Ask Shmuel, the shipping expert

Vol XXV: I'm going to Chicago in August and really want to get a super mattress-the kind they don't have here.

shipping88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
For Shipping resources click here. Shmuel Mantinband works with Unigroup UTS Sonigo, partners in the parent company of Mayflower and United Van Lines. He still remembers with great pain his lifts when he made aliya over 30 years ago. Send us your questions for Shmuel. * * * Volumes I - XX * * * Vol XXV QI sent a Playstation3 to my son in Tel Aviv who made Aliyah in February. I sent it through FedEx but it has been delayed in clearance for 2 weeks and neither I or my son can get a straight answer from anyone in customs (extremely difficult to get a hold of on phone, too). Can you tell me where the Ministry of Electronics is located? Someone from customs said that is who is holding it up and would know what documentation might be needed. AI am not familiar with the Playstation 3, but I imagine it has a modem. If so, the Ministry of Communication must issue a permit. This is probably what is holding up the release of your computer. We have run into this problem when clearing laptop computers. We always recommend not shipping anything with a modem or other communication gear such as a wireless router. All these types of items require a permit from the Ministry of Communication and will be delayed in Customs until the permit is received. I always tell my clients to carry their laptops and wireless routers on the plane. You should also be aware, that in addition to special Customs Clearance fees, you will be charged for storage at the airport. You should probably be calling FedEx on a regular basis to make sure they are taking care of your file and it is not being put aside. By the way, there is no Ministry of Electronics….yet. But I am sure if someone in government hears about this, they will be delighted to set up another ministry! All the best, Shmuel QI'm going to Chicago in August and really want to get a super mattress-the kind they don't have here. I would like to ship it-so obviously I don't need a crate-can I add it to maybe somebody's shipment (I've done it before with a duffle bag of stuff) or what can I do to make it the cheapest way possible? Is 15.5% based on the new product or on everything-no matter if it is new or used? Don't be modest-we all need referrals to good companies:) ASounds like the special air and atmosphere of the Holy Land need a little help to give you a good night's sleep. A shipment like you are talking about is a problem…not because it cannot be done, but rather because it cannot be done at a reasonable cost. Most companies, ours included, have a minimum shipment size of around 4 cubic meters (about 140 - 175 cubic feet). Your mattress is probably under one cubic meter or around 25 cubic feet. So if you ship with us, we will still charge you for 4 cubic meters, far more than you have. On the other hand, shipping with the post office is not an option - they usually have a limit of 20 kg or 44 lbs. Air freight will be incredibly expensive (although very fast!). The best option is probably to find someone sending a shipment to Israel and piggyback in with them. Companies, like Sonigo, who are licensed Customs Brokers are not able to help you find someone from your area moving to Israel. We cannot offer "match making" services because, when the shipment arrives, we will go to Customs and declare the goods in this shipment belong to John Doe. We cannot make this declaration knowing that someone else's goods are in the shipment. What we don't know because you have made your own arrangements, we don't know…. I am afraid this information may not help you sleep any better until you find a friend moving to Israel who is sending a lift. * * * Vol XXIV Q: We thought we had five years to send a lift with aliya rights, but we only had three, a date which has just passed. We need to bring over some personal items, crates of papers, old furniture, etc. from the NYC area. Shouldn't be enough to even fill a small lift; 20 ft. container. Does anyone have any ideas on the best way to do this? What the taxes might be? Do people share lifts to be more economical? Any idea what company to use? We would need to ship it in July or August. A: This is lousy news! You are right, aliya "rights" last for three years and during this three year period, you can import up to 3 shipments from any country overseas. In answer to your questions: 1) Meches (customs) can sometimes (ie. almost never) extend your rights. To get this extension, you will need an incredibly good reason - like you were in the army or....actually, there is almost no reason they will accept to extend your rights, but it might be worth the effort because... 2) Otherwise, you will be charged duties on everything and it doesn't matter if it is used and for personal use only. 3) Taxes will run in the area of 15.5% for computers and books and up to as much as 35-40% for electrical items. The taxes will be calculated against the current depreciated value of the goods which, since they are used, will be relatively low. 4) You do not have to take a Full Container Load (FCL). There is also the option of paying by the cubic foot in a LCL (Less than Container Load), which sounds like it might be the best thing for you. 5) I know a good moving company...but modesty prevents me from mentioning their name in this public forum...... :-) All the best, Shmuel * * * Vol XXIII Q: Hello. I made aliya four years ago, single, and now TG I'm getting married and moving to Alon Shvut and I want to send my books from my home in Monsey,NY (it's a lot), and also some gifts of china dishes and other things of the sort. I wanted to know what's the best way of going about it; I'll be very thankful for any information. Thank you very much. A: First and most important, Mazal Tov! Now, on to your question... You, like any other Israeli, can import items for your personal use. I emphasize, like any other Israeli, because like the rest of us, you are not entitled to a tax exemption on goods shipped to you in Israel. As you probably know, the only people who receive an exemption from paying customs duties are new immigrants and returning citizens. (I am not addressing people on work visas, diplomats, etc. who have an entirely different situation.) Since you made aliya four years ago, your period of tax exemption has ended and you no longer have "rights." Therefore, you will have to pay the current customs duties on everything you import. Books are charged at the rate of 15.5% while other items are charged at various rates as high as 35% and more. If you have invoices, you should provide them to your customs broker to help establish the value of your goods. If these are all gifts (here's hoping you get a lot!), you obviously will not have invoices and will have to estimate the current value on the Customs declaration form. One way to save money on goods that are made in the US is to go to the Chamber of Commerce and obtain a "Certificate of Origin" complying with the Free Trade Agreement between the US and Israel. It is a special Certificate of Origin and must state the Free Trade Agreement. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce as to what documents they need. With the Certificate, you will be exempt from Duties, but will still have to pay VAT. If you did not take advantage of your rights and did not do any imports, there is a very, very small chance Customs will grant you permission to do one import. You should go to the Customs office nearest you with your passports, Teudat Oleh and ID card. Even though I mentioned this possibility, I do not want to mislead you into thinking your chances are very good...but sometimes rights extensions are granted. Good luck and mazal tov again. * * * Vol XXII Q: Can you give me an estimate on how much I need to budget to ship my household items to Israel? I own a three-bedroom house but plan on downsizing and bringing maybe a container worth. Thanks, Sonya, Columbus, OH, USA A: Dear Sonya, Fortunately I am answering your question on the Internet - if this was in the Post's printed edition, they would have to add several more pages to their regular production! But I will try to give you an outline of how to budget. Let me give an overview first - every shipment is made up of three components: 1) Origin (packing and loading) service 2) Ocean and Overland Freight 3) Destination (delivery and unloading) service. When a shipping agent gives you a quote, he or she will calculate the cost of these three components and give you quote. If you are taking a container (FCL - Full Container Load), the ocean and overland freight component is very easy to calculate. The origin and destination components will vary depending on the volume and in some countries, on the weight of your shipment. If you are taking less than a full container (LCL - Less than Container Load) in which your shipment is consolidated in a container with other people's shipment, you will be charged by cubic foot or cubic meter. This is more difficult for us to calculate as we are not sure how full your shared container will be and how much to charge for your portion of the ocean freight. But that is our problem. Another factor affecting cost is container size if you are using a FCL. There are three basic container sizes based on the length of the container. There is a 20-foot container which holds about 1000 cubic feet (~30 cubic meters) of household goods. A 40-foot container is exactly twice the size. A 40-foot "high cube" container is one foot higher and holds about 300 cubic feet (~8 cubic meters) more than a regular 40-foot container. This above is probably much more complicated and involved than you really wanted, so I will emphasize what you should do to get a more exact answer about your expected costs….
  • Call two or three recommended shipping companies that understand and specialize in international (hopefully to Israel) shipping
  • Have them come to your home and perform a pre-move survey
  • Get a quote from each one and insist they specifically list exact numbers for all costs in Israel.
  • Do not ignore the option of getting a quote from an Israeli agent (fair disclosure, I have an interest in your considering an Israeli agent J ). I believe there is an advantage to having your contract with the receiving agent in case there are any problems. And you have the bonus of supporting the Israeli economy. And of course, it doesn't hurt to have a suitcase with small unmarked bills…. Good luck in your aliya. All the best, Shmuel * * * Vol XXI * * * Q: Dear Shmuel, I have a few things I want to send from my parents' home in Florida. It is less than the minimum the shipping companies require - Can I share a lift with someone? A: Sharing a lift is something that we, as officially licensed customs clearing brokers, cannot get involved in. When we go to Customs and say this paperwork represents the goods of Moshe Ploni, we cannot know that Joan Doe's things are also in this lift. That being said, what we don't know, we don't know. Do people share lifts? Sure, all the time. As long as all items are being declared and customs duties are being paid, there is no real ethical dilemma. You just have to make sure you know up front what you and your partner are paying and how you are dividing it up - including unplanned expenses. The classical example is the cost of a customs/security inspection. (Perhaps I am na ve in assuming you and your partner know all expenses up front - this is something you have every right to know - in advance.) You will also want to work out, in advance, any extra charges for "second delivery" or "second pick up." Keep in mind security issues if you are sharing a lift with someone you do not know - make sure you really know what your partner is shipping. Hidden guns and drugs will always mess up a lift experience. The advantage of sharing a lift is saving on the one-time expenses and in case you have less than the minimum, not having to pay for unused space. The real problem is when an oleh or toshav hozer brings in things for someone who is not entitled to a tax free import. This is an ethical problem as the law is very clear on who has to pay customs duties. Finally, if your shipment is relatively small, don't overlook sending it via the Post Office. For small shipments - this is often the best route. All the best, Shmuel * * * Cafe Oleh experts have been chosen for their knowledge and reputation. Cafe Oleh does not take responsibility for any advice they offer. Send your comments >>
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