Indian Customs Duties & Fees for USA to India Import & Travel

Custom duty is a type of indirect tax that is applicable on all the items that are imported into and exported out of India, says an article on Bankbazaar.com. Depending on the dimensions, value and weight of the goods, customs duty is levied on them. Customs duty on export items is known as export duty, while the duty on items imported to India is called import duty. Tax based on the value of an item is called valorem duty, while tax based on the item’s weight or quantity is known as specific duty.

In India, custom duty is defined under the Customs Act, 1962, which enables the Indian government to levy taxes on and outlines the rules and procedures for import and export to and from India. It also decides the penalties if prohibited goods are imported or exported. The Central Board of Exercise & Customs (CBEC), a division under the Department of Revenue of the Ministry of Finance, is responsible for all custom duty-related matters. It handles customs-related administrative issues, such as duty collection, prevention of smuggling and duty evasion.

There are various divisions under the CBEC, such as the Commission Rate of Customs, Central Revenue Control Laboratory and Directorates, etc. The CBEC is also responsible for looking after tax administration for inland and foreign travel. There are various kinds of custom duties, such as basic duty, countervailing duty, education cess, safeguard duty, protective duty, etc. You can check for more details about the types and conditions of duties on this website.

Every individual entering the country has to pass through the custom check at the ports of entry. Every tourist visiting India with dutiable goods or goods exceeding the duty free allowance must inform the custom duty department about it. They need to fill up the Custom Declaration Card, mentioning the value and quantity of the goods. Passengers can either pass clearance either through the Green Channel or the Red Channel.

The Green Channel

If you don’t possess any dutiable goods at the time of arriving in India, you can simply fill in the Customs Declaration Form accurately and submit it to the customs officer before leaving the airport terminal. Remember, not informing the officers about your luggage is an offense.

The Red Channel

If you possess any dutiable goods, fill the Customs Declaration Form and submit it to the customs officer. You need to declare that you don’t have any foreign currency of value more than $5,000 and that the total amount of foreign exchange that you are carrying is not more than $10,000.

How can you bring things to India from the US?

If the items are easy to carry, you can easily bring them along with you to India on the plane. However, for larger items, such as furniture, it is best to send them via cargo ships. There are certain things that are can be brought into India, duty free. These include items for personal use, souvenirs, lifesaving medicines, food grains, one laptop, personal mobile phone, fertilizers, etc. Travellers both, foreign nationals and NRIs, can bring foreign currency up to a set limit.

What items do you need to pay customs duty on?

The free allowance doesn’t apply to some goods such as fire arms, more than 100 cigarettes, more than 25 cigars (or tobacco above 125 gms), liquor exceeding 2 litres, gold or silver and LCD or LED television screens. Not paying the appropriate duty can lead to confiscation of your goods, imposition of fines up to five times the value of the dutiable goods, arrest or prosecution.

How much is the customs duty?

Any item that doesn’t come under the list of duty free goods will be charged customs duty. Travellers need to pay customs duty at the rate of 35% + 2% education cess on items above the free allowance. The total customs duty charged on items over & above the free allowance is approximately 36.05%. Tobacco and liquor above a certain quantity are liable to custom duty at the rate applied to commercial imports, according to the Custom Tariff Act, 1962.

Customs duty rates can either be charged as rupees per unit or a percentage of the item’s value. This percentage can vary from 0% to 150%, with an average rate of 11.90%. Other charges related to customs duties may include Landing Charge (LC) of 1%, Countervailing Duty (CVD) of 0%, 6% or 12%, and others.

How much money can I carry?

The total value of international currency brought by an individual into India, in the form of travellers checks, notes, coins, etc., should not exceed $10,000. And, foreign currency notes should not exceed $2,500. If you are carrying more than the set limit, you will have to fill the Currency Declaration Form and declare the amount at the customs. And, foreign nationals are not allowed to bring in Indian currency. However, Indian residents can carry up to ₹25,000 when returning from an international trip. If foreign travellers wish to have more foreign currency in India, they can use services like TransferWise or Western Union to receive money in India.

Can I bring jewellery into India?

Any Indian male passenger is allowed to carry jewellery worth ₹50,000, while for female passenger, the limit is up to ₹1 lakh. However, the passenger should have been living abroad for a period of more than one year. The weight of gold, including jewellery, must not exceed 1 kg per passenger. If the passenger of Indian origin is coming to stay in India for more than 6 months, customs duty of approximately 36.05% will be charged on the gold. The custom charges must be paid in convertible currencies.  

A passenger can either bring gold with themselves or choose to import fold within 15 days of their arrival to India, as unaccompanied baggage. If a passenger wishes to bring gold more than the set limit, they can do so by taking permission from the customs bonded warehouse of the State of Bank of India and Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation. They will need to file a declaration and pay the appropriate duty for the amount of gold being brought into India.

Tax for NRIs returning to India for good

If you have decided to return to India for good, there are different rules and custom charges on all the household goods that you will need to bring into the country. The rate of duty applicable on some goods imported by passengers returning to India is 15.3%. The passenger must show proof of stay in the US for more than one year in the past 2 years. Goods such as video player, television, music system, air conditioner, refrigerator and dish washer are charged at the above mentioned duty rate. For more details about customs duty and rates, you can visit the official website of the Central Board of Indirect Tax & Customs.

Filing Custom Duty Online

You can fill the custom duty form online on the ICEGATE or Electronic Data Interchange gateway. ICEGATE provides services such as e-filing of Bill of Entry, Shipping Bills and other custom charges online. Airline or shipping representatives can file the custom duty related forms at this portal. Other than these services, the portal allows document tracking, IE code status, online registration for IPR, verification of DES license, e-payment, PAN based CHA data, etc.  

  • You can pay the custom duty online by following some simple steps:
  • Access the ICEGATE website for e-payment
  • Enter the import/export code or the login details provided by ICEGATE
  • Click on the e-payment. You will be shown a list of all the unpaid challans. Select a particular challan and choose a payment method.
  • You will be redirected to the particular bank you have chosen. Make your payment.
  • Once you have successfully paid the challan, you will be redirected again to the ICEGATE website, where you can save your payment receipt.

Keep this payment receipt carefully, since it might be required in the future.

Custom Duty Online Calculator

You can also calculate the custom duty on the ICEGATE portal. After accessing the calculator, you need to enter the CTH code of the item you are importing. Enter the description of the goods within 30 characters and select the country of origin. Click on Search and you will be shown a list of items that match your search criteria. After you have selected the item, you will have a list with all the information regarding customs duty on the particular item. This chart is dynamic, you can enter the value of your item to check the exact customs charges liable on your goods.

It is advisable to learn about the custom charges before planning on bringing anything into India. Understand your rights and responsibilities as a visitor in India. Customs and regulations can be tricky and confusing. Knowing about the duty free goods and those that attract customs duty will aid you in travelling wisely and responsibly.

Being familiar with the customs and baggage rules can help you save time and money, while avoiding any unnecessary complications. Firstly, you don’t have to pay charges for your own goods and, secondly, you can get through customs without having to wait in long queues and answering a long list of questions if you do things right.

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About the author

Mani Karthik

Having lived in the USA, India & Middle East for over a decade, and having worked for big MNC's to startups, I have a lot to share with you. My aim is to help people, by sharing everything I've learned in life through this blog. Come join my pursuit of happiness! Be a smarter, richer, happier person. WhatsApp me at +001-408-489-4785. Subscribe to my YouTube channel here. <3

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Having lived in the USA, India and UAE, I share everything that I’ve learned in life. My aim is to help people by sharing whatever I know, through this blog. Come join my pursuit in becoming a smarter, richer & happier person! Here’s my story so far!