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When making a trip from your country of origin to Panama, each traveler or family traveling together has a limit of cash that they can take with them which is $9,999.99. If you travel with cash exceeding $10,000, and you do not duly declare it at Customs, the total amount of money can be taken away. This modality is called "Commission of a Customs Fraud Crime" or even smuggling. The reason is mainly that by not declaring the "extra" amount of money, the customs authorities assume that the intention is to harm the tax interests of the country or even to use that money for illegal purposes. Therefore, the sworn statement that is signed to confirm the amounts is a legal document, and the declaration of "false" facts is a crime. In addition to that, if you cannot prove the origin of the funds to the authorities, for example through an income tax return, bank account, or some other means that prove the origin of the money and the use that will be given to it, the respective authority will automatically think that money is supposed to be used for illegal purposes. Many times language barriers prevent us from explaining ourselves easily. If the origin of the funds is not confirmed, the customs authorities will confiscate the total amount of the money and in addition to that, they may initiate a criminal investigation. By not declaring the origin of the funds at customs, you may have legal problems and even be prevented by the competent authority from leaving the country, until the investigation is completed. Do not sign if you do not understand what you are signing In Panama the customs declaration is made by using a form under oath of the traveler, at the moment of your entrance to the territory of Panama (the airport). I personally received that form at one time in English, sometimes in Spanish. Please do not sign if you do not understand what you are signing. It is a binding legal document and no matter how simple the form looks, the problems behind not understanding what you are signing are bigger than they seem. If you don't understand the language, please ask the flight attendant to give you one that you can understand, and if you don't speak English either, ask for help at customs when you arrive at the airport. In our practice we have seen cases where clients traveled with different currencies and had not noticed that the total amount of cash exceeded ten thousand dollars and not understanding what they signed or thinking that the limit applies per person and not per family, the money was confiscated. Do you want to know what the government of Panama does with the money confiscated in Customs every year? I don't think you're going to like it, but I'll tell you. The Law in Panama stipulates that all the money collected by travelers who did not declare their money in Customs, a part of it will be distributed among all the Customs officers at the national level, as a bonus for their work – as some kind of war booty (...); the rest of the money will be distributed among other institutions in Panama, as money for their operations budget. The authority confiscates quickly, but when they have to return the money the process is very slow and nerve-racking. It must be proven to the customs judge that the money is not illegal, and there was never any intention of violating the customs law, but to make investments in the country, that you have a connection with Panama (not as a tourist, but as a resident or potential resident in the country), maybe even a business, and that you pay your taxes in Panama. Remember, that "ignorance of the law does not exempt from responsibility". So, keep learning and informing yourself, and in case of any doubt ask your trusted lawyer, who will surely be happy to help you. Have a nice trip and safe travel!
Moving to Panama Do you want to move to Panama and want to take your household goods with you? The good news, domestic goods can be imported duty-free. But first of all, what are household goods, according to the Panama Customs authorities? The term household goods can refer to the bed, the washing machine, the dryer, the dishes, the dining room table, the sofa, overall the furniture and accessories of the home. The goods must be used and be seen used. Construction equipment, commercial tools/equipment, motorcycles, trailers, new items, and other non-domestic goods will be taxed. What documents do I need? For the process of importing your household goods, you need your passport, your Panama migration ID card (carné de migración), a copy of the Bill of Lading, and a packing list. This means a detailed list of the articles of domestic or personal use that you wish to introduce to the country (in English or Spanish) must be presented prior to the date of arrival of the shipment. Additionally, invoices for newly purchased household goods or non-domestic goods are required, if applicable. What is the procedure to import my household goods to Panama? Importing your household goods to Panama can be a headache for many, but it can be done efficiently, as long as you choose a reliable and experienced international moving company and a reputable customs broker. In general, the process takes between 5 and 10 working days in order to liquidate the household goods. Additional charges may apply for equipment holds, container usage (depending on the shipping company), or deposit and storage at the customs authority's facilities depending on the duration for customs clearance. When the container with your goods arrives in Panama, you must be in the country. All shipments will be personally inspected at the port of entry. We suggest that you pay for the revision in residence due to the congestion of shipments in the fiscal precinct. This in-residence inspection has an additional cost. All shipments entering Panama by sea, land, or air are fumigated at the port and/or airport of entry. Fumigation is a pest control treatment. This procedure may cause a delay in the delivery of the shipment. How much do I have to pay? The final cost of importing your household goods depends on what is in the container (household goods, tools, machinery, valuables, etc.). Non-domestic goods will usually be taxed at about 20% of the resale value. Get different offers from moving companies and compare prices and services included. Some have paid much more than they were originally quoted, due to unexpected additional fees. Get a price with door-to-door delivery and make sure there are no extra charges. Should I bring my car to Panama? According to our professional experience, it is generally not cheaper to bring your car to Panama. The process of customs clearance and vehicle registration in Panama is long, and there are likely to be delayed. The import taxes on your car are approximately 27 to 30 percent of the CIF value. In fact, you will probably be able to buy a car in Panama at a lower price and with less hassle. Are there any goods that cannot be imported? There are some items that can only be imported if they are in limited quantities, have the appropriate additional documentation and the shipper has paid all required duties and taxes. Among them are food, alcoholic beverages, jewelry and coins (gold bullions), leather goods and living plants (it is not advisable to include plants in any shipment). There are also prohibited items like ammunition, firearms, drugs, and narcotics. All shipments of household goods that bring in wood furniture or any other wood items are subject to a Quarantine Import Permit that must be applied for before the shipment reaches Panama. Restrictions also apply to the use of wooden packing materials such as barrels, crates, lift-vans, and pallets. The wood must be treated and sealed. Any wood packaging that is not properly marked may cause extra charges and delays. Plan B Instead of shipping your complete household, you can also consider sending only some boxes with certain items that are important to you. You can even check the possibility of bringing extra luggage on the plane. Keep in mind that many rentals and properties for sale in Panama come fully furnished. So before making a decision, find out what is available in Panama and what the costs are. This will help you decide what to bring with you and what to buy new in Panama.
Has anyone shipped in a computer from Amazon or elsewhere? What charges are imposed by customs?
Here I was standing in the Mexico City airport waiting for my luggage to appear on the carousel when an official plus a dog appeared. This golden Labador was busy sniffing all bags. The animal suddenly sat next to one man's small case. The officer asked the owner if he had food in his suitcase. The startled man answered "yes"; took out a small apple and gave it to the officer. Dog and officer moved on thru the crowd. This was a first for us -- to see this kind of screening using dogs. The dog was incredibly well trained. As soon as he sniffed the apple, he immediately sat down next to the suitcase. Upon completion of the interaction between the security guard and the traveler, the dog was given a small treat, and the two went on their way looking for other violations. After a few seconds I approached this gentleman and asked how many apples he had in his case. He replied only one. He had dropped this single piece of fruit from his hotel breakfast into his luggage and forgotten about it. I knew about drug sniffing dogs but this was my first awareness of dogs trained to sniff out fruit.