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When I exited NYC a few years back, I was asked to fill in a form while in the plane to the Netherlands.

The form asked me if I had anything to declare. I was at that time and still am unsure of what I have to fill in there and why I have to do it in the plane. The flight attendants failed to answer my questions and there was very little time before landing. I ended up listing everything I was bringing home; from a pack of gum to a new t-shirt.

Is this the correct way to go about? As far as I'm aware you don't have to pay anything if your total amount of purchased items stays under 430 euro.

So my questions are:

  1. Do I have to fill in this form on the plane if the total amount of my items is under 430 euro?
  2. If I do; Do I literally have to list every item I have purchased and am bringing home?
  3. Why do they ask me to do such a thing on the plane with such a short amount of time?
  4. Do I need to have receipts of all the things I'm bringing?

I am travelling back home to the Netherlands from Texas.

  • You declare only stuff that goes beyond your duty-free allowance, that you bought outside of the EU and bring in. There are also exceptions if you are actually moving (rather than coming back from a trip), but this would be a question to ask on expatriates.SE. – jcaron Sep 1 '16 at 11:07
  • @jcaron and the 430 euro is my 'duty free allowance'? This would make a good answer, btw. – Summer Sep 1 '16 at 11:09
  • It's a bit more complex than that, as there are also specific allowances for things like alcohol, tobacco products, etc. – jcaron Sep 1 '16 at 11:12
  • @jcaron Thanks, I read into duty free allowance and understand it now. As I do not wish to bring alcohol, tobacco or fuel and wish to stay under the 430 euro allowance I do not think I need to declare anything on the plane. – Summer Sep 1 '16 at 11:15
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    @djna, they are definitely subject to the duties, but I've never filled a customs declaration form in the plane when entering the EU from outside the EU. – jcaron Sep 2 '16 at 10:44
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  1. I don't know this exact form (don't recall such a form even though I had many occasions to fly to Schiphol from outside the EU) but you might have to specify that you do in fact have nothing to declare. Just like walking through the green channel after the luggage claim, this amounts to making a declaration and you could theoretically be prosecuted if it turns out to be inaccurate.

    The safest (if slightly annoying) course of action if you have any doubt is to list everything/go through the red channel. Letting customs agents figuring it out for you ensures that a mistake won't put you in trouble and makes you eligible for a lower tax rate on goods worth less than €700. By contrast, if you do not volunteer anything and are found to exceed the allowance, then a higher rate applies and you might risk a fine.

    Also note that the €430 threshold is not the only relevant rule: There are special restrictions for some products, in particular tobbacco and alcohol.

  2. I think you do. Technically, if you have several items, some of them might still be included in the allowance (you do have to pay duty on the total value of an item worth more than €430 and not on the portion of the price that's over the allowance). But you will have to walk through the red channel, at which points customs agents will want to know exactly what you are carrying so listing everything the easiest way to save time and avoid misunderstandings.

  3. So that it's easier than doing it with even less time at the customs check itself.

  4. Ideally yes, if there are doubts the burden of proof is on you. But at the same time customs agent have some idea of the price of things and especially well-known brands so if you are not playing too close, they might just wave you through based on a few questions or a quick glance at the items, without looking at receipts or anything.

I would add that in general being forthcoming and proactive is always beneficial. Chances are you won't have to pay anything but the fact you make clear that you want to do things by the book and are ready to pay taxes if need be tends to make customs agents less suspicious, in my experience. It did even happen once or twice that customs agent would just wave me through and turn a blind eye to a small excess (a couple of extra wine bottles over the limit).

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