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Importing Your Car and Household Goods Into Colombia

Is an adventure in Colombia calling your name? Perhaps you are enthralled by the warm people, rich culture or beautiful scenery that the country offers. Or, maybe you are drawn by the prospect of a lower cost of living and the flourishing expat community. Whatever your individual reasons for considering a move to Colombia, you likely have a long list of questions. Chief among these are likely the taxes, duties, forms and customs process you’ll encounter, when importing a car and household goods into Colombia.

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Importing Household Goods: Taxes and Duties.

An Exact Figure Can Be Elusive.
When it comes to an exact percentage of import tax and duties you can expect to pay for your household items - unfortunately, this information can be difficult to pin down. Some expats report paying different rates when importing shipments at different times, and say that a final figure is impossible to obtain beforehand (1). Some of this variation is due to the customs officials you encounter at your specific port or point of entry. They may flag certain goods for high tax rates, various fees could be added or they could require the declared value to be quite high.

This inability to know your costs upfront is no doubt very frustrating, as you’d like to have at least a general idea of the amount you can expect to pay. This information will help you determine if it is cost-effective to bring certain items with you - or if it makes more sense to purchase new ones after moving.

Varying Rates Reported.
Unfortunately, reputable sources have quite a differing range of rates listed. One such source names duties at 20% and value-added tax (VAT) at 16% of the CIF assessed value of your household items (2). Another reports just 15% import taxes overall, though it’s unclear if VAT should be added to this figure (3). Some expats have disclosed being charged a total of 30% (for both taxes and duties combined) at the border (4). It’s also important to note that the law has recently been changed (Act 1819), raising VAT to a rate of 19% (5).

With such varying information - and the law in Colombia prone to change fairly often - it is best to simply contact the customs office at the port or point of entry you’ve chosen or ask an international mover. You can also contact the consulate to obtain up-to-date information. Even after doing so, you should allow some leeway in your budget, and be prepared to pay more than expected.

Importing a Car Into Colombia: Taxes and Duties.

Colombia has very specific regulations governing the importation of vehicles into the country, which may take you by surprise. Except for diplomatic use or classic cars - you’re simply not allowed to bring a used vehicle into Colombia. In other words, only brand new cars can even be imported. For this reason, you may want to evaluate whether importing a vehicle is the right choice, as opposed to buying a car in Colombia after you’ve relocated.

If you still want to move forward, the taxes and duties here are a bit more of a known quantity. Many sources advise that you’ll pay between 15 - 85% of the CIF value (combined amount of the assessed value of the vehicle, insurance and freight cost) (6).

Other sources have specific values listed, with a 35% import tax for cars (7). The VAT will be added to this and you’ll also have to pay an additional consumption tax of either 8% or 16% depending on the vehicle’s value (source: Again, these specifics are subject to change, so it’s always recommended that you contact the customs office at the point of entry where you plan to ship your vehicle.

Forms and Documentation.

Importation of Household Goods.
In order to bring your household goods into Colombia, you’ll also need the proper forms and documentation. This list is fairly extensive and includes a notarized passport and visa for every member of your family (minimum of 12 months in term). You’ll also need two copies of the original bill of lading or air waybill and a complete packing list.

In addition, you’ll have to furnish a full inventory of the goods you’re importing, without the monetary value specified (typewritten in Spanish). This inventory must include the make, model and the serial number of all appliances and electronics in your belongings. It must also include delivery details, the volume and the weight of your shipment stated on your shipping paperwork. Finally, you’re required to provide a completed Declaration de Viajeros O De Equipajes No Acompanados form (you may be able to fill this out at customs) (8).

There are also a number of specialized rules and regulations regarding importation, some of which may apply to your situation (see here for the full list).

Importation of a Vehicle.
The forms you’ll need to bring your new vehicle through customs are different and must include an Emissions Certificate. This is to be notarized at origin by a Colombian agent and given to the Ministry of Industry & Trade - which will use it as support for your Import Permit. You must successfully receive an Import Permit and get this approved by customs at the origin (before the vehicle arrives in Colombia).

You’ll also need either a Bill of Sale or Commercial Invoice (which should include a detailed description, all accessories, the make, model and serial number) and the Certificate of Title & Registration. Finally, you’ll need your passport with visa 12-month minimum) and two copies of form BL/AWB for customs (9).

Again, some specialized rules and regulations regarding vehicle importation exist (see here for the full list and a rough estimate of the time-frame you can expect).

With the above information, you should now have a clearer picture of what the process of importing your car and household goods into Colombia entails. As with nearly any major move to another country, you’ll incur a variety of taxes and duties when bringing your belongings across the border. You’ll also have to fill out a good deal of paperwork and be patient as the customs process can take time. Yet, these irritations and expenses are likely to be well-worth the short-lived inconvenience - as they’ll allow you to embark upon your new life in beautiful and inviting Colombia.

  7. Duty rates up to 35% and consumption tax at 8% and 16% for vehicles:

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