What Happens If You Don’t Declare Currency Over $10K at Customs

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If you’re traveling with currency worth more than $10,000 USD you probably want as few people as possible to know about it. And who wants to go through the hassle of extra paperwork and regulations coming in on an international flight. I’ve never traveled with that much cash, but always wondered what the penalty for not declaring it would be.

In the United States, it’s pretty stiff — they take it ALL.

The Washington Post just ran an article on $72,000 seized by Customs and Border Protection from 3 passengers in 3 days. Two of them had reported $10,000 but were carrying $29,660 and $20,435. The other man headed for Ukraine declared $15,000 but had $22,000. All of it was confiscated, except for $1,000 allowed to the Ukraine bound passenger because he would “need some pocket cash’ once there.”

None of them were charged with crimes and were allowed to continue their travels, but they’ll never get their money back. If distrust of the government is what prompted them to underreport their holdings, this will hardly change that perception.

“It’s not a great pleasure for us to take someone’s currency because in most cases it’s really hard-earned money,” Sapp said. “If you’re truthful with us, we’re not going to take your money.”

Losing everything because you didn’t fill out a form correctly is pretty severe, but good to know. There’s no guarantees they won’t confiscate your cash at customs even if you do declare, but at least you stand a chance of keeping it. And if you’re flying within the US, don’t carry cash, ever.

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