Hey Aussies what is the scoop on taking guitars through customs at the airport

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by bgwicks, Apr 8, 2008.

  1. bgwicks

    bgwicks Member

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    Hi,

    I am going to Australia in a couple of weeks with my family and we want to bring 3 guitars in as carry on. They include a 58 strat, 63 strat and 58 lp special. We are returning there to live after 3 years in the US and all the guitars were bought during that time.

    Now I don't want to do anything wrong, but what happens with guitars at customs?

    Do they freak out and have vintage guitar experts to check and value what you have? Do they know vintage guitars, or do they simply look at any beaten up, used guitar as not worth much. For example most people when they see my 58 strat think it is pawn shop junk. What about value? All 3 were bought privately and for cash, so how can I verify the value.

    This is freaking me out as I worry about huge import duties, and or confiscation of them. Do I need to be exact and careful or risk serious trouble. Or do most people just breeze through, and if they are stopped by customs, say it is a cheap second hand guitar worth a couple of hundred bucks.

    Like I say I am ok doing the right thing. But what is that? This is making it hard to sleep!
     
  2. loiking

    loiking Member

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    RING UP! I have rung aussie customs on numerous occasions and they are friendly and helpful. Its 11:30 AM in Melbourne at the moment so they'll be around.
     
  3. loiking

    loiking Member

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    I think its 15% import tax inc. GST.
     
  4. pipedwho

    pipedwho Member

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    Are you talking about the guitars that you bought off your mate 20 years ago for a couple of hundred bucks? No duty payable there.
     
  5. 205

    205 Senior Member

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    I think you should be fine regarding import dutys but I'd be more concerned about getting three guitars on board as carry on, they may not like that but I could be wrong.
     
  6. jjboogie

    jjboogie Member

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    In my experience with going to Australia is that it is just a carry on like anything else! No big deal! They see guitars ALL THE TIME! They would be more ticked off if you brought fruit from the US than a guitar! It's Aussie man they are so laid back and cool.....The only thing is that one person cannot have more than two carry ons.....and that might have changed recently to the hike in gas prices because they have been trying to find ways to charge people extra to make up for that.

    Good luck
     
  7. bgwicks

    bgwicks Member

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    Thanks so far. There are four of us so we will share the load. The two strats will have their necks off, and so the bodies will be in our carry on bags and the necks in our checked luggage. Only the special will be in a guitar case.

    I know the rules: If the guitar was owned less than 12 months 10% GST is payable, No 5% duty is payable because of the 2004 Free Trade Agreement between US and Australia which makes US made guitars leaving the US and going to Australia duty free.

    It is just that I have never been in the position I am now; returning after 3 years living in the US. I have never owned such expensive instruments before, and I only bought them because I happened to live in a backwoods part of Kentucky and came across them.

    The heart of my question is whether to simply walk through customs and declare nothing. Or should I declare all of them upfront and pay nearly $5,000 in GST. I just don't know what everyone else does. I know the rules but that doesn't necessarily mean that customs enforces them or cares.

    It might be that for a guy who has been away for three years they are not interested in chasing some duty on guitars. Likewise the guys at the gate might not know anything about guitars and provided the guitar is not shiny and new with lots of bling, they just accept it as not worth much.

    Alternatively maybe they are right on top of vintage guitars, and can look up serial numbers etc. So when a guy walks through with 2 strats and a lp they immediately target them and get very strict.

    Like I say, if I have to pay $5,000 in GST, I will. However is it "the way it should be done" or would everyone (including the customs guys) say "you were crazy to declare those guitars"

    What would you do in my positon!
     
  8. pipedwho

    pipedwho Member

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    You answered your own question when you pointed out that if you've owned it more than 12 months there is no GST payable. There is no duty on most things going from the USA to Australia - only GST. And in your case it is exempt.

    The fact that the guitars are clearly old / second hand lends credence to your claim that you've had them for more than a year.

    Let's pretend that for some reason collectable guitars don't count for the 12 month ownership limit:

    The guys at customs are definitely not guitar experts. You might find that the guy that is checking your gear knows a little from his time playing in a band. But, there is no way they are going to bring in a guitar valuation expert for every ****** used guitar that comes through customs - which is probably 95% of them.

    Your best bet is to declare them (remember, they are wood products and should be declared as such). You then queue up in the 'red lane' with everyone else that is declaring 'all food products' - ie. chewing gum and chocolate (I know, customs has become a complete farce). When the guy asks you what you've got - tell him you have a few old guitars.

    If for some reason they press you for pricing info, which is highly unlikely, then you should tell them you've had them for a couple of years. You can be helpful and also tell them that on Ebay the average second hand Strat in that condition goes for about AU$500, and an LP in that condition for around AU$1000.

    If I was working for customs and saw those guitars - I'd be reluctant to provide a street value estimate beyond the average 'used' price. To value something higher - I'd want to see verifiable documents that show the lineage of the guitars to prove they aren't just replicas/fakes.

    Customs may want to check them anyway - but not to value them. They'll check for 'foreign' fauna/flora - eg. termites / weevils.

    I've brought all sorts of things through customs and always declare them. They usually check the wood products, and are always happy to have someone that can communicate with them properly, and isn't trying to sneak through with an undeclared bag full of fresh fruit.
     
  9. Rockinrob86

    Rockinrob86 Supporting Member

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    this is useless without pics!!!
     
  10. SimonR

    SimonR Member

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    They'll x-ray the guitars, quaranteen will spray them (because they're made of wood) but apart from that you should be right.
     
  11. bgwicks

    bgwicks Member

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    Thanks Pipedwho, I appreciate the advice. Here are the guitars, as you can see the strats and the special certainly look beat up except to a vintage guitar lover.

    [​IMG]
     
  12. v-verb

    v-verb Supporting Member

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    They look freakin' amazing to me!!
     
  13. FourT6and2

    FourT6and2 Member

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    What about going the other way? I'm moving back to the USA in August and I'm going to try and get my PRS onboard as a carry-on.

    What's this talk about spraying a guitar at customs?
     
  14. pipedwho

    pipedwho Member

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    Don't know about going the other way, but they'll only spray wood products if there are signs of rot, infestation or they just look risky. If they look like the guitars pictured above, there won't be any spraying going on.
     

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