China: iPadgate

Since October, Chinese Customs have started charging a 20% tax for carrying iPhones and iPads across the border even if the products were out of the box and in use. Travelers carrying more than 5,000 yuan of personal goods are required to pay customs duties. In addition, phones and micro-computers are among the 20 merchandise categories that cannot be exempted from border tax even if they are for personal use. The regulations and their implementation have caught people by surprise because in recent years shopping tours are one of the most important parts of the cross-border economy between Hong Kong and China.

Although Customs duties are an international norm, the controversy this time is that even though some of the iPads cost less than RMB 5000, Chinese Customs still charge a RMB 1000 duty fee. Blogger Li Long questions this arbitrary customs practice:

消费者的疑问不外乎集中于两个方面:其一,iPad是否应当归入笔记本电脑类产品进行完税?其二,即便是归入笔记本电脑,为何3000元的iPad也要按 5000元来完税?海关方面已经表明,进口物口实行的是从价税,也就是按实际价格征税。现在仅仅以“方便旅客”为由,就将iPad归为笔记本电脑并适用一 般5000元的完税价格,显得难以服众。…这样的“方便”只能说是一种征税的方便,而不能说是为了方便旅客。

The consumers have two major concerns. Firstly, whether or not iPads should be put under the category of micro-computers? Secondly, even if it is under the micro computer category, why is the tariff for a RMB 3000 iPad the same as for the RMB 5000 one? The Custom Office states that an imported item should be taxed according to its price. Now, under the pretext of “making it convenient for the travelers”, the Chinese Customs take RMB 5000 as the average price for an iPad for taxation. This is so unconvincing… such a “convenience” is just for taxation, not for the travelers.

Yi Jie points out that the current tax exemption amount for personal consumption is too outdated:


May I ask the government officials how much they earn now? When you walk around the streets, do you bring more than 5K personal items with you? Let me talk in the language of angry youth, when you enjoy a dinner with your fxxking corrupted money, you have already exceeded that amount, right? What are the grounds for the tax… it is for personal consumption! Are you so poor that you have to gain from this?

Fairy Huang from Sina Microblog believes that the enforcement of this customs practice is to protect local industry:

人家海关的同志,是要努力提升俺们国家的电子产品生产技术。没定高点的税,你们个个从国外买回来,国内的商家,连山寨版都没生产了,俺们自己的iPad产品何时才能生产出来满足广大人民群众的需求?俺们国家的电子产品又恁子走向世界?(11月15日 13:47)

Comrades in Customs want to upgrade the quality of our country's electronic appliances . Without high taxation, you will buy from overseas and our local version will lose its market. How can we upgrade our own production to satisfy public need and the global market then? (Nov 15 13:47)

However, Idealism based on cash disagrees (in the same thread):

财大气粗的理想 凭什么?为什么?想干什么?记得曾有个现代税制制定者说过税收是最坏的办法吗?!税收损失?!是我们口袋里这三瓜两枣影响国家国家的GDP增速了吗?!没收到手里的钱就是损失了?!(11月14日 18:28)

Why? What exactly do they want to do? A modern theorist once said that a tariff is the worst means to solve a problem? Lost in taxation? Is it our tiny belongings in our pocket that affect the country's GDP growth? It is a loss if you cannot take away the money in my hand? (Nov 14 18:28)

To prepare for the worst, Chinese overseas students have started to share their strategies for returning home. One of the suggestions is to run home naked:


When you return, use plastic bags instead of suitcases. Two suitcases already cost RMB 2000. Sell or give away your iPad. Just have your underwear on when you cross the border. You have to throw away textbooks, mobile phone, computer, MP4 and camera. Better be naked to make sure that personal consumption items cost less than RMB 5000. The conclusion is: naked running.

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