Russia's New Customs Regulations Drive Couriers to Halt Parcel Delivery ; Tighter Rules Are Aimed at Online Shopping That Gets around Paying Duties

By Kramer, Andrew E | International New York Times, January 27, 2014 | Go to article overview

Russia's New Customs Regulations Drive Couriers to Halt Parcel Delivery ; Tighter Rules Are Aimed at Online Shopping That Gets around Paying Duties


Kramer, Andrew E, International New York Times


Under the new rules, couriers must prove a package contains nothing more valuable than the duty-free limit. The result has been couriers refusing to deliver most packages.

Russia has never been an easy country in which to deliver packages because of its vast size. The government just made it a lot harder for anyone buying things online.

Russian customs officials cracked down on online shopping that gets around paying duties on items such as boots or electronics, all in demand here.

Under the new customs rules, couriers must prove a package contains nothing more valuable than the duty-free limit -- 150 euros, or about $200. The result has been couriers refusing to deliver most packages.

The customs rules are elaborate, according to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti. The companies must provide the authorities the receipt for the purchase and a passport number of the buyer, among other documents.

The legal requirements to deliver a package in Russia have become so onerous that several express delivery services, including FedEx, United Parcel Service and DHL, announced last week that they had halted all shipments of goods to individuals.

International courier services have struggled elsewhere with similar restrictions limiting cross-border online shopping. Argentina, buffeted by a host of economic troubles including its plummeting currency, also has a rule in which packages are no longer delivered to a person's home.

On Wednesday, Argentina limited residents to two customs-free purchases a year as long as the items are worth less than $25. Anything else bought from an overseas website needs to be collected at a customs office, where the buyer has to sign a declaration and pay a 50 percent duty.

Many countries have customs rules governing overseas online packages. Australia, for example, is considering lowering the dollar limit of tax-free purchases. And in the United States, states have struggled over whether to assess sales taxes on online purchases. …

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