Saturday, February 9, 2013

Importing stuff into Mexico with a Temporary Import Permit

I thought I'd share my experience using our Temporary Import Permit (TIP).  For our Mexico bound sailing friends, this might be interesting.  For our landlubber friends this will make no sense.

The Temporary Import Permit is purchased for boats entering (importing themselves)  the country without paying a duty or tax.  They are good for 10 years and can also be used to import replacement gear for your boat.  These TIPs are also used for vehicles, like motor-homes, that enter the country.

There is a lot of confusion about the proper procedure and rules for importing replacement boat parts.  In talking with other Americans/Canadians I've heard everything from, "no problemo" to "can't be done".  The most accurate explanation came from Dick Mackie, the harbor master at Paradise Village Marina.

I am by no means an expert on Mexican importing but thought I'd detail my experience in and out of the PV airport.(your mileage may vary).

Shindig's radar stopped working around New Years and after a lot of debugging I declared it dead.  There didn't appear to be any Raymarine repair services in Mexico so I decided to replace it.  This unit has been out of production for a long time, and the plan was to upgrade during the replacement to a new digital version.  A new plotter was needed as well because of compatibility issues. (of course)

Here was my plan after talking with many people that had different experiences with customs.
  1. Leave Mexico with the broken radar and plotter
  2. Itemize them with Customs at the PV airport on departure day
  3. Purchase replacement equipment in the US
  4. Return to PV with new gear
In theory, the replacement gear would be exempt from the 16% import duty.

I prepared a letter in English and Spanish (thank you Google translator) detailing what I was doing and included departure and return dates along with my TIP, vessel documentation, Tourist Visa and Passports.
The customs officials were very pleased with my preparation and I walked out of there with a document that detailed the equipment.
On the return trip I told the customs reps at the luggage scanners that, Yes,  I had items to declare and was pulled aside with my big radar box.

Customs had a problem with the new equipment.  It was not the same stuff I left with and they wanted to know what the value was.  I couldn't produce an invoice and this frustrated the customs official a great deal. With Nancy's suggestion,  I offered up a few conciliatory packages of cheese to declare, but even that did not help us get through.....

Funny thing, it was the same guy that had reviewed my exit paperwork two weeks ago.  Now the "process" had changed.  He seemed to expect me to return with ixed equipment, not new stuff. 

In the end I paid 16% duty on an estimated difference in the value of the old equipment and the new minus the $600 USD deduction that is allowed for two people traveling.  This duty amounted to $64 USD.

Overall, I got off easy but learned a few lessons.
  1. There is a lot of variability in what happens in customs based on this story and those of other sailors trying to use the TIP for getting boat parts into the country.
  2. If I had estimated the cost of the equipment I left with and shared this with customs before leaving Mexico my entry might have been easier.
  3. If I had an invoice that clearly stated that this was "replacement equipment" for the broken stuff I think it would have been smooth sailing.
Dick Markie, the harbor master at Paradise Village Marina ,is preparing a session with Customs and Immigration next week to help answer questions.  People are frustrated and can't set expectations.  I'm sure it will be a full house.

This year there is a new Mexican President and a change in political party.  It turns out that when this happens new "Hefes" (Bosses) are posted all over the government.  Even low level jobs.  This leads to a bit of chaos and new interpretations of laws that are on the books.

As I like to say, things in Mexico are "Flexible"........

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