Friday, November 11, 2011


A fairly dry subject for today, as we jump into the exciting world of trade tariffs. It may seem like a small, inconsequential thing at first -- the taxes imposed by the BVI government on nearly all goods imported into the territory. Tariffs aren't something I researched, or really even thought of, before deciding to move here. More and more, though, I realize how much they impact me, and impact life here in general.

To my knowledge, the only goods that enter the BVI tariff-free are books, educational materials, and computers. Everything else is subject to a minimum duty of 10%. Duties range as high as 23-24% on some items like automobiles. If you are visiting the BVI, these tariffs strongly impact the costs of goods you buy while here. Not only are you paying the shipping premium of bringing that CD or bottle of water to the island, but you are also paying for 10-20% on the original purchase price of the CD or bottle of water plus the cost of shipping it.

As a visitor, perhaps this doesn't matter very much to you. You're only here for a short while anyway, and so what if things cost a little extra? You're in the Caribbean. If you're planning on moving here, however, tariffs can impact you in a big way. Everything costs more here because it's imported. I've already discussed the cost of groceries at length, but tariffs help put a price premium on everything.

I think the difficulty of coordinating shipping combined with the high tariffs also diminishes the supply of items in the BVI. Often it is difficult to find specific things, and it is always difficult to find a variety of things. If you are looking for a certain model cell phone in a particular color, you will probably need look elsewhere -- online, or in Puerto Rico -- to find it.

In the long term, I feel the tariffs help make the BVI a less consumerist culture. There are not infinite choices of infinite items, and many transplants quickly discover how few of those infinite items they needed anyway. If shopping is your favorite form of entertainment though, you may want to carefully consider a move to the BVI, and the impact of tariffs on your pocketbook.

1 comment:

  1. i'm a nerd, tariffs interest me. Costa Rica the expatriate paradise has 100 percent on everything, Panama has zero, which makes importing anything not only chepaer but dead simple. How do I know? because we sailed there and it made ahuge difference to our lives.


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