Import taxes: Know what they are and learn how to calculate.

Import is one of the most used ways by Brazilian companies to acquire the products and inputs necessary for the performance of their activities.

As with any important economic activity for the country, these international purchases are subject to specific taxation aimed at controlling and regulating the entry of foreign goods to the detriment of similar items produced within the domestic market.

Find out in this article what taxes are involved in an import operation and learn how to calculate each one of them.

Customs Value

Before knowing more about each of the taxes of an import operation, it is important to understand the concept of Customs Value, since most taxes are levied on it.

The Customs Value represents the value legally considered for calculating import taxes and other costs arising from an international purchase, such as storage, customs clearance, and issuance of an invoice after clearance.

The Customs Value is mainly composed of:

Value of the Goods + International Transport + International Insurance + Costs for the movement of the cargo until arrival at the named place.


Brazil is a member of Mercosur, which is an important economic bloc in which free trade of goods takes place, following certain international standards.

Within these standards, each imported product has a specific tax classification linked to an “MCN” – MERCOSUR Common Nomenclature.

Each MCN contains tax information on administrative treatments, applicable tax rates, and other particularities of the respective product.

The NCM’s can be verified in the Common External Tariff, which contains the complete description of all MCN, as well as the Import Tax rates.

What taxes are involved?


The main tax applied in import operations is the Import Tax.

This federal tax has a variable rate, depending on the imported item and its respective tax classification.


Tax on Industrialized Products, this is a federal tax that is levied on imported industrialized products at the time of customs clearance.

Its rate varies according to the imported item, sometimes reaching 0% depending on the economic policy applied at the time.

To find out which rate a particular product is subject to, it is necessary to consult the Brazilian IPI Tax List, known as “TIPI”.

ICMS Import

The Tax over the Circulation of Goods and Services is a state tax that is levied on the circulation of foreign goods.

Its rate is determined by each state and will be applied (its rate) according to the respective state where the import is carried out. Its triggering event occurs in the act of customs clearance of the goods.


PIS is a federal social contribution tax, collected to finance social security.

Its triggering event occurs at the time of customs clearance and its fixed rate is charged over the Customs Value of the goods.


COFINS is a federal social contribution tax, collected to finance social security.

Its triggering event occurs at the time of customs clearance and its fixed rate is charged over the Customs Value of the goods.

How important is each of the Taxes?

Despite being almost a consensus that the Brazilian tax burden is disproportionate, each tax collected on an import operation has its specific destination and importance.

II – It is important to regulate, through exemption, reduction, or increase in the rate, the demand and supply of certain inputs necessary for the production of national goods and finished products.

IPI – The importance of the IPI is linked to the control by the Federal Government of industrialized goods that are being demanded by the national market or to increase the level of competitiveness of the national industry to the detriment of foreign manufacturers.

ICMS Import – ICMS is important to regulate the circulation of goods between federative entities (the states). This tax is widely used by some Brazilian states to be more commercially attractive by granting better tax conditions for the entry of foreign goods.

PIS and COFINS Import – The main relevance of these two taxes is their destination to finance the Brazilian social contribution.

How to calculate?

Here’s how to calculate each of the import taxes:

Import Tax – (known in Brazil as “II”)

It is calculated considering the Customs Value multiplied by the rate of the product included in the Common External Tariff: II = TEC (%) x Customs Value

Tax on Industrialized Products – (known in Brazil as “IPI”)

It is calculated considering the Customs Value plus the II, multiplied by the rate defined in the TIPI: IPI = TIPI (%) x (Customs Value + II)

Tax on Circulation of Goods and Services – (known in Brazil as “ICMS”)

It is calculated considering the Customs Value and all other taxable taxes, multiplied by the rate of the State where the operation took place, also considering the difference in rates between the states where the goods were transferred (DIFAL): ICMS = State (%) – DIFAL x (Customs Value + Import Taxes + Expenses until the time of clearance)


It is calculated considering the standard rate of each one of the taxes, multiplied by the Customs Value.

PIS has a fixed rate of 2.1% and COFINS of 9.65% for imports: PIS/COFINS = (%) x Customs Value

Tax Simulator

The Federal Government provides a virtual module to simulate the taxes of an import in real time.

It requires basic that the Customs Value and the imported NCM to be informed to perform the simulation.

You can find the simulator at:

Government Control

The Brazilian Federal Government makes constant adjustments to the rates charged, mainly for the calculation of IPI and II, aiming at economic improvements.

In recent weeks, for example, the Government has zeroed the II levy on some food items and the IPI on the import of specific goods.

Considering all the details already mentioned and the tax complexity of an import, it is advisable to consult a company specialized in import operations.

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