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Where It's Made Can Affect How Much You Pay

Remember that imported home security components may be subject to tariffs.

Buying a home security system often involves taxes, fees and other charges that send your initial costs inching steadily upward. In some cases, the up-front investment can have yet another layer of bureaucracy.

Certain kinds of home security equipment manufactured overseas are subject to tariffs. If you buy a surveillance camera system made in China, for example, the federal government has the authority to charge a tax for this purchase.

Tariffs: What, why and how

Tariffs are essentially taxes on imported goods. Countries across the world, including the United States, have imposed tariffs for centuries.

From the late 18th to early 20th centuries, tariffs represented the American government's main source of revenue. Today, the amount of federal revenue collected through tariffs is only about 1.3 percent.

In addition to serving a financial purpose, tariffs can also have a political component. So-called protective tariffs aim to help domestic businesses facing off against international competitors. A tariff that targets a specific country believed to be unfairly subsidizing its exports is known as a punitive tariff.

How is home security involved?

The list of imports subject to U.S. tariffs — about 30 percent of all foreign goods — doesn't specifically mention home security equipment. However, the list does mention electrical machinery, including "television image and sound recorders and reproducers."

Let's say you buy a security camera system manufactured overseas. The camera itself and other specific components would fall under the tariff classification related to equipment that involves the recording of images.

The good news? With U.S. tariffs at historic lows, the tax would be only about 2 percent of the goods' value.

Tariffs aren't written in stone

Tariff policies change, and a story from the nation of Antigua provides an example. Until recently, this island nation in the West Indies required its citizens to pay duties and fees for imported CCTV surveillance equipment and burglar bars.

The Antiguan government reversed course earlier this month by removing all tariffs on this particular equipment for use in private homes.

Home security in other countries differs from home security in the United States, of course. And even though our Constitution prohibits internal tariffs on goods produced in different states, the message here is not necessarily "buy American."

Just remember that costs play a role in any purchase, including the purchase of a home security system. When those purchases metaphorically cross international borders, it may affect your up-front costs.

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