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Reader Question: Importing Non-Paid Commercial Samples

Hi Dave,

I have an unusual question (for me at least).

A supplier has sent me two boxes of samples. They shipped it by air. Today (after 5:00) I was provided a AWB. The form was very hard to understand but I did my best. In the end I was able to contact the Cargo warehouse and they looked up something for me and said I need to get it cleared through customs. So, the question of the day is: How do I do my customs things without an invoice?

My Response:

This was not my area of expertise but I tried to give the reader my experience. Anyone who has any better advice is welcome to chime in below in the comments.

When importing samples, most countries do not care whether the Supplier gave them to you free of charge. They care about the goods' value. It's analogous to traveling to Germany to visit your grandparents, and having your grandmother give you a brand new $10,000 gold watch. The watch will be dutiable, regardless of the fact you paid nothing for it. The same goes if you import 10 horse saddles as samples but that have a value of $2000: you will owe duty on the full $2000.

U.S. Customs Declaration Form Notice on a U.S. customs declaration form, which is comparable to most other countries, the form asks for the value of the goods, not strictly how much you paid for the items.

Many countries have special procedures for imports under a certain value, for example in the U.S. you can make an informal entry for goods under $2500. You still have to pay duty though.

The reader's concern in this case, however, had more to do with the fact that his supplier had not provided an invoice, likely because he had not paid anything for it. The solution was simple: I told the reader to ask his Supplier for an invoice showing the value of the item (even if nothing was actually paid for the item).


Dave Bryant

Dave Bryant has been importing from China for over 10 years and has started numerous product brands. He sold his multi-million dollar ecommerce business in 2016 and create another 7-figure business within 18 months. He's also a former Amazon warehouse employee of one week.


  1. Hi,
    Could some one help me and give the reference for Importing mobile and acesseries from China. and I dont have any licence and how to do the Import Business.

  2. Hi Mateen,

    You’ll need to be more clear with what country you’re importing the products into and exactly what type of products.

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