I Do Declare…

When it comes to the US Customs and Declaration form, I do declare everything I purchase abroad. Yes, everything I bring back into the US goes on that darn form. When I purchase an item overseas I put the receipt in a special section of my wallet. Then, prior to packing for my return home, I put all the items together and take inventory. When I pack the suitcase all those items go on top thus closest to the opening. Upon departure from Paris and requesting the VAT tax refund, you must be prepared that the French may demand to see the items. Keeping the articles in one spot and on top in your luggage will prevent you from the embarrassment of rifling through your bag exposing your delicates in public to seek the requested articles.
Once I am on the plane, I simply take out my inventory list and/or my receipts and fill out the declaration form. Easy as pie. Invariably, when I am traveling with someone they will ask me. “Do I have to declare” such and such? I always tell them that I declare everything, but do what you want. Then typically a short discussion ensues about what is the individual allowance? (It’s $800 by the way – not Euros!) Followed by, “Does the stuff in Duty Free count?” (It does count towards your $800.) I used to be that person asking because I traveled less frequently, but have always erred on the side of extreme caution. When in doubt, write it down. I did this for over 20 years and was never stopped.
What happens when they pull you to the side and send you behind the secret wall? Well, now I know! I was stopped this past trip, damn that Louis Vuitton “forever” bag. It flagged me for sure. I did not sweat it though because one, I had declared everything and two, I was prepared to pay any duty owed without a fuss. The young Asian girl next to me with a suitcase full of dubious electronics was in a complete panic and I felt sorry for her. My nice Customs Official went through my list, looked on his computer to see what applied to the $800 and I offered to show him any and all items in question. In the end, it was determined that I was totally fine and owed no duty. It pays to be honest the official said and I could not agree more.
Do you declare everything?


  • Madison
    Posted at 07:01h, 31 May Reply

    I know this post is quite old, but I have a couple questions! I’m going to Paris in a few weeks and plan on purchasing a Louis Vuitton Neverfull GM. It will be $100-200 (hopefully, if everything works out) over the $800 limit, but only this. Have you been stopped with an LV before? Do you know why you were not required to pay tax on your bag? How does this all work?

    • Weekend In Paris
      Posted at 08:52h, 22 June Reply

      Hello Madison,

      Sorry for the late reply but I was out of the country. I was over the limit and declared it when I purchased mine. If you are traveling with family it can apply to their $800 and thus you are ok. When they stopped me because I admitted I was over the limit they went through my purchases and asked if I was able to get the same purse here in the US and I wasn’t sure. They let me go without a duty levy, but that would be the worst case scenario. If you do not declare it and are stopped their are too many penalties. I would not risk it.

      I am excited for you. Please let me know how it works out.


  • Christopher Perez
    Posted at 10:23h, 31 January Reply

    Its a pain, especially after a 18 hour flight to declare all your items. It’s more of a pain to be held up at customs after an 18 hour flight due to not declaring those items. Like you mentioned they are looking for key items, and the average person usually has nothing to worry about.

    • Weekend In Paris
      Posted at 16:13h, 31 January Reply

      Thanks for chiming in Christopher. It was a pain to deal with Customs after my 11 hour flight, but it could have been a whole lot worse. I could have been in a huge line, there was none and I could have scored a less than pleasant officer. I was very lucky to have a nice experience.

  • forest
    Posted at 09:13h, 31 January Reply

    People are always trying to sneak something by and get one over. Nice to see honesty paying off!

    • Weekend In Paris
      Posted at 09:27h, 31 January Reply

      So true Forest!
      Hope you are having a good Tuesday – it’s a long way to Friday cocktails!

  • margo waite
    Posted at 09:10h, 31 January Reply

    Priscilla, my husband, with an abundance of caution like yours, even declares on the customs form peanuts he was given on the plane and carried with him. It always gets a laugh from the officials–and his honesty gets us waved right through.

    • Weekend In Paris
      Posted at 09:28h, 31 January Reply

      Your husband is taking this to a whole new level! You can tell him I know for a fact he need not declare those, but if he still wants a chuckle, keep doing it. He’s hilarious!

  • Christina G. Smith
    Posted at 09:06h, 31 January Reply

    Wow in all my times back and forth I’ve never put down anything. I’ve never been stopped either. But as long as you’re below the limit on the paper they give you it shouldn’t be a big deal should it? It seemed like it was always just for expensive stuff like gold, diamonds, etc.
    ~shrugs~ I’ve never heard of anyone declaring so little before.

    • Weekend In Paris
      Posted at 09:32h, 31 January Reply

      Hi Christina,
      Thanks for reading this post and taking the time to comment. Just because you are below the limit, does not mean they won’t check. It’s not the cost that is the problem most of the time, it’s the particular item that the US is trying to protect people from purchasing elsewhere cheaper. The customs’ official explained this to me. They have a list of items that is incredibly detailed. Whether a handbag is leather, partially leather matters. That’s just one example, but just to let you know that penalties can be severe for NOT declaring as opposed to writing everything down even if it’s within the limits.
      Happy reading!

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