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Traveling with cash: What you should keep in mind visiting the European Union

Dec 21, 15 • Customs LawNo Comments

Lately, there have been an increasing number of cases in which customs authorities carried out targeted cash controls on travelers. Therefore, a number of important rules must be considered when traveling across borders with 10,000 Euros or more.

Cash declaration

First, the timing of the declaration is important. Many travelers correctly presume that cash must be declared upon entering a country. It is less well known, however, that cash must also be declared upon leaving for an international trip. For example, travelers flying from Germany to the United States with around € 13,000 need to make two customs declarations: the first one at the customs office of the country of departure (Germany), and the second one at the customs office of the destination (USA). For this reason, it is important to identify the customs office’s location in advance. At airports, be it Frankfurt Airport or London Heathrow, the declaration is to be made before the security checkpoint.

Non-compliance procedures start at baggage screening

If no declaration is made, the screening of the carry-on luggage may already initiate non-compliance procedures, with customs offices in general withholding 25% of the carried amount to cover the expected fine.

Where several people travel together, further attention should be paid as to how much cash each individual is carrying. The declaration always applies to the person carrying the cash. It is irrelevant whether the money carried by one person is also intended for any accompanying persons. If the money is not declared, customs offices are rigorous. In this case, the money should be split prior arriving at the airport.

Declaration free of charge

The declaration is free of charge within the EU. Even if the amount of 10,000 Euros is exceeded, no taxes or duties are due. If no declaration is filed, although it would have been required, fines up to one million Euros are possible. Persons affected should obtain legal advice when being threatened with fines.

Stefan Winheller

Attorney Stefan Winheller has specialized in tax law for about 20 years, especially in the areas of cryptocurrencies, foundations/nonprofits and international tax law.

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