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Bermuda's Customs Duty-Free allowances for returning residents and visitors

How they compare with those in USA, Canada and UK

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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at exclusively for Bermuda Online

Bermuda's location


Bermuda is a 21 square mile (56 kilometers) in total land area cluster of mostly-interconnected small islands in the north west Atlantic Ocean.  It has about 65,000 residents and about 500,000 visitors mostly from cruise ships. It is located about 600 miles due east of the nearest mainland, the USA's North Carolina. It is not in the Caribbean but 900 miles north of it. There are no regular airline or shipping services between the Caribbean and Bermuda, only with the USA, Canada and Britain. It is Britain's oldest British Overseas Territory, self-governing, with its own laws including those on citizenship, commerce, customs duties, employment, finance, health, insurance, investments, hospitalization, immigration, taxation, trade, welfare, etc. It is not part of the European Community, unlike Britain. Despite its small size it is an important offshore business centre, particularly for insurance and reinsurance companies. The World Bank - see http://data.worldbank.org/country/bermuda - rates it as one of the top jurisdictions in Gross National Income per capita. The cost of living is very high.

Bermuda - Duty Free Allowances for arriving tourists and other visitors and returning Bermudians and residents

Her Majesty's Customs, Bermuda

Tourists and visitors

Returning residents

Those who are Bermuda nationals (Bermudians) or newcomer now-resident non-Bermudians who go to an overseas country on vacation (holiday) for short periods or for longer,  for work, study or treatment and are now returning to Bermuda. 

Since April 1, 2013 tourists and visitors and returning residents who bring in more than the above will be charged Customs Duty at the rate of 25% of Bermuda Customs Officer-assessed Bermuda retail price approximate value for most imports including cameras, clothes, electronics, jewelry, watches, etc but at specific rates of import duty for all spirits at $10.63 a litre, wine and champagne ($2.89 a litre) and tobacco ($33.5% of value. No duty is ordinarily payable on prescription drugs, spectacles or computer software imported in small quantities for reasonable personal use.

Newcomers who become residents

It should be noted carefully that Bermuda does not regard them legally as immigrants but as newcomers who come to Bermuda on Work Permits and intend or hope to stay on the island, not indefinitely but for a period of time to satisfy specific employment contracts.

On their first arrival as newcomer residents and if they have valid Work Permits, they can claim a Transfer of Residence Allowance (TRA). Even their pets qualify for a TRA, with prior approval before arrival. However, it must be noted they cannot bring any automobiles or other motor vehicles whether used  or new, no motor cycles or mopeds or scooters over 100 cc. All other modes of transportation such as mobility scooters, even wheelchairs, private yachts etc do not qualify for TRA and new residents will need to pay full duty on them, whether new or used. Used items normally requires new residents to prove they are used for at  least 6 months or more, to qualify for some customs duty relief. They should carry invoices (bills) as evidence of date of purchase. If they import to Bermuda by air or sea they should apply for the TRA within 3 days of importation, otherwise on their arrival in Bermuda. New items may attract duty beyond the duty free allowances and applicable duty depends on the items. Import duty rate on new clothing, jewelry, precious or semi precious stones, leather goods like handbags, clothing etc is 6.5%, camera, lens, antiques etc 8.5%, most perfumes 10%, make up items 22.25%, footwear, watches 10%, toys, games and sports items (including parts) attract a duty of 22.25%. While ceramic tableware and kitchen wares are duty free, ornamental ceramics attract a duty of 6.5%, while heavy ceramics is 22.25%. Small ornamental or decorative glass wares attract 6.5% duty while most other heavy glass ware items have a duty of 22.25%. Printed books & brochures, software etc are free of duty in general. Original artwork 8.5%, food products including dietary supplements 15%, spirits $10.63 per liter, wine/champagne $2.89 per liter, cigarettes $44 per carton of 200, smoking tobacco, cigars, cheroots etc 33.5%, batteries, generators, vehicle parts and air conditioners 33.5%. Most other items attract a duty of 22.25%.

Note carefully that for all items purchased new in USA, Canada, UK or from anywhere else and brought into Bermuda both residents and newcomers should carry the actual bills or invoices or other confirmations or receipts of purchase. Failure to do so will result in payment of Bermuda customs duties based on assessed value, usually much higher Bermuda retail prices than those applicable abroad.

Timeline of legislative measures that affect Customs Duties

February 2012. The Bermuda Government rescinded the measures imposed in September 2011 (see below) but raised other duties. As a result, returning residents once again have the pre-September 2011 per person allowance of $200 (still very stingy by international standards (see below. Over and above the duty-free concessions applicable only to returning residents there is now a standard 25 percent duty rate charged on all goods imported for personal use. The Island’s courier companies hit out at the move when it was first announced in the Budget statement, but the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce welcomed the move. Prior to the new 25% duty rate, there were various duty rates payable on items imported from abroad such as clothing, shoes, cameras and vitamins. The rate for clothing was 6.5 percent, shoes ten percent, cameras 8.5 percent and vitamins 15 percent. Other items such as televisions, radios and car parts were 33.5 percent. There are certain exemptions to the 25 percent standard rate. There will be no duty, for example, charged on classroom stationary, sports equipment and computer equipment used in schools.

September 2011. Bermuda's Retailers - but not Bermuda's consumers - welcomed Government's decision to increase the rate of customs duty on declared goods bought overseas by 10 percentage points. The new measures (Customs Tariff Amendment (No 3) Act 2011 - see the Bermuda Government's Bermuda Laws website at http://www.bermudalaws.bm) introduced by then-Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox are now in place, approved in November 2011 by a majority of Bermuda's Members of Parliament. Duty rates on goods declared at the airport by returning residents rose from 25 percent to 35 percent from November 4, 2011 with the former $100 per person allowance restricted to $100 per household. In past years, Bermuda consumers have suffered significant reductions in this duty-free allowance, from $400 per person in the 1990s to $200 per person to $100 per person - and now $100 not per person but per household or family. Significantly, Bermuda is rated by the World Bank as the world's wealthiest country per capita.

Other notes

Most US online retailers refuse to ship directly to Bermuda themselves, including Old Navy (which does ship to some Caribbean islands) and Walmart. Most do not like to ship outside the US because of the risk and hassle of international shipping, plus each non-US jurisdiction - such as Bermuda - has different customs requirements (such as those listed below in Bermuda), invoices, declarations, duty issues, forms/waivers, clearing/power of attorney issues, bond posting requirements etc. But particular Bermuda-based entity can quite easily overcome the fact that most US retailers won't ship overseas, by having goods routed to a US address forwarding center, then air-freighted to Bermuda, with the organization concerned paying the customs duty and billing the personal or corporate customer. Delivery is within two to three business days once received at the forwarding center in New Jersey. Dedicated agents take care of all the paperwork, make sure the shipment is packed well in order to save on costs, and ensure invoices etc. are in order. When the order arrives in Bermuda an agent will call the client to collect it. It is Bermuda’s fastest, most reliable and cost-effective way to bring in merchandise into Bermuda.

There was a time - but no more - when tourists to Bermuda delighted in the bargains they found on Front St. They returned to the USA, Canada, etc. with cashmere sweaters, Liberty scarves, Harris tweeds, perfumes along with china, glassware, cameras and jewellery. Bermuda advertised itself as a place where goods were cheaper than in the USA and elsewhere and, as a further incentive to shop in Bermuda, there was no sales tax. There still is none, but most goods available in Bermuda are now appreciably more expensive than those bought in USA, Canada and UK. As merely one example of this, consider a pair of shoes retailing in the USA for $59, but costing $112.94 in Bermuda, with the additional $53.94 once all the additional costs — customs duty, shipping according to weight, insurance and fuel surcharge and local mark-up — are factored in.

HM Customs, Bermuda. See http://www.customs.gov.bm/portal/server.pt.

Bermuda Customs Tarriff in full (470 pages). See above. 

Samples  sent to Bermuda are rarely duty-free. Organizations or individuals overseas with an interest in and new to selling their goods in Bermuda via local majority-Bermudian-owned and managed companies (only these are allowed to trade in the local market place) should take care not to send samples without prior notice. They should always pre-advise their Bermuda agents if they wish to send a sample or samples and ask about rates of customs duty payable both on the samples and on orders.  Generally, only if the samples are single items, packed separately, and valued at about $12 or less is it possible they not attract Bermuda Customs Duty of 25% or more of Bermuda-assessed value depending on their Bermuda classification. Otherwise, those rates of duty are payable by the receiver, even on samples.

The Bermuda Post Office (BPO) has advised the public to bring an invoice when collecting goods through the post office. As the BPO acts as an agent for HM Customs, anyone who has received a notification from the post office indicating “value required” must produce the actual invoice when collecting a package so the required duty can be paid. If an invoice is unavailable, a vendor or manufacturer-estimated retail value for the item or similar product must be provided. This can be obtained from the internet and presented in lieu of the actual invoice. Duty is not required for gifts valued at under $30 when sent from overseas. For more information on services provided by the Bermuda Post Office please visit www.bpo.bm

In contrast to Bermuda Customs allowances, here are the hugely more generous equivalents in USA, Canada and UK:

1. United States of America - Duty Free Allowances for Returning American citizens and residents 

Entitled to a per-person duty-free exemption for newly purchased goods up to the value of $800 if the goods accompany you when you arrive back in the U.S.

Goods in excess of $800 that accompany you are dutiable at a flat rate of 3 percent for the next $1000 in value, goods that are not covered by the personal exemption or flat rate of duty (anything over $1800) are assessed duty in accordance with the item's Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) classification number. If household goods less than a year old do not accompany you then they are subject to the duty rate applicable to each item's HTS classification number.

2. Canada - Duty Free Allowances for Returning Canadian citizens and residents

People staying longer than 7 days or more can claim up to $800 CND per trip, but with limits below on tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, liquor including wine. Tobacco. 200 Cigarettes and 50 Cigars Liquor - 40 oz. (1.14 Liters

You may also bring bona fide gifts worth up to Canadian $60 each for your friends in Canada without paying duty, provided these do not consist of tobacco or alcoholic beverages.

See Canada Border Services Agency 

3. UK - Duty Free Allowances for Returning UK citizens and residents from outside the EU (such as from Bermuda)

The current rate is £390. (About $620). 

Returning UK residents from inside the EU can bring in, on a duty-free basis, an unlimited amount of most goods. For excise goods such as alcohol and tobacco, there are also no restrictions. However they must meet the conditions below:

UK Customs duty free allowances for non-EU returnees

See HM Revenue and Customs

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Last Updated: November 25, 2015.
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