I paid 6.8% on a Musical Fidelity preamp. I bought it from a guy in Canada, so I don't know if this exactly applicable but I believe the duty rate is based on country of Mfg, not shipment origin.
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My experience in sending things to the U.S. (I'm in Canada) is that there are two general costs the purchaser may incur on top of the purchase price and shipping fee.
First is the brokerage fee for customs clearance. For some methods of shipment (the premium services), the brokerage fee is included in the shipping cost. With the cheapest shipping services, UPS Standard for example, the brokerage fee is a separate charge the purchaser will have to pay the delivery person when the unit arrives at his door. Roughly $25-$50. The shipping companies website will provide this information, i.e. whether the brokerage fee is included in the selected service, and how much it is if it isn't included.
The second potential charge is import duties and applicable taxes, if any. Import duty is based upon the country of manufacture, not the country of shipment. I have sold U.K. manufactured Linn equipment to U.S. residents from Canada. Even though Canada and the U.S. have free trade, duty is payable since the unit is manufactured in the U.K. You could lie of course, but since the box, and the unit, says "Manufactured in Great Britain", that's a bit problematic. In addition to the country of manufacture, import duty is also based upon the value of the product. Some people will specify a low value in the customs documentation in order to minimize duty. This can also be a bit tricky. If you send a $1000 turntable, valued at $100, then if it is damaged, it might be hard to make an insurance claim for more than the value you have claimed. Also, customs people aren't stupid. If the documenttion seems to specify an unusually low value for the product, it might attract further investigation.
So, back to your question. In addition to brokerage fees, usually in the $25-$50 range, which may or may not be included in the shipping costs, there will be import duties based upon the country of manufacture and the value of the product. To get an exact answer, you will have to go back to the "indecipherable goobledy gook" you referred to.
For what it's worth, I once sold British made speakers valued around $500 to a fellow in the U.S., and he was charged around $35 in import duties. Another time, I sold a British made amp, valued around $350, and the purchaser said he wasn't charged anything.
Perhaps a U.S. resident can give some further information on their import duty experiences.
I shipped a turntable from Canada to USA by Canada Post surface (Expedited) with a declared value of $1000 last year. As far as I know, the buyer didn't pay taxes or duty. I think items that are under $1500 are duty and tax free, lucky buggers.....
As Bdgregory mentioned, the country of mfg. might work against the buyer so just state that the item is made in Canada and hope for the best.
I bought a pair of ProAc, UK built speakers in Canada and drove them across the border, myself, so I got to watch firsthand the U.S. customs process unfold.
The customs agent correctly figured out, with my help, that duty needed to be paid since the speakers were not built in the U.S. or Canada but what ensued was about 20 minutes of watching the agent flip through hundreds of pages in what looked like the Manhattan phone book, filled with product listings and duty rates, all written in 7 point type.
With a lot of help from me she did find an area for speakers made in the UK but the number of possible choices for the percentage of duty to be paid overwhelmed both of us. In the end, she just picked a line, apologized for the whole process and charged me something like 7%. It was clear what I was charged was almost completely arbitrary.
In another case I bought a pair of Linn speakers from a guy in Toronto and had them shipped to Seattle. There was no sign of any duty charges when they arrived but I got a bill from U.S. customs more than two months later for about $60 on an $1,100 purchase.