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Question: import tax on personal musical instruments?

Question: import tax on personal musical instruments?

Old Jul 1st, 2014, 11:44 AM
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Question: import tax on personal musical instruments?

I'm a US citizen and I live and work in the Netherlands (5 year work visa, technology).

I'm visiting the US right now, and when I fly back to NL I would like to take back a few of my personal musical instruments. Now I am being warned by a Dutch friend that they may try to levy an import tax on my instruments.

Is that seriously true? I read the supposed guide from Belastingdienst, and it is brief and vague.

I don't have purchase receipts for my instruments that are 15-25 years old, and I think it would be quite difficult for the customs people to assess a value of them anyway. Besides, I wouldn't have to pay an import tax if I had a suitcase full of designer expensive clothes... why should I pay an import tax on my hobby musical instruments?

Thanks for any useful info.
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 12:10 PM
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This happened to my husband.
We were expats in Switzerland and he brought back one of his guitars. the customs guys saw his case and stopped him; they searched the Internet for a comparable value.
It all took several hours.
I cannot remember how much he had to pay, but he did have to pay a % of the determined value.
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 12:18 PM
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In theory your friend is right. As soon as you are importing more than a fixed allowance - I could not tell the exact amount for my own country (Italy), let alone Netherlands, but we are talking about something like 300 or 400 euros - you are subject to import duties. Only a small percentage of travellers is checked at customs, but if you are checked you may be asked to pay for importing high price items, including also designer clothes, especially if new. - And it may well happen that when you are back, US customs asks you to pay again. (At this point it may be useful having the original invoices showing the instruments are returning to US, not entering for the first time).

Usually customs consider a single musical instrument as a personal item, but do not take this always for granted. Musicians have heard a lot of horror stories at custom points. If you are bringing a collection of instruments the risk to be checked is higher, and if you send them by courier you can be sure that you will be charged import duties. If no invoice is available, they will guess a value and go on.

Professionals travelling with valuable instruments (like photographers or orchestra or showroom items for fairs) have a procedure for temporary import, named ATA carnet and approved by most states. You can export your professional items for a time frame (maximum 12 months) and as long at any custom point the list of items exiting is the same of item entering or vv., no duties are charged. But the procedure to get such a carnet is not trivial.
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 12:21 PM
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In reply to Queenie, I would add that Switzerland is well know for taxing imports by expats. I believe there is a special procedure and rate for people moving to Switzerland. - To tell all the truth, Swiss are even known to be taxing people importing too much food from Italy in their car trunk (I believe the maximum allowance is what a family can consume in a day or so).
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 08:09 PM
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This is very discouraging. I could find a receipt for my guitar, but my saxes are old. The horns will be packed in my suitcases, but the guitar would be in an obvious long thin case.

I guess I'll take my chances; but it seems wrong to penalize a hobbyist musician - you would think arts and culture providers would be welcome!
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 08:09 PM
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Also, thanks for the replies!
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Old Jul 1st, 2014, 08:10 PM
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One more point - the Belastingdienst page on this topic includes laptop computers in the list of "luxury items" that cannot exceed 430 Euros without being taxed. This would imply that every person coming into NL would have to pay a tax on their laptop computer. Obviously this isn't happening.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:03 AM
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A pity you didn't bring them with you when you first came - they would be tax free then under the international moving rules I believe.

Have a look at http://preview.tinyurl.com/mskcfe3

You could also try calling them - http://preview.tinyurl.com/chwruos
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:09 AM
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Oh and actually you do have to pay tax on your suitcase full of designer clothes. You are allowed to import only €430 worth of goods tax free. Any more than that and you have to declare them.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 05:50 AM
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Try to find out if you pay the tax now upon entering, if when you leave and take said instruments with you, if you can claim the tax back. There used to be something like that in Spanish import law years go..
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 03:11 PM
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How do they know what's in your suitcase? Are they scanning and flagging every piece of luggage?

I've never been asked about the value of my laptop, for example. And it's 2500eur.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2014, 11:37 PM
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You are supposed to declare goods over €430 on arrival. Failure to do so is a crime. If they do a spot check, and yes even at Schiphol they do them, you will either have the goods confiscated and pay a fine, or have to stump up the tax, and pay a fine. It is smuggling.
Your laptop is a personal item, but even then you could be asked for proof of how long you have owned it.

Anyway with regard to the instruments get in touch with the belastingdienst by phone and get advice there.
Given how airlines treat instruments and the cost of bringing them over you may be better off buying or hiring some here.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2014, 12:06 AM
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Hope for the best (they wave you through) but plan for the worst (have receipts or other paperwork showing value).

430 Euro is around $580. You might be able to get away with saying that two 20 year old saxes are only worth around $150 each and the guitar is worth $xxxx and put the total amount on the form and if questioned about it, tell the truth: you play as a hobby and you missed not having your instruments so brought them back with you. Then ask if they play.


<i>I don't have purchase receipts for my instruments that are 15-25 years old, and I think it would be quite difficult for the customs people to assess a value of them anyway. </i>

If pressed, they might check eBay to see what similar instruments sold for.

Are they insured? If yes, have that the declared value. If not, get an appraisal (and it would be in your best interest to have it as low as possible).


To get an idea of how much the duty will be, check here: http://www.dutycalculator.com/popula...al-instrument/
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Old Jan 27th, 2015, 11:43 PM
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<i>I don't think there should be import tax as it is your personal property.</i>

Wat.

If I live in Europe and go to the U.S. and buy an iPhone 6, a Rolex, and a Gretsch Reverend Horton Heat guitar they are my personal property but I am still obligated to declare them when I return to Europe and pay the applicable import duties.
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Old Jan 28th, 2015, 12:03 AM
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I think you're overthinking it a bit. Taxes are levied on imports, not personal items. So the job for the customs officer is to determine whether your instrument is an import or your personal item that you play on etc.

Scenario 1: your instrument is gleaming new, with now marks on the fretboard, no scratches on the lacquer, in a brand new case, with strings that obviously not have been used.

Scenario 2: your instrument looks well played: wear underneath the strings, well used strings, marks on the fret board, on the back you can see it scuffed against your clothes etc.

Scenario 1: customs officer will ask proof of purchase or ownership
Scenario 2: personal possession

Same with laptops: if you switch it on, there's a fresh operating system, no customization, keys are clean, screen is pristine too: import. Otherwise: personal possession.

I've travelled with lots of expensive photo equipment, all well used and insured to my photography business, of which I carry proof: never had an issue, not to the US, not to Israel, not within EU, never. And it's in these very conspicuous peli cases and all.
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Old Jan 28th, 2015, 12:06 AM
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now = no
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Old Jan 28th, 2015, 12:18 AM
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I get the gist of what you are saying but if you buy something outside of the EU and bring it back into the EU with you, whether it is "personal property" or not, you will probably have to pay a duty on it (if you declare it or you don't declare it and then get searched and they "find" it).
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Old Jan 28th, 2015, 12:25 AM
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When I moved to Germany from the U.S., before the household goods that were shipped to me (my personal property) were released to me, I had to sign a paper that said that I promised not to sell the goods for 12 (or 24?) months, lest I pay an import duty on them.
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Old Jan 28th, 2015, 04:50 PM
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but that is not the case here, sparkchaser. the op is bringing back instruments that were his to begin with. not purchased to bring back to the EU. These things are at the discretion of customs officers. And as I said, I used to travel a lot with very costly photographic equipment: never even been pulled aside. people don't generally pay duty on their laptop computers, unless an officer suspects it has been bought new and imported.
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Old Jan 28th, 2015, 08:57 PM
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No, I get that. I do. And I agree that it is at the discretion of the customs official. I think we are arguing the same point from different perspectives.
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