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I go on an overseas trip and buy a new camera while there. I declare it (when returning to my country of origin) upon going through customs. I pay a duty.

I go on an overseas trip and buy a new camera. I don't declare it. Now I pay duty, plus a fine or some other penalty for (let's be honest, smuggling.)

I go on an overseas trip and take a nice camera with me. I don't declare it, as I shouldn't have to. If a customs agent finds it, I may have to argue my case. If I'm unconvincing, chances are I pay duty and a fine. Shouldn't have to, but hey, it's on me to prove it's not dutiable.

Now for my question. Should I declare it, as a non-dutiable thing? or does that presume guilt/duty?

(This is a subjective question, so if closed, I won't quibble.)

  • Oh, and I'm talking pure general/hypothetical here, not tied to any specific country and it's laws. I mean, would it be generally better to declare "I have a nice camera, but I took it with me on this trip." – CGCampbell Oct 10 '14 at 15:37
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    Literally in answer to your question -- no, don't declare it or mention it. If you honest to God know it should not be declared (i.e.: you have, simply, owned it for years), then you have nothing to declare. If you have nothing to declare: that's the end of it. Note that you literally could not 'declare' it because --- it is not declarable!!!!! You own it, it was not bought overseas, and there is obviously no customs involvement. – Fattie Oct 11 '14 at 11:37
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    @JoeBlow please make that an answer, it is the most correct yet – CGCampbell Oct 11 '14 at 17:09
  • I have done the opposite, avoided import duty on a new laptop by declaring that I will take it out on exit. The customs officer noted the serial number in my passport (they checked this on exit and would have fined me if I didn't have it). Obviously, the exact procedure varies by country. – dbkk Oct 11 '14 at 19:11
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Literally in answer to your question -- no, don't declare it or mention it.

If you honest to God know it should not be declared (i.e.: you have, simply, owned it for years), then you have nothing to declare. If you have nothing to declare: that's the end of it.

Note that you literally could not 'declare' it because --- it is not declarable!!!!! You own it, it was not bought overseas, and there is obviously no customs involvement. You literally "can not" declare it. So, do nothing.

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  • On the other hand, I have never had a problem asking a customs officer whether I need to declare something (though of course experience may vary). – Max Oct 12 '14 at 9:42
  • That's true (+1) but that's purely a definitional point. You should not declare an item you took with you as something new and dutiable but what should you do in practice if you are concerned about it? The question could therefore also be understood as “Should I approach customs officers or mention it if I am stopped?” – Relaxed Oct 12 '14 at 11:19
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Don't know if that's the answer you are looking for but another possibility is to approach the customs administration before leaving. There is often some procedure you can follow to facilitate re-entry, sometimes it's as simple as a form to fill in at the airport, without any fee. But you need to do it on the way out, not on the way back.

Whatever you do, having the original receipt would seem useful.

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  • Reading other questions, I found myself wondering this actually. Is it possible to get a customs form, outgoing, so that when you return, you've already got your proof. (assuming no receipts.) – CGCampbell Oct 10 '14 at 18:21
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    @CGCampbell This is old, but yes. In the US, you can register your items with CBP before you leave, to prove that they were already in the US and so you shouldn't be charged duty on them when you return. Other countries often have similar procedures. It's not particularly necessary for items commonly carried by travelers, but it's an option. – Zach Lipton Jan 8 '17 at 8:30
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Both Canada and US have a procedure for documenting your existing ownership of items that might be deemed new and dutiable if you leave the country with them and then bring them back home from a trip ezbordercrossing.

I found it most useful when I took a bunch of Japanese made camera equipment on a trip from Canada to Japan, and came home with a lot more Japanese camera equipment.

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In general, if it looks new, the customs guys may be very suspicious, but if it is used, probably not so much.

If you are at all concerned, take the original receipt with you. This gives you a quick and easy solution.

It's not perfect, by any means, but means customs have a way of checking if necessary.

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