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Old Nov 22, 06, 12:31 pm   #1
 
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What do I need to declare at customs?

Hi,

I am not a 100% sure if this is the right forum.

I was wondering do you have to declare at customs when re-entering the United States everything you bought? I know you don't have to pay taxes on anything you buy under $300, if you don't go over the $300 can you ususally not declare anything?

Lastly, what if you buy something over $300 and are chaged VAT/Taxes in the country you are in. Do you have to pay double taxes when you declare the item?
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Old Nov 22, 06, 1:06 pm   #2
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http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg/ may have some useful information for US residents.
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Old Nov 22, 06, 1:39 pm   #3
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Customs declarations is such a general topic that it's not really germane to this forum. Please continue the discussion in TravelBuzz!

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Old Nov 22, 06, 2:40 pm   #4
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wifi-jedi
Hi,

I am not a 100% sure if this is the right forum.

I was wondering do you have to declare at customs when re-entering the United States everything you bought? I know you don't have to pay taxes on anything you buy under $300, if you don't go over the $300 can you ususally not declare anything?

Lastly, what if you buy something over $300 and are chaged VAT/Taxes in the country you are in. Do you have to pay double taxes when you declare the item?
First off, it isn't taxes you are paying (if you have to pay), it is duty. I realize that this may seem like a distinction without a difference because it goes to the government, but there you are.

Second, your limits are out of date. The current limits are $200, $800, $1600, depending on where you are going, how long you are away, and when you last used the exemption. Read the "Know before you go" pamphlet on the customs website to which tjl kindly provided the link.

Third, if you read the form which you must submit when going through customs, you will see that you must declare all items which you have acquired abroad, either as a purchase or a gift, regardless of the total value. To do this, I usually aggregate it in categories and round the numbers such as:

Clothes - 50$
Chocolate - $75 (my wife loves chocolate )
Printed matter - $25
Souvenirs -25$
Jewelry - $200
1 liter alcohol - $25
200 cigarettes - $15
etc.

You should itemize volume on alcohol, tobacco, and perfumes, as there are volume limitations on those.

Finally, the taxes that you pay on an item when you purchase it, whether through VAT or any other form of tax are irrelevant to whether you pay duty on it. The US doesn't care whether you paid taxes on it or not in the country where you purchased it. That said, many countries will provide a rebate of VAT on larger purchases, so it is worth finding out how to do that in the particular country you are planning to travel to before you go. Also, for valuation purposes, you may be able to deduct the VAT from the value of the item. Please note that gifts are not valued at zero, but at their retail value, so if someone gives you a $10000 fur coat, you have to declare the $10000, even though you didn't pay anything for it.

Note that even if you exceed the limit, some items are duty free by their nature. Read the pamphlet and the additional information on the website for more details on this and the duty you may have to pay for exceeding the limit.
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Old Nov 22, 06, 2:43 pm   #5
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You must declare ALL items purchased on the blue customs form. If you bought less than $400, I believe, you can walk through the green line.

There are exceptions which would require you to walk through the red line. These include buying more than $400, carrying more than $10,000, carrying illegal drugs, weapons, etc.
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Old Nov 22, 06, 5:55 pm   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seat 50J
You must declare ALL items purchased on the blue customs form. If you bought less than $400, I believe, you can walk through the green line.
This is a bit unclear. If you look at the federal statutes listed on top of the blue customs form, it states (paraphrasing as I don't have it with me) that you must declare your items, but that if you are under the dutiable limit, you MAY declare them verbally. The forms say declare everything. I am willing to make a verbal declaration if asked, but I do not choose to make a written declaration of anything beyond value unless coerced and after a review and dicussion of the relevant statute, which I try to carry with me (try = unless I forget). I never write down what I buy if I am under the dutiable limit and I have never had a problem with submitting a form that gives a dollar value of the goods, but no listing of the goods. I have heard of customs agents who demand that and leave the poor vics to write the list under supervision & when I see a slow line with what looks like such behavior, I generally switch lines to one that is shorter, quicker, looks more compliant with the MAY clause in the law. I don't think it is really any interest of the US government that I bought 2 paperback books at a value of us$28 during my last trip. They can know the value, but the specifics - I'll tell if asked, but will resist being forced to write reports to Big Brother.
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Old Nov 22, 06, 5:55 pm   #7
 
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I've always included all of my wine on a single line. They're more than welcome to ask me how much wine is $500 worth...but they never have.
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Old Nov 22, 06, 5:58 pm   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by You want to go where?
Third, if you read the form which you must submit when going through customs, you will see that you must declare all items which you have acquired abroad, either as a purchase or a gift, regardless of the total value. To do this, I usually aggregate it in categories and round the numbers
One day it might be fun to waste an entire flight fully itemizing the list of all items that you are bringing back.

Pen: $2.50
Pen: $1.25
Pack of gum: $0.75
Magazine: $5.25
Hotel shampoo bottle: $0.00
and on and on...

Of course you'd have to have a good memory and ask for the form early in the flight.
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Old Nov 22, 06, 6:28 pm   #9
 
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I know this may seem a little obvious and trivial, but, if for nothing else than completeness' sake, I wanted to add that you're only required to declare those items purchased abroad that you are bringing back with you into the United States.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralfp
One day it might be fun to waste an entire flight fully itemizing the list of all items that you are bringing back.

Pen: $2.50
Pen: $1.25 ...
I sorta do this. I don't actually itemize every single item I purchase, but I do explicitly list things such as film and contact solution on these forms, figuring that it'll make customs agents less suspicious if they see me getting into specifics like this.
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Old Nov 23, 06, 4:14 am   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ralfp
Hotel shampoo bottle: $0.00
UK customs might argue about that.... $0.001 would be OK though!

Sounds like a joke, but I often had commercial shipments held up because alongside large quantities of high value goods, my supplier had added some free brochures. They had to be re-declared at a value - albeit nominal.

Notice that what you paid for something is not necessarily the same as its value for customs purposes. (Though one is often good evidence of the other.) Customs can even add the value of the shipping before arriving at the value of something for VAT/duty purposes. You can generally deduct recoverable foreign sales taxes from the value (whether or not you actually recover them).

In practice, nobody really worries about these minor details for non-commercial shipments and if you're below your limits then you're OK. US customs rules are probably different, but EU rules should be aligned.
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Old Nov 23, 06, 5:20 am   #11
 
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Am I the only one here that removes the tags and claims they are not new? Obviously for some things it can't be done wine etc. But for most other things it is possible.
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Old Nov 23, 06, 9:20 am   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bensyd
Am I the only one here that removes the tags and claims they are not new? Obviously for some things it can't be done wine etc. But for most other things it is possible.
A friend of mine did this and got caught (she was wearing jewelry she had just purchased in Hong Kong, but that she didn't declare). Now not only was she paying on the things she did buy, but customs decided most everything she had with her - including the stuff she brought from home - was newly purchased abroad and subject to duty and fines.

I brought several thousand dollars worth of home appliances for personal use through U.S. Customs, declared them and was not charged any duty. Just because you go over the "limits" doesn't mean you will have exhorbitant or fees or any at all.
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Old Nov 23, 06, 10:13 am   #13
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well,

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralfp
One day it might be fun to waste an entire flight fully itemizing the list of all items that you are bringing back.

Pen: $2.50
Pen: $1.25
Pack of gum: $0.75
Magazine: $5.25
Hotel shampoo bottle: $0.00
and on and on...

Of course you'd have to have a good memory and ask for the form early in the flight.
I have done that and the customs person never even looked at my list. Just added it to the stack. Boring!
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Old Nov 23, 06, 8:41 pm   #14
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aamilesslave
I've always included all of my wine on a single line. They're more than welcome to ask me how much wine is $500 worth...but they never have.
WOW. May I ask what USA re-entry points you have used with this type of declaration?
Thanks
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Old Nov 23, 06, 11:33 pm   #15
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iapetus
I sorta do this. I don't actually itemize every single item I purchase, but I do explicitly list things such as film and contact solution on these forms, figuring that it'll make customs agents less suspicious if they see me getting into specifics like this.
Yeah I do the same thing for that purpose.
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