Tax Free Books

A few years ago I ordered a box full of secondhand books from sellers on amazon and had them shipped to Mexico. They arrived safe and sound. And with a big tax bill to pay before I could take possession. Bastards! Haven’t bothered since then. But it turns out that if you have books imported through the Mexican Postal service, they are tax exempt. It doesn’t matter how many books or what type they are. Wish I’d known about this a while ago, assuming it isn’t a brand new policy. Anyway, eBay here I come!

All the postcards I’ve promised to send were posted today, in the magnificent Postal Palace opposite Belles Artes. They had a little exhibition on too, of the Mexican Postal service of the past. And of the stamps being issued to celebrate the Bicentennial.  I’m not much of a stamp collector, but the packs looked pretty neat. Might have to buy myself yet another little souvenir of my time in Mexico…


15 thoughts on “Tax Free Books

  1. Books from NAFTA countries are not subject to import duties, and books and printed matter, are not charged IVA within Mexico. Amazon may finally have wised up, but they were shipping to Mexico via their Frankfort warehouse which makes them subject to imposts.


  2. Is that theory or practice? The Postal website states that books being imported via other methods are taxable, unless I’ve horribly misunderstood. My box of books was shipped in from the US…I got them all sent to the mother-in-laws who boxed them into one parcel and sent them via Fedex or UPS – they got taxed. Was a few years ago though, as I say.


  3. Nez says:

    Excited to receive my postcard! Thanks. The Postal Palace sounds far more charming than my local post office, where you’re always guaranteed a scowl and at least one person going “postal”. I actually never really cared much for postcards or stamps, though I understood some people did collect them. Now that you’re sending me one though I’ve developed an interest for it. Those stamps sound tempting. Is it normal to get excited over stamps and images of old mailboxes? I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to reach this stage of interest until I was at least 60. Instead I’m learning to appreciate these thing’s now.

    If ever I’m around the Mexico City area later this year I’ll swap you the stamps for some Jaffa Cakes, Marmite and Bisto granules (which I CAN find here!)


    • I know what you mean. I’ve turned into an old man before I’ve even hit middle age! You can get Marmite, Jaffa cakes and Bisto???? Visit soon!!!

      And the Postal Palace is a wonderful old building – photos.


  4. I always get my books from the U.S., both used and new, sent to my PO box. I have been taxed only once, and that shipment was a big box of books. I heard later that smaller shipments, like 2 or so books, sail right on through. Since then I have not ordered many books at one time, and I´ve never been charged a tax.

    This, of course, makes no sense whatsoever. But, as you know, Mexico is like Alice in Wonderland.

    By the way, I only learned in the past few months that you can order DVDs from the U.S., and they will not be taxed. I had always assumed they would be. I have since ordered some movies, using the same approach. I just order one at a time. They arrive fine, and with no tax attached.


    • I know people here who’ve gotten books one or two at a time through without tax being added. But knowing I can bulk buy and save on postage is nice!

      DVD’s too? That is very handy to know.Ten years ago, unlike your good self, I wasn’t in Mexico, and will have to write that anniversary post much later. I did have one of the first multi region DVD players in the UK. And I ordered movies from the US then, usually months before they came out in the UK. I was the dude…. 🙂


  5. Kim G says:

    Books seem to be one of the things that are MORE expensive in Mexico. F is an avid reader and book collector, and we spend a lot of time hanging out in bookstores. It seems to be hard to find hardbacks for less than $30 USD and paperbacks are still around $20 USD. Even used books aren’t all that cheap. Perhaps it’s the economics of production. According to David Lida, Mexicans by and large aren’t readers.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA

    P.S. Wouldn’t a turtle be a better symbol for the Mexican post office rather than an eagle or any other kind of bird?


    • Books, electronics…anything that is imported. And all the things I love best, damn them! I’ve also read stats on the reading done by Mexicans. It is shockingly low. IIRR it was less than one book per person per year, by a fair margin.

      I have found plenty of second hand shops selling books in English, although my favourite and most local, in Coyoacan, has shut down. If it’s novels/non fiction in English F is after, I have a fair selection of ones I’ve gotten through. There’s no point me trying to sell them to the second hand shops though…they pay a pittance. I think I was offered about 40 pesos for three big bags worth of books in great condition.

      Some of us TEFL’ers sometimes have a Book Swap meeting too, although it’s been a while since the last one.

      And….Mexico’s mail service is better than I thought it would be. My postcards tend to get to their destination in between 2 to 3 weeks. Which isn’t too bad really.


      • Kim G says:

        All the books I referred to are books published in Spanish in Mexico. Still amazingly expensive. But I think it’s the economics of publishing to a limited audience.


        Kim G
        Boston, MA


  6. Nez says:

    I just wanted to quickly comment that I sent your postcard out early today in the morning. I only just started properly looking for a postcard 3 days ago, since I didn’t want to get you a low quality touristy NY postcard, that’s sold in every corner. Hope you think the postcard I got is at least semi-decent! (You’d think NY would invest more in their postcards and make some kind of effort). I hope the Mexican postal service doesn’t prove too bad (in terms of you RECEIVING mail). I wasn’t sure whether I should send you the postcard in an envelope or whether it would arrive intact if I sent it “naked”. I ended up sending it sans envelope, so I hope your postcards tend to arrive there mostly in good condition. Can’t wait to receive mine! 2- 3 weeks? Yikes. I suppose it could be worse. As long as it gets here in one piece I’ll survive!


    • I guess there is that risk, but to be honest, despite the many bad things I’ve heard about the Mexican Postal Service, they have never let me down. I think they have probably improved.


  7. KIm … there are very few pine forests and very olittle water in Mexico… and nowhere where there is an abundance of pine AND water. Paper production requires access to both. Paper has to be imported, which was rather convenient for the government back in the “bad old days” when there was no need for direct press censorship… the gov. just cut off the paper supplies to offending printers.

    With consolidation in the publishing industry — which means most books in the Spanish language (including translations of U.S. best sellers) are published in Spain (and thus subject to customs duties) … AND… book imports largely controlled by one company (DIMSA) — books are still very expensive.


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