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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So 10 years ago I purchased a contrabassoon (rare musical instrument) with all relative fees and taxes in the United States for $24,000.
This was a used instrument. A replacement instrument now is close to $36,000. Yes, they are very expensive instruments!
I have moved to France and had my instrument serviced in the factory in Indiana. They shipped it to me by UPS. Now UPS or the delivery company with witch UPS contracts is charging me an outrageous fee of ?5005 to deliver me the instrument!
I paid UPS $500 to ship it here. It is a well used instrument and they asked me for quite a bit of information after I got here which I provided to them. That is, my original purchase price and the value of a brand new instrument.
UPS in the United States says they can't help me since it is a French government issue. The UPS agent in France says that it is a government cost and that I must pay it if I want my contrabassoon.
This seems crazy as if anybody who moved to France from outside the country were charged on all their used items they brought with them it would cost an absolute fortune!
I don't get paid for playing the instrument and I can't figure out why they are charging me so much to deliver me my personal instrument.
The UPS website in France is difficult to manage but I did send an email through them which was not helpful. I also spoke with a UPS agent as mentioned above who also was not helpful. They mentioned something about paying the fee, getting the instrument and then lodging a complaint somewhere.
Here is the breakdown of the charges they have provided for me:
FRAIS D'IMPORTATION
REMARQUE : la valeur totale utilisée pour le calcul de l'ensemble des frais liés aux droits de douane est 0,00.
Frais gouvernementaux:
4 860,00
Frais de courtage:
121,50
Frais de fret:
0,00
T.V.A:
24,30

Has anybody had an experience like this which they could provide me some advice? I am working with the manufacturer of the instrument to see if I can get the actual value of the instrument lowered so maybe they could redo the Government tax but still I feel like I am being ripped off!
Thank you for your comments.
Brian
 

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It may just be because it's late here as I read your post - but are you importing your contrabassoon as part of your move? Or did you have the instrument serviced in Indiana after having imported it and the fees involved are for the re-importation (in which case, you may be being charged based on the service costs)?

Am hoping this will be clearer in the morning. (To me, at least.)
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yes - it comes with me to France. I dropped it off in Indiana prior to the move. I will be returning on occasion to the US and may take it with me (assuming I can get the darn thing). Part of the move.
 

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They aren't charging you customs nor VAT on the instrument. But I have no clue what those "governmental fees" might be. If it's possible to go pick up the instrument next time you're in the US and bring it back yourself that might be the way to go. Potentially, if you're shipping it separately from the rest of your household goods, there could be some issue in identifying that it is part of the same shipment. The amount you're being charged is suspiciously close to the 20% VAT you would be charged on the purchase of an item.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Good morning!
Yes it seemed that way to me as well- some sort of VAT.
Had I known - I would've driven to Indiana, picked it up, and paid for a plane ticket if necessary. But I trusted UPS.
Do you know if that is customary to charge a massive tax on something like this?
Especially a 20 year old item!
I explained to them in my email that it would go back and forth with me to the US - so they don't think I'm bringing it here to sell.
Either way BEWARE OF UPS!!
Thanks again for your replies. I'm not sure who to register a complaint with at this point.
Brian
 

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I was going to say, buy a dang plane ticket for it, lol, that would be cheaper it seems. Sorry it's being held hostage, I hope you can rescue it :(

I did get the sense that expensive items being shipped will induce some kind of tax on the France end. However, I had one box that was worth over $200, I sent it through the US postal service, and they didn't charge me anything on the France end for it. I was expecting it though. Anyway, I guess my point is -- I WAS expecting to get charged something even for a worth of around $250, though not sure what exactly or the breakdown. So I'm not surprised you were, however, it does still seem high! And on second thought, I think I was expecting a douane cost, and you had 0,00 for that. So yeah I have no idea, sorry!

Do you know where it is now? The contrabassoon. In France? Did you name it? (totally irrelevant question, but I feel if you paid that much for an instrument, you probably like it enough to have named it :p)
 

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To be honest about it, I don't think UPS and the other express shippers are set up to negotiate the customs clearance process for something like a move overseas. They generally just ship stuff "the usual way" and in that case, something coming from the States to France is assumed to incur VAT on import.

The brother of a friend of mine got hit with VAT when a friend returned a pair of shoes he had inadvertently left when visiting in the US. The mistake seems to have been that the friend declared their value (possibly for insurance purposes) on the package. But the brother couldn't pick up the shoes from the Post Office until the VAT had been paid - on his own shoes.

When I shipped some of my mother's paintings here from the US, the mailing shop I used knew how to send them so that there were no customs or VAT charges. (In fact, I was shipping them as items I had inherited from her.) But I think there are some special conditions for "works of art."
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Well, I have found a lady at the french UPS who is trying to help me. Maybe down to ?2500.
I knew I would have to pay something - I just hadn't expected this!
So maybe Monday!
Yes, I play bassoon and contra professionally-though not in France (VISA says no).
My bassoon has a name - Buford.
My contra is Big Bertha!
Pretty standard of us in the music circles to name our horns!
Thanks for the comments.
I guess contrabassoons are rarely held hostage!!
Brian
 

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Aw yey they have names! Are you sure you are not Buford the bassoon posting on here right now? Well I hope Big Bertha is enjoying her lattes and that you can rescue her soon. I'm glad you found a reduced cost ....even if not cheap ....
 

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As I am reading this thread, my/our goods are being off-loaded, including my musical instruments. Fingers are crossed. And I am not concerned that it is Friday the 13th! Really...not concerned at all.:eek::wacko::eek:
 

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I hope you and Buford and Big Bertha can all be reunited soon and have cupcakes or uh...opera cakes? (whatever they have in France haha) to rejoice. Did you ever play in like a pit orchestra for shows/operas, or was it for symphonic concerts? I know this is going somewhat off topic but I'm just curious lol

I played the cornet back in high school but have since abandoned it, poor thing. I did the pit orchestra for the musicals though and those were more or less the only parts of High School that I actually enjoyed. :) I always have an appreciation for the musicians since then, even in operas or musicals...obviously the singers/actors are important but the musicians make it all work...
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Oh, yes. Lots of pits. The last I did was "the Rite of Spring" by Igor Stravinsky. I paid my way through school playing musicals in pit orchestras because I could double (triple) on clarinet, sax and bassoon! And then ended up in medical school anyway....
Big Bertha is due in on Monday and as near as I can tell they waived the entire fee!! My whining and supplications appeared to have paid off!!
 

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Do you have Big Bertha? Did she run into your arms and did you spin around? For free?

Dang medical school is far from music. But it's good you have the balance of both in your life, for sure. I think art is just as essential, if not more in some instances (I mean, it makes life bearable and...for me, is what makes it worth living in some ways!)
 
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