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Thursday, 3 June 2010

Wait and you shall receive (and pay)

After waiting for more than six months the Personal Solar Telescope (PST) with double-stack hydrogen-alpha filter finally arrived from the US. As the price listed on the package was US$999 the Australian Customs held it upon arrival and I had to fill in three forms (one to get registered as an 'importer', one to register the US company that sent me the goods as an 'exporter', and another one providing details of when the goods were purchased and their cost). Any items that are valued at less than A$1000 are not assessed for duty/GST, and when I checked on my original order receipt I found that it had actually cost me US$999 minus a $50 'rewards' rebate from Scope City. Looking up the exchange rate (from the ATO website) that applied on the day I paid via Paypal (last November), the price worked out to be just under $1000. I filled in those details on the valuation form and also sent in a copy of my original payment receipt...

It turned out that I had to pay around $250 in GST and fees (a 'handling fee' of $50 is charged by customs!) - apparently they used the total payment amount (which included the $500 I'd paid for the Meade DSI CCD that had previously arrived last December - without any GST being payable) when calculating the GST liability. As far as I could tell from the information on the Customs website the two amounts could have been assessed individually, since they arrived several months apart (it says that if several items arrive within a few days of each other they can be treated as one order). But I probably should have placed two separate orders for the items, rather than paying for both at once (even though the PST was on six months back-order!). Next time I'll know better and make sure I order items individually unless they are going to be shipped together.

I'm still happy though - even with the $150 airfreight charge and $250 GST and customers fee the total price is about half what I'd have paid if I went to a local telescope dealer. Either the local telescope dealers apply more than the usual 100% mark-up on the wholesale price, or else they don't have any relationships with the suppliers and are actually buying their stock retail from US dealers.

Now I just have to wait for the weather to clear up enough to see the sun - it's been raining in Sydney for the past three weeks...

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