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Shopping for Expats in the United States Of America

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: October 2013

The US is a widely known shopping heaven with various types of shops to suit everyone’s needs.

You can shop on the high street or in the shopping malls. Many of the larger shopping malls are not only places to shop but places of entertainment with some boasting cinemas, bowling alleys or mini golf. The Mall of America even has one of the largest indoor theme parks. For details of larger shopping malls, please see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_shopping_malls_in_the_United_States.

Department stores usually provide a wide range of goods and services. You will find fashion clothing, home appliances, luggage and jewellery. They frequently offer sales and some may also have discount stores. You can check online to find some big department stores here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_department_stores_of_the_United_States.

There are also hundreds of outlets all over the US where you can find many designer brands at a bargain price. Prices may even be as low as ten percent of the original price. More information can be found here: https://www.outletbound.com/

If you are planning on shopping in the US, you may wish to focus on famous shopping cities, some being popular due to the low sales tax in that state. Here are some ideas about different cities to help your decision: https://www.ranker.com/list/best-u-s-cities-for-shopping/info-lists.

You also can go to the Fifth Avenue, which is a world of top luxury brands. It is well known as one of the top five high streets in the world, which also includes the Pitt Street Mall in Australia, Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, Oxford Street in London and Causeway Bay in Hong Kong. You can find more information here: https://www.visit5thavenue.com/.


Online shopping

Online shopping is very popular in the US. Most of the high street shops and the supermarkets have their own online shopping websites. Many of them provide delivery service. The delivery may be free if your purchases reach a certain amount.  

You can buy what you want online from all over the world from websites such as Amazon and ebay. You will need to be aware that this is a form of importation and therefore may trigger custom duties and VAT charges. Some items are not allowed to enter the US. Please check here https://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/kbyg/  to see if your purchase is exempted. If you need to know the custom tariff, you can check here https://hts.usitc.gov/.


Sales tax

There is no VAT (value added tax) or GST (goods and services tax) imposed at the federal tax level in the US. However, sales tax is levied at various rates in different states, sometimes even in different cities of the same state. You should also note the price you see in the US is tax exclusive. This means you will be charged sales tax on top of the price on the merchandise. The rates are generally between 4% and 10%, depending on different jurisdictions. There are also some states with 0% local sales tax such as; Louisiana,Oregon,Alaska,Delaware,Montana and New Hampshire. Therefore, it is suggested that you check the sales tax and any other surcharges before you make a purchase.  You can check the rates here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sales_taxes_in_the_United_States.


Shopping hours  

Shops normally open for six days a week. Some may open seven days. Typical trading hours in a day fall in the regions as below:

Mondays to Saturdays9am or 10am to 8pm or 10pm
Sunday11am or 12 noon to 5pm or 7pm

Some large supermarkets may have a 24-hour service except Sundays and some public holidays, in which they are normally closed at 5pm (or 6pm).  Small shops close early at either 5pm or 6 pm.



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