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#142063 - 05/31/02 07:51 PM duty?  
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 6
CLARK Offline
CLARK  Offline
does anyone know if either "books" or "catalogues" have a duty placed upon them when they reach belize. thanks for the help

#142064 - 05/31/02 08:29 PM Re: duty?  
Joined: Jun 2000
Posts: 1,157
silkpainter Offline
silkpainter  Offline
If you are bringing them in your suitcase, you probably wont be charged any duty, but if you are mailing them, make sure the packages are small and they are marked "EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS" and that the package feels like books, they will probably come in duty free.

#142065 - 05/31/02 08:37 PM Re: duty?  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 713
susangg Offline
susangg  Offline
According to Lan's "Adapter Kit Belize," there is no "duty" on books (DNK re catalogs) but they hit you up for an 8% "sales tax" which is like duty. Don't have a duty schedule unfortunately, but a good rule of thumb is to assume that ANYTHING brought into Belize except (1) personal items carried by tourists who will take them back when they go home; (2) items that have been arranged to be imported duty-free as charitable donations (only when this is granted in advance); (3) duty free goods within the normal visitor limits; (4) boats or cars that are "just passing through" are dutiable. No duty for computers, but that same "quacks like a duck" 8% sales tax. And that "tax" seems to be added on top of the official "duty" figure.
And certain categories of persons (ie "qualified retired persons" so designated IN ADVANCE) may bring in certain categories of items duty free.
Beyond those generalities, I have no knowledge. Nor do I know how to get a duty schedule if you are not in Belize.
I think that most people make an effort to bring in as much stuff "informally" in small quantities as possible.
You should probably contact the customs office and ask them how one obtains a schedule or you could call a customs broker and no I can't recommend one.

Susan Guberman-Garcia, Attorney at Law. Phone: 510-792-2639
Fax/Voicemail:: 510-405-2016 Email:
#142066 - 06/01/02 03:41 PM Re: duty?  
Joined: Jun 2000
Posts: 1,157
silkpainter Offline
silkpainter  Offline
No duty for computers is supposed to be the rule UNLESS you use Expresslane, with her "help" I was assessed 28%, and not on the supplied original invoice, but on what they thought the computer was worth, which was way more than the real value, thanks to Lane.

#142067 - 06/01/02 05:14 PM Re: duty?  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 713
susangg Offline
susangg  Offline
The whole duty thing seems to be part of the general and growing trend of lawlessness.
I have no philosophical problem with the concept of REASONABLE duties being charged, after all, Belize needs the money...But in Belize, most of the actual duty amounts are not particularly reasonable and the absence of a functioning transparent judicial and regulatory system and the "minister's discretion" setup means that in essence, there ARE no set duties. "They" can charge you whatever the hell they please and unless you are "connected" to a big shot or have a friend who is so connected and willing to cash in a chip for you, or unless you have demonstrated a willingness to express an appropriate level of "gratitude" towards the powers that be, there's not a damn thing you will be able to do about it. Same for duty exemptions you may think you have qualified for.
Just one of the many reasons we are building our new home in Panama instead of Belize. We just don't have enough dough to place at the disposal of Belizean politicians and still have enough left to live on.
I should add that Belizeans are treated no more fairly (usually even worse) and they usually have a lot more to lose than US expats do. At least we have a choice! We can take our money elsewhere, they (usually) can't. So I am not whining, just pointing out facts. One of those facts as that more than half of the income of Belize comes from customs duties, I believe it was 53% the last year they have data for. It far exceeds agriculture and tourism, and maybe even narcotics trafficking.
Its a vicious cycle...the high duties discourage value-added industry, which means fewer dollars into the economy from exports and a very high and very regressive tax on the local citizens, who must buy many imported goods.
They did lower the "official" duty rates a couple of years ago, but seem to be making up for it by establishing de facto higher rates (the old "we think its worth more than your purchase documents show you paid for it" scam) as you have described.
And so it goes...

Susan Guberman-Garcia, Attorney at Law. Phone: 510-792-2639
Fax/Voicemail:: 510-405-2016 Email:
#142068 - 06/02/02 12:22 PM Re: duty?  
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 139
kcbc Offline
kcbc  Offline
I don't agree with Susan's assessment of the situtation at all. Belize does have a duty book and it is usually available for purchase at the Angelus book store. Spells out all the rules and regulations on what you are going to get charged. Same exact set up that the other Caribean countries follow.
Some examples, if you bring in an automobile and it is newer than ten years they look up the value in the Blue Book and that is value upon which you are charged. There is no debate about the price and how it is arrived at. However if you do bring in a vehicle over ten years old and it is not in the Blue Book than this is where you might encounter some debate. Naturally we tend not to be honest and say well yes the vehicle is worth 5,000 when it is worth 9,000. Same thing happens here daily in the states when you go to register a vehicle. If you paid 10,000 you might claim you only paid 7500.
Last time I looked around my state is charging a 6% sales tax. Your 8% in Belize is actually only 4% in US Dollars.
Part of the problem is that Belize does not have any type of tax revenue except for imports. You want that box of Kellogs Corn Flakes well you are going to have to pay for it. Sorry but that is the choice that you make by not learning how to make a tortilla or fry jack and eating at home.
Another problem is that you are trying to build some tax base in Belize and encourage people to buy or use Belizean products. That can't be accomplished if you have a low duty that allows everyone to bring in their own stuff.
Same thing concerning if you have an automobile. Well expect to pay high gas prices. Your one of the few in Belize that have this luxury and you are going to get taxed thru fuel prices. Don't like it learn to ride the bus, a bike or walk. Thousands of Belizeans do this everyday.

Susan seems to have a big problem with that "ministers discreation" rule. Well thats Belize and not the US. My favorite rule is "don't mess with people that have more money than you because they will tie you up in court forever and kill you with the legal fees." Unless you have big bucks trust me that the minister is not going to want to mess with you. Its always a huge disappointment to learn that Belize does not need you has much as you think they do. Honestly think of all the expats that have come before you and left.

Subject of bribes-well that is a hard subject for Americans to learn how to deal with. Everyone in America claims that they don't pay bribes and that is a pretty honest statement. However if you do any business with the government on a county, state or national level you are sure to realize that the playing field is not fair here either and low price will not always get you the contract.

I brought the contents of my whole house in thru baggage at the airport. Out of about 60 trips I maybe got charged a total of $100.00 US on everything. Yes it's wise to have your receipts with you. Part of the problem that you encounter is that when you tell the Belizean custom officer the price he has a hard time believing that you got the item so cheap. You say well I only paid $15.00 for that iron. Well you aren't going to get it for that price in Belize.

You don't see much complaining going on about the real estate taxes in Belize and that is an area where most of us appear to be getting a pretty good deal. Maybe the government should move away from the high duties and concentrate on real estate taxes.

Its just Belize. Its a small country with wonderful people trying to find a way to maintain its culture and heritage and doing the best that it can.

#142069 - 06/02/02 12:26 PM Re: duty?  
Joined: May 2000
Posts: 39
ljacks Offline
ljacks  Offline
Back to the origional question about duties on books.

We order books from amazon .com all the time and have them sent to the post office. Have never been charged anything when they come in. The guys just hand over the box.

#142070 - 06/02/02 01:34 PM Re: duty?  
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
Lan Sluder/Belize First  Offline
The last time I checked there was no duty on books (though postage to Belize is a killer) nor any on computers.

By the way, Karen is usually spot on but her comment on "8% sales tax in Belize being 4% US" isn't the case -- 8% is 8% regardless of the currency.

--Lan Sluder

Lan Sluder/Belize First
#142071 - 06/02/02 01:48 PM Re: duty?  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 713
susangg Offline
susangg  Offline
A few points in response to KCBC's message:

You are absolutely correct that some import duties can be avoided by smart grocery shopping (why would anyone eat Corn Flakes instead of a homemade tortilla anyway?) The import duties are highest on US made goods; you can pay lower prices on goods made in other Caribbean countries and Mexico. And of course for those few things (mainly staple foods) that Belize does produce, there is no duty.)
But because Belize manufactures so little, the fact remains that most consumer goods of all types (including necessities, such as medicines, health products and most hard goods), you have no choice but to buy imports.
I do understand the tendency to eschew free trade and impose duties intended to protect local products. However, that debate has little relevance to Belize and is somewhat of a red herring, because 99% of the dutiable items are not made in Belize so usually there is nobody to protect.
High import duties (as well as monopolies and the resulting high utility rates) and excessive license and permission taxes) is a primary reason why Belize has so little manufacturing and why, therefore, virtually everything must be imported.
In other words, government policies are substantially responsible for why customs duties are Belize's biggest "industry." So to cite the fact that duties are the biggest source of revenue as an excuse for why they are so onerous begs the question.

While KCBC has had good personal experiences with importing goods:
1. I suspect that on the overwhelming majority of her trips, the importation was "informal" and that is why she was charged no duty. Everybody does this.
2. The high level of informal smuggling is the direct result of excessive taxation (duty is a tax). Unreasonable laws are routinely broken and it therefore becomes a national pastime to break them, with the resulting burden on those who are less able to do so. (I do not blame the smugglers, I blame the laws and policies for this situation, like I said, everyone does it if they can...) While people with US passports can usually get away with this, it is much harder for locals, since they are virtually all subjected to intensive baggage searches. And what about the majority of Belizeans who don't fly anywhere because they can't afford it?
3. I have talked to many, many people who were grossly overcharged when declaring items. The attitude is: Pay it or leave it; they know that most people will pay rather than leave it in the warehouse.
4. I am aware that there are rule books and stated duties on everything. But what good is it to have those books if customs officers are free to ignore them when even if the owner has legitimate receipts that leave nothing to the imagination?

You are right that I have a problem with
"minister's discretion" and other failures of transparency and tend to see this issue lurking under every bush. That is because it IS lurking under every bush.

And as I said, the people who are being harmed are overwhelmingly the Belizean people. I can vote with my feet, most Belizeans cannot (some can and they do; that is why Belize is suffering a brain drain of all those educated young people who are living in the US and not Belize because the government policies destroy their chances of finding employment or starting a business.
And no, I do not think for a minute that Belize "needs" my husband and I, as individuals. But in our own small way, we have directed quite a bit of money into Belize and by our decision to live elsewhere, a few hundred thousand dollars will not be coming into the country over the next several years....10? 15? Multiply us by several hundred or maybe several thousand and pretty soon, you are talking real money. And yes, I do think that, in general, Belize does "need" retirees and small investors, including Belizean nationals returning home with the fruits of their labors in the US, and will be the worse for it if they don't come because government policies have created such strong dis-incentives to do so.
That's my opinion...of course I could be wrong.

Susan Guberman-Garcia, Attorney at Law. Phone: 510-792-2639
Fax/Voicemail:: 510-405-2016 Email:
#142072 - 06/02/02 06:34 PM Re: duty?  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 713
susangg Offline
susangg  Offline
Well, I will soon get to test how accurate K is in her description of the ease of airport import experiences! I am bringing a large amount of bed linens and towels with me on this trip...far too much to "slip into my bag" (I am flying alone this time) and will declare them at the airport. There are two large suitcases full of them.
I purchased them all at once from the Brylane catalog at a great price, and I have a detailed invoice listing each item and its price(and I will make copies). The customs guys can easily randonly select items and match them to the there is no excuse for violating the regulation that says if the price paid is documented on goods not for resale they must use that amount to calculate "value."
I am not sure what the duty amount is on this kind of stuff but it should not be more than 15-20%. (Anyone have a book?)
I will post the results of this little adventure to this list for everyone's edification and/or amusement!

Susan Guberman-Garcia, Attorney at Law. Phone: 510-792-2639
Fax/Voicemail:: 510-405-2016 Email:
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