There are many reasons to be detained by an officer of the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when returning to the United States, but you wouldn’t think that one of those reasons would be because you have too much cash on you. CBP doesn’t come right out and say “show me the money”, but travelers are required to report monies over $10,000 and a supplemental form must be completed by the traveler. In speaking with many foreign travelers, the big misconception is that taxes, customs duties, or some other fee must be paid to the United States Government on the monies over $10,000. WRONG!

Think about this, who travels with large amounts of money and for what? The most cash heavy travelers are gamblers attending Poker Tournaments, and tradeshow vendors/buyers that travel abroad to make their purchases. Do you really think that they pay customs duties on the cash- NO. On the merchandise possibly, but that’s another blog.

If you do not declare the cash you have and CBP finds it, you will not only forfeit all of your money, but you may also have to pay a penalty and possibly be criminally prosecuted.

In speaking with a few United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, CBP is more concerned about where the money came from and the reasons for carrying large amounts of cash than anything else. In today’s economy, could your average Joe Traveler just go to the bank and withdraw $10,000 and travel abroad? The answer is probably not. However, could the average Jane Buyer withdraw legitimate company funds, travel to a vendor’s factory and make purchases? Absolutely!

It basically comes down to these Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do advise CBP of what you have.
  • Don’t, under any circumstances, lie to CBP.
  • Do declare the exact amount you are carrying.
  • Don’t try to hide money throughout your person and/or luggage with the thought that “They’ll never look there”, because they will.
  • Do keep a record from where you withdrew the funds you are carrying.
  • Don’t try to pass off money to your traveling companion so the amount carried is less than $10,000.
  • Don’t try to handle the matter without legal counsel familiar with these matters.

It’s not rocket science, but if you are willing to take a chance on CBP seizing your cash, the old adage comes to mind, “A fool and his gold are soon parted!”