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Monday, July 13, 2009
Did you ever hear the one about the $154 T-shirt? It's not an oldie, but it's definitely a goodie. In fact, it's so damn funny, it's impossible to think of it in terms of anything but a joke. The sad reality, though, is that it's not even a joke at all.
It all started when the lead singer (Liam Gallagher) of my favorite band (Oasis) decided to start his own clothing line. Except this clothing line, called Pretty Green and just unleashed on the public in June, would not be your ordinary, every day celebrity clothing line. Not only does Pretty Green offer designs conceived and endorsed by Gallagher himself, but he actually wore a lot of the designs... on stage... throughout the band's 2009 tour. In other words, I just had to get me some of this.
Of course, being an icon of rock style and all, Gallagher's Pretty Green does not come cheap. The line launched with an array of overpriced T-shirts and jackets, but I figured a high-quality $59 T-shirt designed by one of my rock idols was a justifiable expense. Friends balked on Facebook - "You spent $59 on a T-shirt?" - but really anyone who knows anything about high fashion knows that $59 isn't really all that much for a kickass designer tee. Aren't concert T-shirts about up to that price these days, anyway? I rest my case.
But when my lovely red Pretty Green T-shirt arrived at my doorstep in Brazil via FedEx, my giddy anticipation was quickly squashed by that dreaded red sticker any expat living in Brazil has come to know and despise: "Cobrar." I'm thinking, "I have to pay a duty on a friggin' T-shirt?" Oh yes, boasted Receita Federal on the delivery invoice, to the tune of R$143.65!
Now, let's do the math, converted into USD using the exchange rate on that fateful day in June, the import duties came to $71.92 - that's $12 more than the value of the T-shirt itself, a 122% import tax! You'vegottobekiddingme.
I pleaded with my FedEx guy, whose hands were obviously tied. Normally, I would have told him to take a hike, but I really wanted this T-shirt. So, without even thinking, I offered up R$150. Did he have change? Of course not. So, I had to run down to my neighborhood grocery store, fork over another R$8 for a jar of Nutella I didn‘t need, and run back to the house with change. Annoyed doesn't quite do it justice.
How does Receita Federal get away with this, taxing its citizens more than the value of the item itself? I tried to ask them, but they refused to comment for this article, and rightfully so. How do you justify the unjustifiable? How can they possibly explain allowing books in tax-free, but not T-shirts? Why can I walk into the country off the plane with five iPods and I can't order a T-shirt online? Why can I order nearly anything short of a Thai elephant or a Honda Accord from any country into the States, and it shows up at my door hassle-free? Why does the Brazilian government rob its residents?
Of course, Receita Federal answered with silence. What else could they say? But they did offer a breakdown of the charges. The initial Receita Federal import duty is 60% of the value of the item (R$71.24), followed by the Sao Paulo sales tax, known as ICMS, another 18% (R$41.70). How is it that they can charge sales tax on an item that is not Brazilian, and was not purchased in Brazil? Finally, ending with an unexplained FedEx customs charge called Desembaraço Aduaneiro (R$30.03). All said and done, including standard shipping charges and some lovely choco-hazelnut spread, the T-shirt cost me $154.
via L4e / http://www.gringoes.com/articles.asp?ID_Noticia=2318
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