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I live in Netherlands. Last summer I flew from outside of Europe to Hamburg, Germany. Upon my arrival I had two boxes of cigarettes in my suitcase. The custom officer confiscated one of the boxes and asked me to pay for custom duties. No payment option was possible for me at that time, therefore the officer gave me some documents and asked me to pay when I got to Netherlands.

I lost the piece of paper, although it was written in German I couldn’t understand all of it - I think something about if I do not pay, the amount will be withdrawn from my bank account through “Dutch Tax Authorities”. I think it also said something about being banned from flying or even entering Germany if I do not pay the duties, but I’m not sure.

I couldn’t pay the duties because the bank account information written in the documents were for local payment and I needed IBAN, Swift etc. information to be able to pay the duties. I called them, but they said that they cannot provide anything more than what was included in the initial documents and I should either have paid the amount back then or I should find a way to pay it now.

It has been almost a year and I have lost the documents. I tried to contact customs authorities at Hamburg Airport, but they say they need the reference number written in the document that I lost. And they claim that they can not tell me whether I am prohibited from flying or even entering Germany or not.

Extra details:
I did not know that you are only allowed to have one box in your suitcase. I asked the custom officer whether I could just throw the cigarettes in a trash can, but he said I wasn’t allowed to.
I did not get any letter/mail from Hamburg Customs after I lost the initial documents.
Dutch Tax Authorities have not asked me to do or pay anything.

Edit:
I am not a permanent resident of EU, I study in EU.
I did not know that I could convert the bank account number into an IBAN etc., and now I do not have those informations anymore.
The amount that was due to pay I think was around 78 euro.
I don't know the right term, but what I mean is that I had two separate boxes that contained multiple packs of cigarette. I do not remember the exact amount.

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    Your question doesn't seem overly long, to me: you give quite a lot of detail but it all seems relevant. (The "long" questions are the ones where people feel the need to include all kinds of irrelevant back story like how tired they were after the long flight and how there was a baby crying the whole time so they couldn't sleep and...) – David Richerby May 1 at 12:29
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    Difficult to say anything for sure without seeing the paper you lost, but the chances you would be altogether banned from anything related to Germany or Hamburg are pretty slim. There’s a small chance that they would detect you when going through passport control, but that’s probably about it. Note however that if they do ask you to pay, you may have to pay quite a lot more than the original amount (due to late payment penalties, interest, etc.). – jcaron May 1 at 14:33
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    @HenningMakholm I think that's what we call in the US a "case," which is ten packs. The traveler's allowance is 200 cigarettes (a case) and two cases is 400 cigarettes. The charge for exceeding the allowance is either 18 or 19 cents a cigarette, so if the charge is figured on the entire quantity without deducting the allowance, then the charge on 400 cigarettes would be €72 or €76. – phoog May 1 at 14:53
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    @Loga, they might consider your non-payment tax evasion. A legal problem, but not an immigration problem. – o.m. May 1 at 16:22
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    @phoog I would expect it to be called a "carton". – Acccumulation May 14 at 19:21
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You are most certainly not banned from flying into Hamburg airport specifically; if anything, you are banned from entering Germany as a whole. However, the relevant law to determine an entry ban or a rejection, the Aufenthaltsgesetz (law concerning the presence in the Federal Republic, rough translation), names only one reason for an entry ban (assuming your documents are in order): namely previously being removed from Germany due to certain crimes. Not paying customs duties is not listed, it would require some kind of additional court conviction.

However, you are most likely still required to pay the customs duties you owe and interest and fees may have been added since your original infraction. How this is handled may or may not depend on the mood of the customs officer handling your case on your next entry into Germany and there may or may not be a flag popping up on the screen of the immigration officer when they scan your passport. So I would expect you to be charged when you return.

For the record, I would assume that customs does not have access to any type of immigration ban lists. This is because there are two different agencies in Germany: customs (Zoll or Bundeszollverwaltung in the long form) which handles goods inspections and the federal police (Bundespolizei, formerly Bundesgrenzschutz) which performs immigration inspections; quite unlike the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) which performs both duties. I strongly expect German customs to have no access whatsoever to the databases of the federal police except where it explicitly concerns their jobs.

Further answers may be able to provide additional elaboration.

  • Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time going into details. My main concern was not being able to fly from Hamburg Airport anymore. But now I assume that they could be able to find my file and I would be able to pay for custom duties + fines, and there will not be any problem afterwards. – Loga May 2 at 9:55
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For future reference, you can check allowances at www.zoll.de.

In general there will be no criminal prosecution for smuggling if it is "accidental" and the duties on your goods would've been less than 250 EUR (§32 ZollVG). In that case you'll basically be fined by paying up to double the normal duties.

Theoretically you could be banned for smuggling or other crimes, but this will only happen if you're a professional smuggler and/or repeat offender. Also, the ban will include immediate removal from the country, and you would certainly know if that happened to you.

So, you are almost certainly not banned from entering Germany. You technically still owe the fine, though. It is highly unlikely that anybody even cared, though.

As has been said, the customes inspection (Zoll) and immigration (Bundespolizei) are different entities, and it is highly unlikely that the customs offices would go to the trouble of contacting immigrations over a missing 70-something Euros.

Thus, it's unlikely that you'll be flagged at immigration. If you are inspected by the customs office again (very rare on intra-EU flights), there is a chance that the unpaid fine could pop up - in which case they'd ask you to pay again. Also, if they catch you smuggling again, they're almost certain to check your history in more detail.

The most likely scenario is that they're not keeping track of the whole thing. Also, if you're arriving from the Netherlands, you won't go through immigration in the first place and customs very rarely checks travelers on intra-EU flights.

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The German term is Karton or Stange, which is 10 packets.

The text implies that you gave your Bank information and that the dutch tax office would book it from your account if no payment arrived.

Generally older Account numbers are the base of the iban number, with an added country and bank information. So the Dutch tax office will know how to book it if they truly wanted to.

If it has not been done by now, it may have been 'lost' somewhere inside/inbetween the (very deep) realms of the corresponding buroracicies, so either it will never turn up or it will suddenly turn up in 10 years.

Not paying a customs duty is not a crime (Verbrechen: 12 minimal months jail without suspension or money fine), but a misdemeanor (Vergehen) .


Strafgesetzbuch (StGB)

  • § 12(1) Verbrechen
    • minimal punishment defined as 1 year
    • French equivalent: crime
  • § 12(2) Vergehen
    • minimal punishment less than 1 year or fine
    • French equivalent: drélit
  • § 56(1) Bewährungstrafe
    • conviction of not more than 1 year

Note: Durring my (Reserve) Police training, I remember it so that if a suspension (Bewährungsstrafe) was definded inmn the StGB, it was also considered a Vergehen.

Looking this up now, I could not find a conformation for such a claim.

Misdemeanor (US law) seems to be definded as 1 year or less

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misdemeanor--


It is such small fee, that in general such things are forgotten or are determined not worth the effort (Verhältnismäßigkeit der Mittel).

If you are very unlucky a bored Official, driven crazy by his over eager apprentice says : 'work through that dusty pile of unfinished offenses'. Then, of course, you are sunk since the apprentice will wish to prove himself.

It is possible that after sending it to the Dutch, it was promply forgotten by German customs and 'lost' by the Dutch, since for them there is no gain.

Don't let it bother you, sleeping well is more important than worrying about this affair.

  • "Not paying a customs duty is not a crime (12 minimal months jail without suspension or money fine), but a felony." Perhaps you mean "not a misdemeanor" rather than "not a crime"? – Acccumulation May 14 at 19:24
  • Yes, sometimes I mixup the English terminology. Adapted text also adding German term for clarity. – Mark Johnson May 14 at 21:06
  • Why the Dutch tax, it is about Germany, not the Netherlands. – Willeke May 15 at 17:28
  • Read the question. There it is stated that the fine will be passed on to the 'The Dutch Tax Authority' (his country of residence) if the payment is not received soon. – Mark Johnson May 15 at 17:34
  • In case it is not clear, in Germany it is common that fines or fees from a State institution (such as Customs and Television fees) are enforced by the local Tax office. Thus such a statement from a Customs officer is plausible. – Mark Johnson May 15 at 17:48

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