Fascinated by import duty rules

We all know there are some strange rules on import duty. Example: Leather shoes are dutiable, leather purses aren’t. But some are truly fascinating:

Under classification 3001.90.10, there is a 12 percent import duty on human organs. Since the sale of organs for transplant is illegal, how would you put a dutiable value on a heart or kidney?

Meanwhile, if you fancy importing a railway carriage, to use on the railways we do not have, under 8428.50.00 you will have to pay 22 percent duty.

There is also, under 8428.60.00, a duty of 22 percent on funicular or ski-lifts. I guess they must have been thinking about one to the top of Mount Trashmore.

Imported nuclear reactors are also taxable at 22 percent under classification 8401.00.00.

Norman Linton


  1. Of course it IS perfectly fine to charge import duty, an indirect tax, rather than income taxes to provide necessary funding for the government.

    Of course it makes sense to have a lower or even no duty on things one wants to encourage, such as electric vehicles, but a high duty on things one wants to discourage, for example smoking.

    But I have to wonder why we have so many different rates on things that seem similar. For example duty on leather shoes, but not on leather purses but duty on non-leather purses.

    Uncooked pasta is 0% duty, but Couscous is 22%, while Bulgar wheat is 0%. And stuffed pasta is 22%. A penalty on the lazy cook perhaps?
    Tomatoes are 17% but onions and garlic are 0%.

    Would it not be a lot simpler to to have just one rate of duty on food and another on non-food items; while still keeping separate duty rates for boats, vehicles, alcohol, tobacco etc?

    Here is a link to some of the classifications for the curious:
    One can also download the entire duty schedule.

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