I'm a German national, and I have lived for the past 2 years in France. Like many people, I travel with my iPad, phone and MacBook; each of these items are over one and a half years old, bought in USA, and I have travelled more than 7 times around the world with them.

Recently I travelled to Mexico for vacation (my parents live there). During my layover in Germany I was forced me to pay 500 euros worth of taxes and insurances because I didn't declare them. I have never heard of this before, surely it is completely absurd since these items are already used and old! This is completely wrong, right? Is there any way I can complain and get my money back or report this?

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    Are you sure these were duties for your electronics?
    – Karlson
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 14:24
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    Can you edit the question to give us more details, such as: Exactly who stopped you? Was it entering or leaving Germany? Where were you going after Germany? Did you pay import duties on these items when you first imported them from USA to France? Exactly what "insurance" were you forced to pay? Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 14:54
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    You are a German citizen, the electronics you bought from outside Germany, you entered Germany with these items, therefore you are liable for any duty. While it might not seem fair, that is the way things work.
    – user13044
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 14:58
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    This is a rant. The OP is unlikely to agree with any answer given unless it agrees with his own personal opinion. I would VtC, but do not have the reputation.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 16:27
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    Technically, this is completely right. People are used to get away with treating all this casually, which is why it may seem absurd, but (a) if you bought these things in the US and live in the EU you had to import them properly and pay duty at some point (b) if you travel around the world with something expensive, the onus is on you to prove where and when you bought them and that you followed all the other relevant rules.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 10:21

1 Answer 1


On your way to where you live in France, when you stopped in Germany, customs asked you questions about your electronics and you told them what you told us - that you had lived in France for 2 years, and bought all these items in the US a year and a half ago. They asked you if you had declared them and paid import duties, and you said no.

They then imposed import duties on you. Because really you should have declared these items the first time you brought them to Europe, and you should have paid import duties on them. @thorb65's calculation shows that you were charged about what you would have been if you had declared them initially, which is very fair - they could have charged you with smuggling or imposed a penalty. It doesn't matter that no-one asked you about the electronics - it's your responsibility to declare anything you are importing. (I'll assume that "insurance" is just a misunderstanding about what you paid - there is no reason to pay insurance).

If you really did pay import duties when you first bought the items, or if you can show that no duties were necessary, you may be able to clear this up - as long as you can back up what you say: but if you didn't, then this is probably the correct thing. It's a bit harsh, but ultimately legal.

Nationality is irrelevant to import duties: it's all about whether you are importing the items permanently, as opposed to just passing through with them. A German, a Mexican or a Canadian would all be charged the same. It also doesn't matter about whether you are entering the EU through France or Germany - importing anywhere into the EU counts the same. Nor does it matter that you have previously imported the items to another country - you still have to pay German taxes (again excepting transfers within the EU).

Here is a page stating the duty-free allowances that you can bring to Germany. Anything over 430 Euros is taxable, no matter where you are coming from (outside the EU).

If you had imported these items as part of a move to the EU, after living abroad, you would probably not have had to pay duty.

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    yes, he's right. No matter if german or french citizin, if you're coming from outside the eu you're allowed to import goods for a maximum of 470€. For all above you have to pay the tax, in germany its 19%. so lets calculate: iphone 800$, ipad 400$, macbook 1500$: total 2700$, 19% is ... be happy that they don't start a criminal procedure because of tax evasion ;-)
    – thorb65
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 15:13
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    I think you are wrong about import duties beginning at $10,000, and about electronics being exempt. As I say, it's irrelevant that no-one asked you about the electronics. It's your job to declare them. Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 15:21
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    Just because you imported something to Mexico doesn't mean you don't have to pay duty when you import it to Germany. I have linked to a page that clearly says anything over 430 Euros is taxable. Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 15:29
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    You said in the question you bought them a year and a half ago. If you can prove that you declared them when you moved, you may be able to get this fixed. But this has got too detailed for the comments section, and this conversation will have to stop. Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 15:47
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    @vartec nope! There's a value limit on everything lumped together. Can you imagine that, oh that $2500 Wacom Cintiq Companion is a single one for personal use, sure, sure, you don't need to pay duties. You also have a $3000 mobile workstation? Well, as long as it's a single one for personal use, no problems, have a nice day. That's just ridiculous.
    – user4188
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 1:21

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