Headphones have experienced a consumer renaissance in recent years. If you're planning to bring the latest in personal audio technology into the US, there are a few things you should know. In order to get those goods through Customs, it’s necessary to pay the applicable duties and — if your headphones are wireless or bluetooth-capable — get them certified by the FCC. But let’s start with the first step: finding the duty that applies to your goods.
The key to calculating your duty correctly is understanding the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HS), which classifies and details the Customs duties for a wide variety of foreign goods. Consulting the schedule and entering the search term “headphones” into the Customs Rulings Online Search System (CROSS), which gathers together different binding rulings that companies have requested from US Customs, we find: “Headphones and earphones, whether or not combined with a microphone, and sets consisting of a microphone and one or more loudspeakers, other.”
With our HS code and country of origin, we determine the duty assessed on our shipment of headphones. Duties are 4.9% unless your headphones originate from one of the countries with which the US has a free trade agreement in place. Besides Customs duties, there's also the Merchandise Processing Fee & Harbor Maintenance Fee.
Wireless or bluetooth-capable headphones
If your headphones are wireless and rely on either WiFi or bluetooth technology to connect to an audio source, then the classification will be different. Because it involves the transmission of data via this other technology, it is duty free). If the headphones incorporate wireless infrared capabilities, they would simply be classified at 4.9% duty.
With these functionalities, you would need to make sure your product is registered with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). All devices with bluetooth or wireless technology are regulated by the FCC, meaning that their manufacturer has to register with the FCC through the Common Registration System (CORES) to receive an FRN and grantee code and have the device tested and certified at an authorized testing facility. The process also includes submitting form 740, a “Statement Regarding the Importation of Radio Frequency Devices Capable of Causing Harmful Interference” to the FCC, listing pertinent statistics like a commercial description, trade name, model type, and quantity for the shipment of goods you’re importing.