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Non vodka induced convulsion of fear: Customs
Sherman Pereira,
Crown Relocations,
Regional Director –
Central and Eastern Europe

ne of the most frequently asked questions concerning Expats shipping household goods to and from Russia is what Customs duties they will have to pay. Sometimes, the mere mention of having to deal with Russian Customs can send an otherwise normal Expat into non-vodka-induced convulsions of fear.

As with most things Russian, the issue is simple in theory, but bureaucratic in practice due to the sheer amount of documents and forms that need to be completed in duplicate, signed, notarized, apostilled, and sent to Godknows- whom in some government department that’s who-knows-where, but at least seven Metro stops from wherever you are or intend to reside.

In theory, as a non-resident of Russia, you may import furniture and personal belongings without paying any Customs duties whatsoever. However, this is contingent on an Export Obligation that you sign promising to export those items when you leave. The duration of an Export Obligation is valid for the same duration as your visa, at which point it can be renewed. As long as this Export Obligation is presented to Customs upon departure, you should be free and clear of any duties on your personal belongings.

You are also exempt from paying any duties on most personal belongings and furniture that were purchased in Russia. The simple reason for this being that as it was purchased here in Russia, you’ve already paid your dues to the Russian government in the form of value-added tax. Exempt from this, however, are culturally valuable items such as books older than 100 years, some national artwork, military medals, antique coins, real coal-burning samovars, and other antiquities.

In practice, however, you should allow for several weeks’ time at either end (whether arriving to Russia or departing from it) to submit the necessary forms to the company that will be assisting you with your move. You will normally need to submit, at a minimum, notarized and translated copies of your passport, visa, and registration. A customs declaration for your non-accompanied items (that must be stamped by Customs at whatever airport (or train station) you arrive(d) at. In addition to the Export Obligation, you should produce a Power of Attorney (PoA) form allowing your broker to import/export your belongings on your behalf. The right company should be able to provide you with detailed instructions as well as templates for the export obligation and PoA.

A few other items bear mentioning here. If you’re here for more than a year, the company that relocated your belongings here should automatically extend your Export Obligations for you. Some charge a minimal fee for renewal, but it’s a good idea to make sure your company hasn’t let you fall through the cracks, as the cost of renewing an expired one incurs a government fine that can be several hundred euros.

Also, you are not obligated to use the same company on departure that you did upon arrival. Any company shipping household goods can request the obligation from the company you arrived with. Don’t neglect to get more competitive quotations for your move simply because your Export Obligation is being held by the company you arrived with.

All of the bureaucracy can be a hassle at a time that’s already potentially stressful without having to consider Russian Customs. There are several companies in Moscow capable of the shipping, so approach them and save yourself and your wallet the time and money.

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