Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Travel&Dining > Travel Safety/Security > Practical Travel Safety and Security Issues
Reload this Page >

What to expect from Customs when bringing back a $5,000 watch?

What to expect from Customs when bringing back a $5,000 watch?

Old Aug 9, 19, 6:23 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: New York City/NY22
Programs: AA Platinum 2.3MM (Lifetime PLT)
Posts: 5,101
What to expect from Customs when bringing back a $5,000 watch?

[Apologies if this is the wrong forum. If so, mods, please move.]

Travel companion wants to buy a Cartier watch while in Europe. All will be in order. Everything will be declared.

Based upon your recent experience, how likely is Customs to charge duty on this watch? If they do, what is the rate?
Landing Gear is offline  
Old Aug 9, 19, 9:12 pm
  #2  
Moderator: Hilton Honors, Practical Travel Safety Issues & San Francisco
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: San Francisco CA
Programs: UA, Hilton, Starwood, Priceline
Posts: 10,540
Duty is 3%

Originally Posted by Landing Gear View Post
[Apologies if this is the wrong forum. If so, mods, please move.]

Travel companion wants to buy a Cartier watch while in Europe. All will be in order. Everything will be declared.

Based upon your recent experience, how likely is Customs to charge duty on this watch? If they do, what is the rate?
Is your question whether Customs will figure out but it’s a very expensive watch? I would assume they would. I certainly wouldn’t try to get out of paying duty on it.
squeakr is offline  
Old Aug 9, 19, 9:41 pm
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: New York City/NY22
Programs: AA Platinum 2.3MM (Lifetime PLT)
Posts: 5,101
Originally Posted by squeakr View Post


Is your question whether Customs will figure out but it’s a very expensive watch? I would assume they would. I certainly wouldn’t try to get out of paying duty on it.
No, not at all. I am quite willing to pay whatever duty is assessed.

When I got backed from France in April, I was $800 over my exemption and they asked me for nothing. My questions come down to things:

1. Is there any possibility that Customs would let you "skate" on a $5,000 watch?

2. If not, how much will the duty be?
Landing Gear is offline  
Old Aug 9, 19, 10:00 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 3,742
Originally Posted by Landing Gear View Post
No, not at all. I am quite willing to pay whatever duty is assessed.

When I got backed from France in April, I was $800 over my exemption and they asked me for nothing. My questions come down to things:

1. Is there any possibility that Customs would let you "skate" on a $5,000 watch?

2. If not, how much will the duty be?
So, I think the officers have pretty broad discretion.
(anecdotal data point)
Three years ago, I bought my wife $4500 worth of diamond jewelry in Amsterdam for her birthday and declared at full value. The conversation went like
Officer: That's pretty expensive jewelry.
Me: Wife's birthday
He looks at her passport and says Oh, I see. Special one. Welcome home, and happy birthday.

I don't know what the rate would have been, but I had brought my checkbook because I read somewhere that not all POE's will take CC for duty.
BeanTownBoy, Yoshi212 and becks1 like this.
rickg523 is offline  
Old Aug 9, 19, 10:03 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: NYC
Programs: UA
Posts: 315
I was informally told by a customs agent that they use their discretion up to $1000 over.

When I have returned with over that amount my receipts have been examined — but what I brought in was not subject to duties so it was an administrative process with nothing payable.

Duties are complicated because of classification —for watches it has to do with precious metals, movement etc.

There are online duty calculators —but now sure how accurate they are.
arttravel is offline  
Old Aug 10, 19, 4:46 am
  #6  
1P
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: LAX and LHR. UA lifetime Gold 1.8MM 1K , HHonors Gold, Marriott Plat (hah!), Best Western Plat, Hertz #1 Gold PC, Avis Preferred
Posts: 3,013
I will never be in the postion of affording a $5000 watch, but couldn't your traveling companion simply wear the watch? I understand the ethical need to pay duty on alcohol, tobacco and other products, but this is something you wear. It's not a consumable product. Should duty be payable on what is simply an accessory? Just askin'
1P is offline  
Old Aug 10, 19, 4:57 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Sep 2018
Programs: BA
Posts: 52
As an accessory, why not just put it on? Put the box in your checked luggage and leave it at that
ard9719 is offline  
Old Aug 10, 19, 5:36 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jun 2016
Location: Prince Edward Island
Programs: Aeroplan Black, Hilton Honors Gold, Marriott Gold, Mlife Pearl
Posts: 1,385
Originally Posted by ard9719 View Post
As an accessory, why not just put it on? Put the box in your checked luggage and leave it at that
Firstly, the OP came here for advice on what the requirements are, not on how to cheat the system. Secondly, if you plan to break the law (which the OP didn't ask about and I'd advise against), you should at least be smart enough not to have the box (or receipts) with you when you cross the border. Saving a few dollars in duty is not worth the risk of them finding that empty box on a random bag search and figuring out that you lied about it.

Originally Posted by 1P View Post
I will never be in the postion of affording a $5000 watch, but couldn't your traveling companion simply wear the watch? I understand the ethical need to pay duty on alcohol, tobacco and other products, but this is something you wear. It's not a consumable product. Should duty be payable on what is simply an accessory? Just askin'
It's not an ethical duty, it's a legal duty - with consequences for non-compliance. Plus, I don't really understand why you make an ethical distinction between paying duty on some products and not others.

Last edited by Low Roller; Aug 10, 19 at 5:56 am
Low Roller is offline  
Old Aug 10, 19, 5:49 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Sep 2018
Programs: BA
Posts: 52
From within Europe you shouldn't need to pay duty anyway - From the GOV website

You do not pay duty or tax on goods you bring in from the European Union(EU) as long as you:
  • transport them yourself
  • will use them yourself or give them away as a gift
  • have paid duty and tax in the country where you bought them
ard9719 is offline  
Old Aug 10, 19, 6:01 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jun 2016
Location: Prince Edward Island
Programs: Aeroplan Black, Hilton Honors Gold, Marriott Gold, Mlife Pearl
Posts: 1,385
Are those the rules for within Europe (you don't say which government website)? If so, I'm pretty sure the OP is talking about bringing the watch from Europe to the US, so US customs rules would apply.
Low Roller is offline  
Old Aug 10, 19, 6:23 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Aug 2019
Programs: BA
Posts: 1
Tax refund

Don't forget you will be able to claim the 20% VAT back as you leave Europe if you buy from a reputable source
Yoshi212 and rickg523 like this.
Colin M is offline  
Old Aug 10, 19, 6:49 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Sep 2018
Programs: BA
Posts: 52
Originally Posted by Low Roller View Post
Are those the rules for within Europe (you don't say which government website)? If so, I'm pretty sure the OP is talking about bringing the watch from Europe to the US, so US customs rules would apply.
My apologies - i thought it was going to AMS not out!
ard9719 is offline  
Old Aug 10, 19, 7:36 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Programs: Continental Onepass, Hilton, Marriott, USAir and now UA
Posts: 3,250
Paying the duty

I have brought back and paid the duty on a $5000 watch. After all of the calculations done by the Custom’s officer, the final cost was about 1/2% extra.
I felt that given the discount I received at the time of the sale payment of what would be a very low sales tax was still a really good deal.
The total duty was around $30.

Am I really going to try and cheat the system for that amount of money?
estnet, TWA884 and TommiiBoii like this.
radonc1 is offline  
Old Aug 10, 19, 7:56 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: on the path to perdition
Programs: Delta, United
Posts: 4,102
I have imported a fair number things into the US. The harmonized tariff schedule is on line: https://hts.usitc.gov. Do a search under wrist watch and you should get to the heading for 9101. From there you will need to figure out the correct sub-heading and Stat. Suffix. But my initial read would that one could expect to pay 3.1% of the value. If they know exactly which watch they will be buying one can call the customs office and ask for a specific reading. They are quite helpful. I do this to verify duty and then print the appropriate pages for the goods. This helps whether the item is being shipped or hand carried into the US. because the customs office has the duty right there in front of them. This is especially helpful when there is no duty.

Of course given they are bringing the item in themselves, I would declare it, but then let the Customs office decide if they want to collect the duty. I.e. have the duty paper work ready to verify the correct duty is being applied (i.e. Customs may charge less or nothing). Also when declaring the item make sure one writes down the value - not the price paid as that would include the VAT. Finally make sure when leaving the country there is time to find and wait in line to have the VAT paper work stamped at the airport.
Landing Gear and TommiiBoii like this.
FlyingUnderTheRadar is offline  
Old Aug 10, 19, 8:10 am
  #15  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Not here; there!
Programs: AA Lifetime Gold
Posts: 21,385
Apart from any duty which might be owed, the OP should be aware that, if he resides in a state with a sales tax, he might owe a compensating use tax in an amount equal to the sales tax. U.S. Customs will make customs declarations available to state tax authorities:

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/det...imported-goods
guv1976 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread