US Custom Charges for Imported Mobile Phones

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If your smartphone-making business is located in Cuba or North Korea, the custom duty tariff rate on mobile phones imported into the US is a hefty 35%.

That’s because those two countries are considered “Column 2 Countries” — entities outside of normal trade relations that America enjoys with other countries.

Currently this dubious distinction is moot, since the US imports doesn’t import any mobile phones from either Cuba nor North Korea (at least not according to official international trade statistics).

Seventy-nine other countries did ship US$50.2 billion worth of cellphones to America during 2016 — almost one-fifth (19.6%) of worldwide mobile phone imports equal to $255.5 billion.

So how much did US Customs and Border Protection agents collect in tariff duties on foreign-made cellphones?

Not one penny.

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS), the bible used to calculate tariff rates by product and originating country, specifies that there is no import duty on mobile phones from America’s normal trade partners.

The 6-digit HTS code for cellular or other wireless network phones is 851712.

US Custom Charges for Imported Mobile Phones

But a zero-tariff rate certainly doesn’t mean that American importers don’t incur any costs related to their cellphone purchases from foreign sources.

According to the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) DataWeb, American importers paid $598.4 million in import charges, insurance and freight for mobile phones purchased in 2016 from their 79 international trade partners.

Below are what the USITC calculated as the Customs Import Charges, Insurance and Freight (CIF) charges in 2016 for each of the top 20 mobile phone-supplying country shown. The list below is sorted in ascending order organized by supplying countries with the highest imported costs.

  1. China: US$387.8 million for import charges/insurance/freight (on $37.4 billion worth of US-imported mobile phones or 1% of total import amount)
  2. South Korea: $107.7 million (on $6.3 billion or 1.7%)
  3. Vietnam: $91.1 million (on $4.6 billion or 2%)
  4. Taiwan: $5.9 million (on $760 million or 0.8%)
  5. Malaysia: $2.8 million (on $467.4 million or 0.6%)
  6. Hong Kong: $1.4 million (on $99.5 million or 1.4%)
  7. Mexico: $461,163 (on $395.8 million or 0.1%)
  8. United Kingdom: $144,017 (on $9.8 million or 1.5%)
  9. New Zealand: $134,628 (on $6 million or 2.3%)
  10. India: $113,941 (on $12.3 million or 0.9%)
  11. Sweden: $102,393 (on $12.1 million or 0.8%)
  12. Thailand: $90,477 (on $15.7 million or 0.6%)
  13. Canada: $68,732 (on $7.5 million or 0.9%)
  14. Germany: $66,836 (on $8 million or 0.8%)
  15. United Arab Emirates: $66,836 ($5 million or 1.3%)
  16. Japan: $42,162 (on $19.9 million or 0.2%)
  17. Switzerland: $38,567 (on $2 million or 1.9%)
  18. Singapore: $34,206 (on $1.8 million or 2%)
  19. Venezuela: $33,179 (on $556,000 or 6%)
  20. Spain: $26,877 (on $3.4 million or 0.8%)

Please note that state taxes may be added to the above charges. Those tax amounts vary by state.

See also US Imported Mobile Phone Purchases, Cellphone Exports by Country and American Global Technology Companies

Research Sources:
United States International Trade Commission (USITC) Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb. Accessed on August 9, 2017

USITC Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) online version. Accessed on August 9, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 9, 2017