Contraband - NZ Customs

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Journey of the Royal shoes

Journey of the Royal shoes

The internet gives the ability to buy what you want, when you want it, and to have it arrive on your doorstop shortly after. Online shopping means we can pick up a Swedish best-selling book, a CD from the latest Korean pop sensation, or, in my case, a pair (or five) of Royal Elastics shoes from Texas. 

It seems so simple: go to the website, pay, and your goods arrive. But what about shipping, duty, and GST? How does that fit in to it? And am I getting a bargain or will all these costs add up making it more economical to buy it in New Zealand?

Well that’s part of the reason Customs created What’s My Duty? — an online calculator and app that takes the guesswork out of online shopping. And every day more than 1,000 Kiwis log on to check.

In my case, the cost wasn’t the issue. While always a bit of a niche brand, Royal Elastics are increasingly hard to find in New Zealand, meaning online is the only way to go. And with their online store closed for renovations I had to find an online retailer with my size in stock. Enter Shoebacca, an online shoe shop based in Texas, that just happened to be having a sale, so I snapped up five pairs. Or at least I thought I had until checking out when they wouldn’t accept a New Zealand credit card or ship to New Zealand.

Finding a friend with an American credit card was easy, and thanks to New Zealand Post’s YouShop, there was an easy way around the no international shipping route. YouShop allows you to order things and have them sent to a warehouse in Oregon where it’s then forwarded on to New Zealand once you pay the shipping charges.

But were they a bargain? When I bought them I wasn’t charged GST, but Customs charges are applied when the goods arrive in New Zealand. By using What’s My Duty? I’d calculated that I was $2.75 under the threshold at which Customs collects revenue ($60) — bargain! However, had there been a small shift in the exchange rate I would have to pay GST, duty, and an IETF — I needed to factor this in.

Logging in to YouShop, I could track the progress on my shoes. I was notified when they left Oregon, when they arrived in New Zealand, and when they were delivered to my PO Box. They also arrived on Thursday (Customs’ exchange rates change every second Friday), so my calculation on What’s My Duty? was correct, and in less than a week I had five pairs of fabulous shoes to adorn my feet.

Had the exchange rate changed, or the duty and GST been over $60 I would’ve had to pay at least $106.89 as there is also an import entry transaction fee added when duty and or GST is collected by Customs.

Every day hundreds of letters and invoices are issued by the International Mail Centre advising of Customs charges. New Zealand Post (or other freight companies) won’t deliver the goods until the invoice is paid, however you can pay Customs via online banking, at a Customs office, or over the phone with a credit card, and shortly we will accept online credit card payments. Customs notifies New Zealand Post within an hour of receiving the payment that the goods can be released — then you too can be strutting the streets in your new kicks.