerned about some minimum wage guy seeing "gold" and setting it aside for himself.


Probably the solution to these problems is to further research the harmonized tariff codes, in 9706.00.00 there is a trailing digit pair.


The last two digits I think, I don't know for sure, but I think might be country specific. So one country's .90 may mean something different elsewhere. I am having a look right now.


A sword in shirasaya destined for Canada should probably be best described as:



Antique Japanese sword made of steel, more than 100 years old, in wooden storage scabbard.


The .90 in this case means "other" in Canadian Customs lingo. The same sword though going to the USA is 9706.00.00.60 ...


What I found:


.10 = furniture (Canada only)

.20 = silver (USA only)

.40 = gold (USA only)

.60 = other (USA only)

.90 = other (Canada only)


Note that these material codes are *only* for 9706.00.00 ... depending on the category they have different meanings. For instance 9701.10.10 is "original painting, pastel or drawing"... adding .10 after that in Canada means "specifically a painting", while in 9706.00.00 it means furniture. So you can't mix and match.


The recommendation is to look up the right material code for the destination and use it, in particular if it is gold or silver, then you don't have to use the text "gold" or "silver" which will end up getting your item stolen.


If you add photos into the pouch it also will give them an idea of what is being sent and help avoid inspections. The goal with avoiding inspections is not to try to slip something through undetected, it is just that the fewer inspections your item undergoes, the less chance of it being stolen (I have had items stolen while in the care of customs) or damaged (I have had items damaged while under the care of customs). This is why I am a big proponent of over describing. The more I show them up front, the more I show them I am aware of obligations and know what I am doing and this is a big part about the item sailing through with no problems, as well as them having all the data necessary to write up the entry without the package needing to be opened.


Lastly if you don't know the material code or it doesn't apply (falls into "other") then if there is nothing special involved, just list the material in the text description and it will save an inspection. I think in this case you have to deal with the primary materials, but if you have anything in there that is a problem, like ivory, it needs to be listed. Keeping in mind that ivory is a complete failure state anyway so shouldn't be exported no matter where you are.



More to the subject, here is the failure list:


Endagered species components that will get your item confiscated/destroyed probably (latin species list):




USA Ivory regulations (note that a legal use is difficult to impossible to make, and commercial imports are completely banned, exports are allowed on antiques but as mentioned, you're setting yourself up for an argument and I would never send an item over to them to sit in their care while I am arguing about it):




More on endagered species and import/export:




Problematic species list:




Looking all of this over, it's my opinion that the question "what species" when it came to rayskin is because someone has to look at the WTO rulings and compare the species against the list of latin names. So they're asking not because a type of ray is a problem, but they need to exclude it and they can't do so easily if you just say "rayskin".


Probably when the same item above was rejected, it was because they couldn't figure out what species it was, and because of that couldn't verify it against the list. And believe me this is a pain in the butt, I am going through the various latin names right now trying to check to see if anything at all is on the list. If it is boiling down then to a judgment call you will get random results.


I'm going to try to find out what species they use for same and get the latin name, then we can exclude it or have an answer on hand if this same/tsuka issue comes up again in the future. This page says it's just stingray:




Wikipedia says it's the Pearl Ray though in this article:




But Pearl Ray links to Cowtail Stingray:




And the Latin name is Pastinachus sephen ... so probably we have an answer to give there on "what species?" And I can confirm it's not on the exclusion list.


Sadly I note this: "and its populations are now under threat from heavy exploitation" from the listing. Which is bad for us of course. Also it explains the bucket I saw of about 50 tsukas having their same soaked off in Japan.


Note also that some species of trees are endagered and shipping wood articles can also trigger problems. So probably on shirasaya we need to say pawlonia wood for top level of paranoia.

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  • 2 months later...

Sorry to unearth this thread.


I just got screwed on an import of kyu gunto tassel from Japan. First, the seller sent it by EMS without telling me beforehand (EMS always puts stuff through customs), second he forgot to write that it was a more than 100 years old antique (therefore VAT 20% instead of 5.5%), third, he declared the full price, which does not reflect the actual value because it is basically 2.5 times the price one would pay in Japan for such militaria (full taxation).


The tassel became a lot more expensive. :bang:


I do not know what it is with Japanese people and EMS, doesn't the Japanese postal service propose a signed for international parcel service?

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I do not know what it is with Japanese people and EMS, doesn't the Japanese postal service propose a signed for international parcel service?


I bought a tassel from the same seller and he sent it via Registered Mail (even though I specifically asked for EMS)....Registered mail often slips through without customs charges in the UK.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I just shipped a katana to Fiji, & all it took was a note saying that it was an antique Japanese artifact, & a personal gift, & there were no duties or taxes owed by the buyer.


I guess some countries make it easier to ship in & out than others....




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It doesnt look like we have a comprehensive guide on Australian customs, though GST importation tax is mentioned. Having brought in a lot of swords over the years, here is a guide. If this has already been covered, delete this post.


Australian Customs:


They have recently 'improved' the customs page, so here is a link to the firearms and weapons list http://www.border.gov.au/Busi/Impo/Proh/Firearms-and-weapons


Scroll down to the Common Weapons list. You will find under bladed weapons that, amongst other things "single edge swords; traditional samurai and katana swords" fall under the "Items that are NOT subject to control". Great news, customs will not stop the importation of our treasures in any way!


Now, remembering that in Australia, while you may be able to freely import a sword, in order to POSSES a sword one must either have A) A CCA (approval from chief of police to posses the item) or, the easier and more common option, B) Membership to an organisation that carries a blanket exemption for its members to posses a sword. There are many to choose from.


You must also keep a 'log book' or records of the swords in your possession and record the details of the buyers should you sell any swords. This must be immediately presentable to the Police should they request it.


Swords must be stored in a manner so as to not be 'easily accessable by an unauthorised person'. A locked cabinet, mounted, locked room. Pretty open to interpretation.


Back to importation.


So there are no laws preventing us obtaining these items. However, there is a Goods and Services charge of 10% on all purchases over $1,000. Be aware that the media are reporting the possibility of GST increasing to as much as 15%, and the $1,000 threshold being reduced to $20. To be continued.


As these items are not prohibited to import, only posses, declarations can be as accurate or vague as you wish. 'Japanese Sword' will be fine, though a full description may improve perception of the goods. I am always wary of privacy and theft in the postal system, so IMHO and only MHO, it can sometimes be best to not let everyone know the finer details of the package. I would always recommend adding a note to the inside of the parcel with some POLITE tips on handling the item, should it be opened. This may assist in preventing any unintentional damage. There is no reason for the parcel to be opened mind, and I have never experienced one to be.


Tracking is the sensible option to, as Australia is vast and we have some very odd names for our towns. I have seem my parcels head to a different state before returning. Funny in hindsight but not when your $10,000 sword is hiking off to the desert.


Hope this helps my fellow Aussies!

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I get all my swords shipped to Sweden to a friend of mine , due to the danish postal service wont freight any kinds of weapons.

The danish customs are just to open up and s-h-i-t in. They fail when it comes to calculate fees and tarifs. So many times I won over them. They cant see the difference between a meatball and a pohpoh. :)


But Sweden customs and postal service are wondeful and very easy to work with. They allways accept the value on the parcel and they do it fast. ,10 minutes. Danish postal can take a week.

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I bought a tassel from the same seller and he sent it via Registered Mail (even though I specifically asked for EMS)....Registered mail often slips through without customs charges in the UK.


When I told the seller that due to his sending through EMS, meaning automatic customs check, I received an EUR 80 extension, he royally refunded me USD 15 (ie EUR 12).


Then EMS told me that the high import duties were the seller's fault. The seller had forgotten to write on the parcel that the sword tassel was an antique. Therefore I could not qualify for reduced VAT (rate of 5.5% instrad of 20%). Any proper antique seller (this seller has an ebay store selling Japanese antiques) knows that antiques benefit from reduced import duties and/or VAT in most countries and should be manifested as such on the parcels.


Therefore, I posted neutral feedback on eBay with a comment on the seller's costly ignorance of international VAT practices on antique items. The seller immediately ordered me to send him back his royal refund and told me that the extra cost was basically my fault. When I of course declined and reminded him of the antique VAT issue, he became very agressive and insulting.


As a conclusion, I would recommand against dealing with this seller. He goes by the eBay ID edokura

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  • 1 year later...

So I'm shipping a sword and fuchi kashira over to Poland. Both over 100yrs old.

I'd use the 9706 code?

The f/k have papers.

The sword has not, it is also mumei so there's not a lot I can do to attest to the age.

What do I do there?

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AFAIK, UK and Poland are part of UE, so no taxes whatever the amount. Nevertheless, hurry up before Brexit is completed.


I have just bought from England Tricker's James loafers and everything is free of taxes and VAT. :)


Code to use is: 9706.00.00

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