In 2004, the Egyptian government reduced the number of ad valorem tariff bands from 27 to 6, and later down to 5. The government also dismantled tariff inconsistencies, rationalized national sub-headings above the six-digit level of the Harmonized System (HS), and eliminated services fees and import surcharges ranging from 1 percent to 4 percent. The government reduced its 13,000 line tariff structure to less than 6,000 tariff lines. These and other changes have significantly reduced requests for customs arbitration over the past five years.
Over the past three years, Egypt has significantly reduced overall tariff rates. In February 2007, a presidential decree reduced import tariffs on 1,114 items, including foodstuffs, cloth, raw materials, and intermediate and final goods. The government also adopted the World Customs Organization (WCO) HS-2007 for classifying commodities.
In April 2008, Presidential Decree 103 further reduced customs tariffs on several items including processed foods, agricultural goods, paper products, and some durable household goods, and eliminated completely tariffs on steel rebar, cement (portland, aluminous, hydraulic, and white), toilet paper, and similar paper items.
As part of the government's stimulus package in February 2009, Presidential Decree 51/2009 amended the customs tariff schedule for 250 items, lowering import duties on many items and removing entirely duties on some raw materials and capital and intermediate goods such as inputs for spinning and weaving products. While Decree 51 generally lowered tariffs, it increased tariff rates on some basic chemicals, rubber and bamboo manufacturing products, some basic machinery, and medical equipment. The changes in the tariff schedule in Decree 51 have been described by the Egyptian government as temporary stimulus measures, and may be reversed in the future.
The reforms of the past three years reduced overall weighted tariff average from 14.6 percent to 5.5 percent. Tariffs on the vast majority of goods entering Egypt are below 15 percent. Vehicles, alcohol, and tobacco are the only items on which tariffs are still 40 percent or greater. Passenger cars with engines under 1,600 cc are taxed at 40 percent; cars with engines over 1,600 cc at 135 percent. In addition, cars with engines over 2,000 cc are subject to an escalating sales tax of up to 45 percent. Clothing also faces relatively high tariffs, although the 2007 decree reduced the rate from 40 percent to 30 percent.
Significant barriers to the entry of U.S. agricultural products remain, particularly for those of animal origin, and the government still occasionally makes abrupt import regime changes without notification or opportunity for comment. In July 2006, the tariff rate on poultry was reduced from 32 percent to zero, but in March 2007, the government reimposed the 32 percent tariff. It is permitted to import only whole chickens, yet not parts. There is a 300 percent duty on wine for use in hotels, plus a 40 percent sales tax. The tariff for alcoholic beverages ranges from 1200 percent to 3000 percent.
Foreign movies are subject to duties and import taxes amounting to 46 percent, and are subject to sales taxes and box offices taxes higher than those for domestic films.