Soon I will be travelling from Europe to the US for a week. I have a plan to purchase a laptop online and have it ship to the hotel I am staying at.

My concern is, will I be able to take the laptop back to Europe with me as hand luggage without running into taxation/confiscation and/or other problems?

  • 1
    In addition to the taxation issues, don't forget you'll get a US keyboard, which is physically different from most European keyboards (see left Shift key or the Return key for instance). Additionally, you might have issues with warranty coverage later on. You'll also have a power supply with a different plug. And finally, once you factor in the sales tax you pay over there (but is not included in the advertised prices) and the currency exchange + foreign payment fees, there will be very little price difference. If you pay VAT on top, it'll most certainly end up being more expensive.
    – jcaron
    Apr 29 '16 at 15:18
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    @jcaron buying a different plug for the power supply is easy and inexpensive. It is probably possible to arrange a mall-order sale with no sales tax, but even if one pays the sales tax it is generally far lower than VAT, like maybe one third to one fifth the rate. Besides, many US jurisdictions have no sales tax.
    – phoog
    Apr 29 '16 at 16:21

Taxation and hand luggage rules are completely unrelated to each other. You should be able to take your laptop as cabin luggage, either in your bag - for the cheapest airlines - or next to your bag - for legacy airlines, which probably includes most transatlantic flights. The latter is what's usually called "personal item".

But taking the laptop as a personal item does not mean you can import it tax-free. If it costs less than EUR 430, you can import it without any formalities and you don't need to declare it. If it costs more than that, you'll have to declare it and pay VAT (and possibly customs duty but VAT is usually the big one for something like a laptop).

Also note that other goods you might be importing also count towards the allowance.

  • Correcting me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't that mean that I can't even take something that I personally own already like a mobile phone without avoiding VAT on my way back? (Taking in account it's worth more than €430) And how could they prove that it's worth more than €430 if I remove all packaging and stickers?
    – AGuest101
    Apr 29 '16 at 14:04
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    Obviously, if you remove the package and stickers, you might get away with it but you're still committing fraud. But that's an entirely different question.
    – Relaxed
    Apr 29 '16 at 14:09
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    @AGuest101. You may get away with it (people almost certainly do all the time), but that's the point, you'd be "getting away with" commiting the crime of Tax Evasion. It's worth noting that you won't pay VAT on the first €430, and there's often reduced rates available after that if you declare it at first import. If you look around on this site, you'll find at least one question where someone got caught with their illegally imported laptop over a year later, and had to then pay the import VAT.
    – CMaster
    Apr 29 '16 at 14:12
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    Always consider that you have much stronger consumer rights in the EU. You have these rights if you buy from a store in the EU, and not in the USA. And check your warranty: If you have problems with your purchase, can you get them fixed without going to the USA?
    – gnasher729
    Apr 29 '16 at 22:02
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    @AGuest101: You ask "how can they prove?". They don't have to prove. That nice customs officer estimates the item is worth €500, and then you have the problem proving that it's not. And he just keeps the item until you pay or provide the evidence. Obviously if you have an item like a laptop, or other electronic items, he looks at the keyboard, and he looks at the power plug, and I bet he recognises a US keyboard and a US power plug.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 29 '16 at 22:04

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