Updated: May 8, 2021
Today Erik and I went to the Post office in Saint-Petersburg to get his drone from the US. But to get his personal stuff (a drone that he bought in October 2020 and already used) sent by his dad to us we were forced to pay around $130.
Why has this happened? And how to prevent paying Russian customs for delivering your own stuff?
Each country has its own customs laws. In Russia it's:
The duty-free limit of importing goods was reduced to 200 euros (US$224.07) and 31 kg (68.34 pounds) in 2020. Nowadays everything exceeding these limites are going to be charged 15% of the cost, but not less than 2 euros per 1 kg. And the fee is calculated separately for each parcel, regardless of their quantity for one recipient.
I knew about this law before but I couldn't imagine that it might affect things of personal use. I assumed it's going to affect only goods that purchased from online shops(commercial use). But my assumption was obviously wrong. The same law is applied to personal use goods if the sender mentioned the value of the item.
That was our mistake. Erik's dad mentioned the real price of a new drone in the declaration when he was sending it from the US, in hope that in case the parcel is going to be lost we will get this money as compensation.
So when I called the customs saying that this package is our personal stuff and we are not supposed to pay fees, the inspector clarified to me that the declaration came with the mentioned value and they count custom fees based on this. And of course, I couldn't dispute it, because it would look like a fraud for customs: you firstly add value to your package (so it's like insurance in case of loss) and then try to dispute and don't pay anything.
Customs inspector in Saint-Petersburg told me next time to ask sender don't mention any price of goods he sends, or put the minimum, so we won't end up paying a bulk of money for our stuff.
And this is how you can also escape paying anything for your personal items at customs.
What to do in case the sender mentioned the value of your goods when sending.
You can refuse to get your pack and it will be sent back to the sender and then let him send it back to you without mentioning the value
Some people do it, but the trick is you need to check the laws of the sender's country post office, as they might fine them for getting their pack returned.
Just pay the customs and be smarter next time.
You must pay them personally, usually in cash, though we managed to pay by card (I guess because it was in the center of Saint-Petersburg). Online payment services still don't work for mere mortals in Russia. They only available for sellers.
And my personal advice...
...is try to escape to be a receiver, use a Russian person (your wife, a relative or a close friend). Because today instead of spending a few minutes at the post-office we spent around an hour, because the staff couldn't figure out how to accept customs payment from a foreigner, who is not a resident here.
They were trying to get a tax ID from Erik when he is not a resident of Russia. I had to explain this to post-office workers and explain to them their own laws, which say that a foreign citizen must provide them with a passport only. And then they weren't able to read his passport and Erik was lucky that I was there as a translator, otherwise, they would send him to go and make a translation of his passport.
If the package was sent to my name I could get it in a few minutes because all my data is already in their database. Anyway, after an hour of phone calls to other post offices (who had experience with foreigners), we could manage it. Erik paid his fees and we went free.
Thanks for reading, I hope this article was useful. And if you had any similar experience of getting parcels/packages in Russia share it in the comments section below.
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