The rules are on the government website www.receita.fazenda.gov.br and there is even a version in English so it is nice to know that the taxes are being put to proper use.
The rules are when you enter the country in person you are allowed to bring in $500 (US) of goods if you enter by air or maritime travel and $300 in you enter by land, canoe or camel. Entering the country on a camel is not generally recommended but it does have the advantage you can barge you way to the front of the long immigration and customs queues.
If you enter the country on a tourist visa then any secondhand goods you have are considered to be in transit and that you will return with them so bringing in laptops. cameras etc is not a problem.
If you are unfortunate to get stopped at customs and you have 8 brand new ipods in your case you are in trouble – unless you can persuade the customs officer you have 16 ears and can listen to them all at once – or pay a few hundred Reais bribe – both methods work equally well.
With regards to postal items if the value is under $50 dollars and is sent by an individual to an individual it is exempt from import tax. Books are also exempt from import tax. So getting every parcel labeled birthday gift / books / value $30 dollars always works - at least until
the local customs officers realizes you have 42 birthdays a year and are now 1236 years old. I always find having a very large cake stored in the kitchen with 1236 candles on it is a wise precaution. The customs officer either gets confused counting the candles or eats so much cake he forgets the reason why he first arrived and doesn't tax you.
If you are unlucky enough to get stung by import tax, the tax amount is 60% of the total cost of teh goods including shipping and insurance cost. If the package is sent by courier another 18% ICMS tax is added so it is easy to see how the tax on even the smallest of items can come to more than the entire GNP of Paraguay.
The best way to avoid the 18% ICMS tax is to send the goods by regular post. However bear in mind if you send DVD’s by this method they will not actually arrive until the local postman has watched them then gives them to his 7 brothers, 3 sisters and great aunt Donna Maria to watch.
Once your long awaited DVD.s finally arrive you find out they will not even play because they are in the wrong country code.
The postman of course has the very latest multi region DVD player that somehow got lost in last weeks postal deliveries.
There is one 100% guaranteed way to avoid Brazilian import Tax – Don’t live in Brazil