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Contest prize stuck in customs Answered

I was recently shipped the Photography Tips and Tricks contest prize,, it got stuck in customs in India. I've received a few prizes in the past without any problem but it probably got stuck this time because of its high value.

After a discussion with the FedEx folks, the total amount including custom duty(around 25-30%) will be around 34% of the total prize value, even after I told them I'm an individual and this is a contest prize. I understand that the contest rules state that I have to pay all custom duties and any other cost incurred.

Any authors here who have faced any problems with customs and if this is the expected custom duty in India(seems a tad too high)? Any declaration(such as gift or prizes) which can help reduce the duty amount?


A similar thing has happened to me in the UK too. I won 3rd prize in the maker olypics value of prize was around $120. A week after I received it from Fedex i got an invoice for around $65 (£50), there was duty on the $120 prize, duty on postage which it said was around $100 (I guess they made that up) and a £12 Fedex fee!

I am in the process of complaining at the moment. I have had the fee removed by saying that I had not entered in to any legal contract with them so I never agreed to pay the fee. I am still waiting for them to tell me about the postage cost I queried.

I have received other prizes before and haven't had any duties to pay but they have always been lower value items...and it may be luck of the draw.

If I win a prize again I will be tempted to decline it if it's one I'm not particularly bothered about maybe just ask for the t-shirt or mug!

I also wonder if a contest is not sponsored, like the current glue competition with an ipad as a prize, if Instructables/Autodesk could get it sent from a local (to the winner) distributor. I would have thought this would be possible for such an international company.

Same here! Two prizes from two contests. Value for both arournd 700USD.

Custom duties 450 USD! Fee for fedex employees 170USD. OOps!

Sad to hear this and sad that the same courier company is still used for this.
Highway robbery based on hidden fineprints in their contracts is bad enough to seek a different service to deliver prices.
Fedex and UPS are well known for these tactics and I know from own experience that they are also partly responsible for excessive import duties.
When they want your extra money and hold the delivery in customs they also report the item to the tax office - I can only assume here but they must get more than a "thank you" in return for this.

Unless the sponsors and Instructables can come up with a service that avoids highway robbery I can only suggest this to anyone entering a contest from outside the US:
Check you import requirements in terms of how much value is allowed in for free and for what items you might be charge a lot.
Tools are usually quite cheap, "luxury items" can cope up to 50% of their value in extra import taxes!
If you happen to win a big (in volume) or valuable price in a contest and already know you might be slabbed with extra import taxes contact the support and offer a delivery service you organise.
A lot of small, local parcel services work together with the big companies, meaning the they use them for the overseas stuff but once in the country they take over.

I had to order some car parts for a friend twice from the US.
First time I did not ask and did not bother and for $300 in parts on the bill we had to fork out $110 for Fedex and another $75 for import taxes.
Next order the company was asked to simply state "car spares" on the tax form instead of listing all items by value and to accept a pickup from our choosen courier company.
They said no problem but we won't be responsible for loss or extra delivery time.
Instead of two weeks and a lot of extra costs one carby with matching inlet manifold and air box plus a NOS regulator, values at all up $2300 arrived a week later in the workshop for a simple signature upon receiving the stuff.
Just shows that you can be lucky with import taxes but also that not all companies use a delivery to make extra money without any justification.

Yeah I know, sad story! I don't really care paying for import taxes, thats something we all need to do but 170 usd for fedex employees is way too much. For me at least! Its also sad because it makes me think if it worths to enter in a contest anymore. But thats something noone made me do I guess.

that is really wierd. I never had to pay any money to FedEx employees. My experience with them has always been great.

Depends on the country, they love to do in countries where certain things are hard to come by for various reasons.

Is it necessary to submit Hard copies of documents to address given in mail??

Did anyone of you do so?

Your personal details would be checked during the actual delivery if at all.
In some cases customs or the shipping company go a bit nuts and demand confirmation prior to delivery.
This usually happens for a first time international shippment that has a value declared on the customs form.
Once you are in their system they won't ask again (from my experience anyway).
In the end it comes down to money.
Delivering to find out the person does not exist is wasted money, asking for a confirmation costs nothing.

Just checked and with the latest increase in "terror acts" many international shipping companies have to play it safe.
Claim is to ensure sender and receiver details are correct to prevent a misuse of the system - whatever that might mean in real worlds LOL
If in doubt then send them a copy of some bill that states your name and address, something that is a recognised document in your country, like a power bill for example.
Again, you should only be asked for such documents if the content of the shippment is unclear, poses a risk (can be anything from a lithium battery to chemicals) or falls under some import restrictions.
Also keep in mind that some countries have very strict rules on documents required for import of goods.
Here in AU you could go crazy after checking what you can't send here without further documents or simply not at all.

After seeing this post, I was worried about the delays and amount of taxes I'll have to pay to get my "Arduino - All the things contest" prize, valued at 95$. I am from Mumbai, India and I wanted to share my experience for any future readers reading this.

So, Instructables shipped my prize (t-shirt and two arduino modules) via FedEx Priority mail on Thursday, 18th Feb and I was supposed to recieve it on Monday, 22nd Feb.

On Friday, 19th, I received phone calls and SMSs regarding KYC(Know-your-customer) documents that I must submit to get the package, but I was unable to pick up the call. The SMS did not mention where, how and what I should submit...I searched online didn't find anything so I waited with the hope that the package will be cleared without KYC.

On Saturday I got an another SMS saying that I must submit the documents quickly to save warehouse charges. It also had 2 numbers that I was supposed to call for help. I tried calling but a music starts playing and nobody picks up the call. I am even charged for this call.

On Sunday I called on a different FedEx number(the international customer service number, customs dept.) and the lady emailed me the proper instructions. I had to take a printout of the form, fill it, upload and email it to them(kycfedex@cogenteservices.com) along with certain address proofs. I did it and waited.

On Monday, The shipment arrived at Mumbai and status changed to "Clearance delay -Import" . I got further calls but I didn't pick them up due to some stupid reasons. The same music played whenever I tried to call back. Meanwhile I emailed FedEx but the reply came that "We are tracking your parcel" and stuff like that.

On Tuesday(I was worried that the warehouse rates are ticking) it was still the same and later that day I got a letter from FedEx at my doorstep saying that I need to submit KYC for my package. It said that I need to email them scanned copies of KYC Form and Authorization letter along with the necessary documents to kycfedex@mail.fedex.com and indelkyc@fedex.com. I did and then..

On Wednesday morning the status changed to "Goods are subject to regulatory review, no action required." This worried me as I read somewhere that they take "Inspection charges" for examining packages.

On Thursday morning, status changed to "International shipment release - Import, In transit", which was good as the package is on its way. Later that afternoon the delivery guy came and I was very much surprised when there was no charges on the parcel and it was completely free! I was expecting 20-35% taxes but it seems to me that Instructables paid these as well, because under billing Information, it says "Transportation-Shipper, Duties/Taxes-Shipper". Thank you Instructables!

That was a long one, but I wanted any future readers to know about my experience which may give them hope and details while waiting for their own packages!


Plz reply me as fast as possible.

From about 20 days, I was preparing for the Raspberry Pi contest. Worked hard for it. Till today morning I was willing to win. But after I thought about taxes and seen this post, ' Meri to fat gayee'. So please tell me how much did you paid for the prize??

He had to pay no taxes. Don't worry too much. Until and unless you win something really costly or big(like 3D printers), stuff doesn't get stuck in customs, and even then rarely. Raspberry Pi contest prizes aren't that big and shouldn't cause much problem. But even if it was otherwise, that shouldn't deter you from making awesome stuff and participating in contests. All the best!

Yea, dont worry, I didn't have to pay anything for it. Either they dont bother taxing you for small amounts or Instructables pays it for you, I am not sure what happened.

All the best for the contest! :)

Thanks for sharing your experience in detail. KYC is required to be submitted with shipping company only once for international shipments. You won't have to submit that again if you get anything through FedEx again.

It is so nice of you to post your experiences for others. I live in the US and don't have to worry about such things, but appreciate your willingness to help others.

For those looking guidance in this matter, here's how it all worked out in the end. After I agreed to pay the custom duty and sent the documents for clearing it, I got the prize a few days later. We asked the delivery guy if any dues were to be paid to clear it and he refused for any such requirement for him before delivery.

A few days later I received a bill from customs in mail for the duty amount. There was no instructions or letter attached and I was expecting someone to call, email or mail for explaining method of payment and account details. It's been 2 months and till now no communication from their end. If they contact for payment, I'll willingly do so. If instructables paid the duty, then thanks a ton guys :)

Hahaha... Or you could put it that way: it has already been dropped but is lying unexploded in the living room... XD

I don't know it is pretty weird. It is for the first time all this is happening. I think the import laws have changed in India because the last time I didn't have any problem in receiving my prize but this time I got a call from FedEx regarding the Instructables prize pack. They want the docs for the kyc for just a small parcel.

Anyways according to the Instructables Rules for the competition page of the Photography Tips and Tricks contest, the grand prize is valued only to 1 USD. I hope that helps.

PS Congrats on your grand win!! It was an awesome Instructable.

Screenshot 2016-01-16 at 11.07.52 PM.png

Thanks. That's a neat error you found. Only if the estimated value was $1 for customs :)

The KYC documents is recently implemented by government for all international deliveries. Every shipping company will ask for these documents the first time you'll get anything through them. The next time, it'll be hassle free. But these documents aren't common to all shipping companies and you'll have to again give KYC to DHL even though you've given it to FedEx earlier.

Can you please give some more details?
I know from bad experience the shipping company usually charges a much higher price than the official customs duties.
For me it was an additional 75% claimed to be "handling" fees.
So if the fee they charged was about the same as official custums duties it would still be fair.
But for much more it would be the usual roadside piracy.

Not all senders / sellers will agree to declare a shipped item as a warranty replacement or with a stated value below 100$ to avoid these extra shipping fees.
Some for real legal reasons or insurance other as they can't be bothered.
The only real way around is to first check if there is an international shipping company operating in your country that does not overcharge you to get your stuff "out of prison".
If there is it might also mean you need to organise the shipping from your end if the sender / seller does no have access to this shipping company.
It means some other company does the pick up but the actual handling in your country is by your shipping company.

I also found another neat way around these pirates, especially for bigger things:
If possible have your item shipped in two seperate shippments with more than 7 working days apart.
You pay the extra shipping and make the sender label both shippments as "upgrades".
The overall stated value can still be the real amount but should be diverted through one or more shippments to stay below the threshold of "value" for customs.
In my case the items arrived with just 2 days apart and no extra charges at all, well apart from the additional 26$ for the shipping costs.
Compared to the last rip off I saved over 200$ here :)


same is happening with me. I won prize at intel IoT contest and customs on Rs 25,000 prize is Rs 8,500

Sad to hear you are facing the same problem. Usually prizes of not very high values pass through customs unseen.

I consulted a few people knowledgeable in dealings with customs and there is only exemption for gifts and prizes below 5K. So I've agreed to pay the duty amount and have received the prize with a bill for the duty amount levied. Else they charge warehouse charge for every day the shipment is not picked up and after 30 days, it is auctioned off.

You need to talk to your own authorities. In the UK, import duties depend on the value of the item, not its nature (gift, prize etc).

Personally, I might be tempted to get the package left with customs officials at the airport, then deal with the customs people politely and face-to-face.

Remember, though, that free advice off the internet may be worth less than you paid for it.

Hmmm... I'm not sure if I can meet the custom officials in person here. I have no clue of custom department with my package or their policies. I trust the FedEx guys and have no intention of cutting them and going to customs directly.

Just wanted to know if there is any provision in custom policies for gift or prize which might lower duty. Free advice is better than having no advice, and thanks for yours :D

Sadly several shipping companies, including FedEx are know for "highway robbery" at the costs of the receiver.
The fees charged are at a first glance listed as "import taxes and duties" but after checking the legal fineprint it shows that most of the claimed costs are a phantasy pricing imposed for no other reason than making money.
With small value items I never had a problem, but when I ordered some car parts for a friend by express shipping you shipping company charged 65% of the stated value on top of the normal taxes, making the parts almost twice expensive.
I refused to take the shippment, informed the seller and he agreed to send the parts using a different courier.

There is no easy way to get around these hidden "fees" unless you know a good lawyer or whoever sent it agrees to take the item back and use a different shipping method.
If a high value is stated on a shippment you are almost certainly due for the highway robbery :(

That's a sad state of affairs. But the shipment is already in India and I don't want to make things any more difficult. Thanks for the tip. I'll keep this in mind whenever I have to get something shipped internationally.