Recently, I wrote a letter to a forwarding company to ask for a quotation about their rate of charges on certain goods. I asked if there was any import duty levied on my incoming goods. But they answered using the word ' tariffs '.

I wonder what is the difference in usage between ' import duty ' and ' tariffs '. Or both are interchangeable ? Please give some examplesEmotion: smile
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In everyday usage, I believe that "duty" and "tariff" are considered interchangeable.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000 defines them thus:
1a. A list or system of duties imposed by a government on imported or exported goods.
5. A tax charged by a government, especially on imports.

As you can see however, a "duty" can technically be understood to apply chiefly to imports while a "tariff" may apply to either imports or exports.

I would say that in an extremely strict sense, the phrase "import duty" is redundant but I doubt most people would catch that.

I would personally choose to use "tariff" as it seems to be the more succinct of the two. Technically, if you wanted to be extremely precise you would probably have to specify whether you were referring to an "import tariff" or an "export tariff" but I would hope that using the more general word "tariff" would be sufficient to get the point across. Emotion: smile
A "duty" is the amount of money you have to pay according to a "tariff". There's a "Tariff Classification" based on a "Harmonized Code".

Let's see. So "duty" means "money" to be paid. There are import duties and export duties which vary from country to country. For instance, in my country you have to make a deposit of 33% of the value of the goods as a warranty when you import something temporally. In Brazil you do not pay any duties in this case, but the paperwork is very complicated.

Now, when you import something the amount of the duty to be paid depends on the Tariff. There is a Tariff Classification which tells you when you have to pay no duties, 12% or 15% of the value of the goods.

The Tariff Classification is based on an international code called Harmonized Code which tells the Customs Officer that a "9015.90.00" corresponds to "electronic accessories and parts". If you don't quote this code in your documents, the Customs Officer won't know what is being imported, so extra information will be requiered either from origin or from the consignee to decide which code applies and match it to the Tariff Classification to calculate the duties.

Hope this helps and you don't get mixed up! Emotion: smile
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it helps indeedEmotion: smile
Since you are so precise about business words. Can you tell me the correct use of ' shipment, cargo, order, consignment ? Because all seem to mean the same thing ( goods )

Every time I wrote a business letter, I didn't know which word to pick for my goods.
Actually, I'm not that good at business English, but this vocabulary is pretty common in my job - although I'm an electronics engineer. Emotion: smile

An "order" is what you asked for, just like at a restaurant. When you place an order you expect your supplier to "ship" it to you. Depending on what it is or how much you plan to afford, the goods will be sent by regular (post) mail or courier... or "cargo". Cargo means "freight" and implies any ways of delivery: ship (here's where "shipping" comes from), airplane or truck - i.e. any vessel.

"Consignment" refers to a shipment of goods consigned to (i.e. given into the care or charge of, entrusted) someone. The "consignee" is not necessarily the final user or owner. A friend of mine can purchase something and instruct his supplier to ship it to me instead for convenience.

Hope this helps as well! Emotion: smile
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it helps a lot, thanks
cargo is not interchangeable with mail or courier. Its a noun you would use instead of "goods" to imply posession by whatever is carrying it.
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