Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Paying duty on something you already owned?

Picture this: You go on a trip to Japan, and since you'll be staying in a technologically sophisticated country for a couple of weeks, you decide to take your laptop along with you. Upon your return to the U.S., the Customs agent makes you pay duty on the computer, because you can't prove you didn't buy it in Japan.

Sound far fetched? I'm afraid not. I travel quite a bit, but I wasn't aware that CBP (Customs & Border Protection) can make you pay duty on something you took with you on your trip—if you don't have proof that you bought it in the U.S. and took it with you.

The anecdotes I've heard from people who've been questioned by CBP suggest you're most likely to be hassled when returning from a country where your big-ticket item is commonly sold at a price lower than you'd pay in the U.S. (for example, if you bring your expensive Canon digital SLR camera to Japan).

These people managed to talk their way out of paying duty, but to avoid potential hassles, CBP recommends registering your items before you take them out of the country. To me, this seems like going through one hassle to avoid other hassles, but it might be worth the effort, depending on what you own and where you're going.

Other common-sense ideas suggested that a pre-existing insurance policy on your items, or a photograph of you holding your items in an obviously American location, should be enough to prove you owned your items before your current travel. But it's never wise to think common sense will prevail where the government is concerned, so you might want to consider getting that Form 4457 before your next trip.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled on to your site via today's Frommers newsletter. Awesome pictures, writings, and philosophy. Well done!! Betsy

April 14, 2008 8:15 AM  

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