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Piano tariffs in the US?
#3041454 10/31/20 04:11 PM
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I have before heard people say that pianos are more expensive in the US than, say in Europe becsuse of import duties. When I read the tariff schedules on the US customs web site, I would appear that most pianos are exempt from US tariffs, but I do not have confidence in my interpretation of the descriptions, given my lack of knowledge and experience with respect to international trade.

Does anyone have authoritative info on this? I could understand a European piano potentially being cheaper in Europe due to lower shipping cost. (Although real estate for a dealer showroom would be much pricier in major European cities than where I live). But why should a Kawai or Yamaha piano be cheaper in Europe than in the US? Is it because of tariffs? Higher volume of acoustic piano sales? Interestingly, digital pianos seem to be cheaper in the US.

Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Sweelinck #3041475 10/31/20 04:45 PM
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I think the general duty rate is 4.7%. I also think there are special rate variations. ??

Most piano prices in Europe include 20% VAT (give or take, depending on country), which you can usually claim back if you ship your purchase outside of the country of purchase. Naturally, that could offset some shipping and taxes.



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Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Retsacnal #3041700 11/01/20 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
I think the general duty rate is 4.7%. I also think there are special rate variations. ??

Most piano prices in Europe include 20% VAT (give or take, depending on country), which you can usually claim back if you ship your purchase outside of the country of purchase. Naturally, that could offset some shipping and taxes.

Unfortunately I don’t understand it either. Just thinking some possibilities. Some speculation here until a US dealer can answer specifically. The US, even just the mainland, is huge. Besides shipment from Japan to a US port is expensive and that may only be one part of the journey. Then there’s getting it to the dealer in Texas or NM for example which certainly isn’t free. Besides whatever federal taxes there are for imported pianos, you then have state sales tax and maybe even local county taxes added before purchase. Plus, wages of the piano sales staff and costs of doing business can vary dramatically from state to state.

Plus, we’re only talking Yamaha new piano purchase price. I think there will also be piano maintenance and music training costs to think about which also vary greatly depending on US location. I almost forgot a huge expense that the OP mentioned, floorspace at the dealership and then to the homeowner. It’s a lot cheaper per square foot for dealerships and homeowners to place a 6 or 7 foot grand in my home than NYC, London, or Dublin. Perhaps our lawyer, iLaw can explain it.


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Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Sweelinck #3041705 11/01/20 08:59 AM
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ILaw has authoritative info on tariffs. Hope he will pop in here


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Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Sweelinck #3041710 11/01/20 09:24 AM
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Here is iLaw's post on this topic. All uprights and grands under 5' were exempted from the additional tariff on Chinese goods, so the tax remains at 4.7%.


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Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Sweelinck #3041768 11/01/20 11:15 AM
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I don't know why things are different prices in different countries. I saw some stuff advertised, cut to the bone, in UK. I had bought exactly the same products here in Bulgaria the week before. The UK price was exactly 50% more than I paid here.


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Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Sweelinck #3042055 11/02/20 10:47 AM
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The U.S. ordinary (Normal Trading Relations) duty rate for acoustic upright and grand pianos is 4.7%, although a number of piano-producing countries have preferential rates resulting from trade agreements, including Korea (0.0%) and Japan (1.7%).

Most Chinese acoustic uprights and grands were excluded from the additional 7.5% duty rate that would otherwise have applied under the Trump Administration's China Section 301 tariffs. Acoustic grands measuring less than 152.40 cm (5 feet) never got the exclusion, however. In any case, all of these China Section 301 exclusions are set to expire on December 31st. We'll see where the China Section 301 tariffs go in the months ahead ....

Larry.

Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Sweelinck #3042077 11/02/20 12:31 PM
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It's also to do with the way the dealer networks operate, with agents and importers to actually get the pianos into the USA in the first place.

Admittedly, these are not government tariffs but it does put the price up for the end user. You could try importing a piano yourself directly from a European supplier but you may find that it doesn't work out that much cheaper. It may even prove to be more expensive.

Last edited by Joseph Fleetwood; 11/02/20 12:32 PM.
Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Sweelinck #3042093 11/02/20 01:47 PM
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Just like automobiles, pianos prices are based on the market for them in each country. Supply and demand come into play when the retail prices are determined.

If you purchase a piano from a dealer in Europe with the intent to ship it out of the EU, and you or your dealer later prove it was shipped out to the VAT authorities it will be exempt from VAT. The dealer will handle the details for you. You would still be subject to import duties in the country you ship it to if applicable.

I purchased my piano new from a piano dealer while I was living in Europe and had to pay the VAT. Later when I moved to the US it was considered a household item and was not subject to import duty because I had owned it for more than twelve months.

Last edited by Lakeviewsteve; 11/02/20 01:57 PM.

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Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Sweelinck #3042509 11/03/20 09:10 PM
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The cost-plus pricing model breaks down in the extreme. Sellers can't just keep ladling "costs" into the price. A viable market price is an equilibrium between supply and demand, not just supply. Sooner or later excessive "shipping," "distributor markup," and "hedges against currency fluctuation" will push a piano's price beyond what people are willing to pay for them. Consumers have two choices: 1) buy a better piano for the inflated price, or 2) buy an equivalent piano for a more reasonable price.

Or we can look at this from a different perspective: if certain European makes are worth "so much" in North America relative to all the usual makes, then why are they not "worth" the same in Europe? If the producers and dealers are selling them in Europe for significantly less, but they are truly worth so much more, then they are leaving money on the table, or giving value away for free in Europe.

This is not imaginary. A well-respected dealer has even posted here, describing how the price disparity is so great at times that a dealer in North America can buy pianos at retail in Europe--not wholesale but retail--and sell them for a profit in North America.

I suspect that one reason the disparity persists is that pianos are so illiquid. They don't sell in high volume (people by and large don't want them any more). If there were more demand for pianos, then you'd see the gray market swell up to meet the demand, like happens with cars and other things. But one thing is certain: when the disparity between true value and the cost-plus price is too large, the pianos don't sell.



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Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Sweelinck #3042529 11/03/20 10:25 PM
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A quick search indicates EU base tariffs on imported pianos are not much different than US tariffs.

- Average EU VAT sales tax rates are higher than those in the US by say 10%+ on average. But that varies by jurisdiction.

- The bigger difference is probably maker long-term marketing policy (price targets for a given country) and fluctuations in FX rates. As the EUR-USD-JPY exchange rates change, the maker may be forced to adjust prices. That can change slowly; generally Japanese firms try to lock in fx rates for say 5-10 years so local prices have some stability.

Currently, Europeans seem to enjoy favourable prices and warranties on top digital pianos.

Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Sweelinck #3042843 11/05/20 02:30 AM
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Re: Piano tariffs in the US?
Sweelinck #3042961 11/05/20 12:55 PM
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Well I do not know much about pricing but certainly so many
European pianos just sound so much better than most of the Japanese pianos or Chinese pianos. I do not know much about American pianos except the Steinways pianos I have played. One thing I know is to me Steinway uprights which arw really terribly expensive do not sound or play anywhere as
good as the European pianos I have played .
The K52 a certain mellowness but almost no resonance in the higher treble . I could say more .The price though is shocking , and would say rather buy that August Forster or Schimmel.
I agree when it comes to grands there is a lot more musical competition , but you may end up paying less for a European piano here in Canada than a similar sized Steinways and still end up with an excellent instrument.
I do agree the European piano are very expensive and it is no wonder so many people just buy a good Japanese piano and still end up with a good piano.

Last edited by Lady Bird; 11/05/20 01:02 PM. Reason: spelling

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