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US Consumers Pay Customs Duties One Third of Global Average, Finds UHY Study

Consumers in the US benefit from customs duty rates of nearly a third lower than the global average, saving them significant amounts of money, according to a new study by UHY, the international accounting and consultancy network.

UHY found that customs duties in the US are, on average, just 1.3% of the total value of imported goods. The global average is 1.8 percent of the total value of imported goods*.

This means that consumers in the US typically pay comparatively lower prices for goods than consumers in many other parts of the world – including many emerging economies – where costs are pushed up by higher import taxes.

UHY studied customs duties levied by 22 major economies around the world as a percentage of the total value of their imports, as a simple indicator of the impact of a country’s trade barriers.

UHY points out that many regional trade blocs – and in particular NAFTA and the EU – help to keep import tariffs low. Other multi-lateral trade agreements are also under pressure.

For example, the US has signalled it wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has abandoned the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), throwing the future of both into doubt.

Eric Hananel, of UHY’s US member firm UHY Advisors, comments: “The US’s consumers are enjoying comparatively low goods costs thanks to a light customs duty burden – something the government should be keen to protect.”

“That can be increasingly challenging as globalization comes up against growing protectionism on the part of some other global economies.”

“Maintaining lower import tariffs could actually protect home-grown industries, by adding extra impetus to efforts to stimulate competitiveness and drive innovation. By contrast higher tariffs can significantly distort economies.”

Hananel adds: “Free Trade Agreements are becoming an increasing critical – as well as contentious – policy area.”

“As protectionist moves on the part of some governments are putting some Free Trade Agreements under review, other countries are embracing them with as much enthusiasm as ever, if not more.”

The US is party to 14 reciprocal free trade agreements with 20 countries including Australia, Israel, and South Korea. Additionally, the US has over 250 Foreign-Trade Zones (FTZ) which are equivalent to international free-trade zones, and they are located in all 50 states. Items transported to these zones are exempt from customs duties and can be stored, assembled, used in manufacturing or assembly.

In the US, where protectionism has been rising up the political agenda, raising the possibility that higher import duties may be levied, customs duties are currently worth just 1.3% of the value of imported goods. This compares to 1.8% in China.

Eric Hananel continues: “President Trump is a strong advocate of protectionism and made international trade agreements an election campaign issue. He has softened his stance on NAFTA and has indicated that he will look to renegotiate the deal instead of outright withdrawal.”

In the UK, where Brexit is also creating uncertainty over the future of UK trade deals, customs duties are currently just 0.5% of the value of imports.

European countries generally impose comparatively low rates – the European average is 0.4% – so British consumers could be at a significant disadvantage if the UK fails to keep duties at a similar level on leaving the EU.

Bangladesh has the highest customs duties as a proportion of total imports of any country in the study at 12.1%.

Amount of customs duties collected as a percentage of the value of total imports

Country Customs duties
collected (USD billion) Value of
total imports
(USD billion) Customs duties
collected as %
of total imports
Bangladesh $5.48 $45.33 12.1%
Israel $0.79 $8.29 9.5%
Mexico $35.49 $427.63 8.3%
The Philippines $7.40 $90.12 8.2%
Brazil $18.59 $243.12 7.6%
Pakistan $3.33 $47.53 7.0%
India $32.58 $491.88 6.6%
Russia $8.48 $182.40** 4.7%
Argentina $2.67 $75.02 3.6%
BRICs $24.19 $740.51 3.3%
Nigeria $2.25 $73.46 3.1%
China $37.11 $2,044.65 1.8%
World $10.13 $562.97 1.8%
United States $34.98 $2,761.52 1.3%
Japan $9.50 $803.57 1.2%
G7 $8.92 $1,072.41 0.8%
Canada $4.11 $528.09 0.8%
Netherlands $3.39 $537.84 0.6%
Spain $1.92 $366.62 0.5%
Croatia $0.12 $23.00 0.5%
Italy $2.37 $491.40 0.5%
United Kingdom $3.86 $836.19 0.5%
Europe $2.50 $570.34 0.4%
Germany $5.47 $1,316.88 0.4%
Poland $0.73 $221.54 0.3%
France $2.13 $769.22 0.3%

*Based on World Bank data – 2015, most recent available year
**Russian Federation Federal Statistics Service, 2015

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UHY LLP is a licensed independent CPA firm that performs attest services in an alternative practice structure with UHY Advisors, Inc. and its subsidiary entities. UHY Advisors, Inc. provides tax and business consulting services through wholly owned subsidiary entities that operate under the name of “UHY Advisors.” UHY Advisors, Inc. and its subsidiary entities are not licensed CPA firms. UHY LLP and UHY Advisors, Inc. are US members of Urbach Hacker Young International Limited, a UK company, and form part of the international UHY network of legally independent accounting and consulting firms. “UHY” is the brand name for the UHY international network. Any services described herein are provided by UHY LLP and/or UHY Advisors (as the case may be) and not by UHY or any other member firm of UHY. Neither UHY nor any member of UHY has any liability for services provided by other members.

About UHY, the network
Established in 1986 and based in London, UK, UHY is a network of independent audit, accounting, tax and consulting firms with offices in over 296 major business centers across more than 90 countries. Our staff members, over 7,660 strong, are proud to be part of the 16th largest international accounting and consultancy network. Each member of UHY is a legally separate and independent firm. For further information on UHY please go to

UHY press contact: Dominique Maeremans on +44 20 7767 2621 Email:

UHY is a full member of the Forum of Firms, an association of international networks of accounting firms. For additional information on the Forum of Firms, visit

UHY is an international association of independent accounting and consultancy firms, whose organizing body is Urbach Hacker Young International Limited, a UK company. Each member of UHY is a separate and independent firm. Services to clients are provided by the UHY member firms and not by Urbach Hacker Young International Limited. Neither Urbach Hacker Young International Limited nor any member of UHY has any liability for services provided by other members.