I'm a French resident.

In 2019 I bought online a $200 laptop coming from Hong-Kong. It was sold by the merchant without VAT and sent by DHL. I remember very well I had to pay around 55 euros in VAT + custom taxes on the DHL website in order to get my shipment delivered to me.

It seems I made the mistake to delete all my emails concerning this device. I have absolutely no proof anymore that I paid the VAT and other taxes. I don't even have the invoice from the merchant anymore.

Now the thing is, I'd like to travel outside EU with this device. So the question is: When reentering EU (France) do I risk paying VAT and import taxes a second time if I'm not able to prove that I already paid them?

I want to travel with 2 laptops in total and several other electronic devices but I'm worried they ask me to pay for things I already paid for…

  • Are you still in France?
    – Willeke
    Apr 9, 2022 at 7:32
  • Yes still living in France but traveling in Asia next month and coming back with a transit through Turkey Apr 9, 2022 at 7:46
  • 1
    In practice, nobody ever looks at an obviously used laptop, also not if you carry two. Nowadays, they look at you funny if you don't have a laptop with you...
    – Aganju
    Apr 10, 2022 at 0:50

2 Answers 2


When reentering EU (France) do I risk paying VAT and import taxes a second time if I'm not able to prove that I already paid them?

In theory, yes, the burden of proof is on you. That said, there are several reasons not to be concerned in your case. $200 is within the duty free allowance for personal use. It does not apply when you order by mail (which is why you had to pay in 2019) but it does apply if you're bringing something with you, making the question moot. On top of that, a laptop from 2019 has already lost much of its value. Things would be different if we were talking about a newish Apple device.

All that assumes your other devices have been bought in France / the EU or properly imported and are otherwise unremarkable, the allowance applies to everything you're importing into the EU, not device-by-device.

  • As OP travels with several devices, is there a real concern that the total value runs a trigger?
    – Willeke
    Apr 9, 2022 at 15:23
  • @Willeke Not sure I undersand your question, what do you mean?
    – Relaxed
    Apr 10, 2022 at 15:00
  • 1
    OP will not have just the one laptop but also more expensive items. I wonder whether a high total can give a problem with his older laptop.
    – Willeke
    Apr 10, 2022 at 16:57
  • Well, actually the price of this laptop even increased because of the component shortage making their price higher. It's now sold for $219. As for my other laptop and electronic devices they were all bought outside of EU because I was living abroad and came back to France in 2019. So this $200 laptop is the only one I've actually paid VAT + import taxes. Just that I can't prove it... I think it would be better if I don't bring it. I don't want to look like someone coming back with too many electronic things with me. Especially laptops without French keyboards... Apr 10, 2022 at 19:25
  • @Willeke Yes, that's what the last sentence of th answer is about. But if those laptops were bought in France or you have documentation about them, there is no problem.
    – Relaxed
    Apr 11, 2022 at 0:03

According to this brochure (pdf) from the French Customs ministry, you can:

To spare you the trouble of carrying all these documents [receipts, warranty cards, etc.], and to facilitate customs clearance of your personal belongings, you may obtain a single document called the free circulation card*. The free circulation card is free of charge, valid 10 years from date of issue and renewable. You can obtain one at any customs office by presenting your belongings together with supporting documents (invoices, customs receipts, warranty certificates, etc.). As and when you purchase new items, you may have additional entries listed on your card by applying to the same office that issued the original card.

This may not help with the laptop if the customs office doesn't accept it, but might exempt other devices so that you're under the tax-free limit.

  • 1
    Interesting, I've never heard of this free circulation card. However I think the wiser thing now is just to take the habit of scanning those documents and be able to show them at the custom if needed... Apr 10, 2022 at 19:27

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