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Thread: So this can happen if you don't declare something at the border...

  1. #1
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    So this can happen if you don't declare something at the border...

    I've seen some people asking about bringing things to Canada across the border and not declaring them. Well I did that once, but I'll never do it again. It's not a watch, but it's the same idea....
    I am into astrophotography, and I saw a high quality telescope mount in the USA which was available for a reasonable price ($3500). So I drove down to meet the guy and asked him to write me a receipt for $2200. I figured I'd just declare it and save some on taxes.
    So when I got to the border, I told the customers agent about the purchase and he told me to park and go inside. So I went in, and the officer asked to see the mount which I showed him and he asked the price. I told him $2200 and gave him the receipt. He said OK please wait. About 20 minutes later he came out and said, you didn't pay that amount for the mount... The mount is much more valuable than that. I said, this is an older mount from that company ahd that's the going price. He said OK please wait...another 20 minutes go by and two customs officers come around the counter and with hands on their guns, tell me to empty all my pockets, leaving the pockets sticking out of my pants. Oh my God,....sweat pouring down my face...
    At that point, they picked up my wallet and started going through it and I said to myself, Ok this is enough and I confessed that I paid more for it. It was a good thing I did so....Just at that point he had the receipt for a money order for the mount showing the true value, but he didn't read it...Once I confessed he said, "Good thing you came clean, we would have taken your car apart as the next step"...
    So they told me to wait, and he came forward with a declaration that I had to sign, waving my rights to a lawyer and having to pay $650 CND for the taxes and penalties....So I signed, and he asked if if it was OK and not too much...he actually seemed very sympathetic to me at that point and said, well it's the law..
    So, at that time I was travelling quite a bit for work, and about %50 of the time, everytime I came back over the border, I was taken aside, had to wait quite a while, and then thoroughly searched.
    So, this only happened for about a year, and then I guess that Customs figured I learned my lesson and am once again trustworthy.
    So, that's my story...

  2. #2
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    I agree, honesty with customs, law enforcement, etc is the only policy.
    On the other hand, if you are wealthy and well connected in Canada , you can get away with just about anything, from conflict of interest to stealing from taxpayers, and still keep your job/not face any penalty or jail.

  3. #3
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    Thank you for sharing. The risk of getting caught is very real. Living on the border, I am lucky to be able to go cross-border shopping very easily and relatively frequently. I've had my car and belongings thoroughly searched, my receipts reviewed line-by-line (even for groceries...), and have been grilled about the details of my trip. There is more scrutiny at land crossings than in airports, in my experience. I've never made a false or incomplete customs declaration, and based on my experiences at the border, I never will.

  4. #4
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    I bought and Alfa Romeo Spider in 1991 four years old for $8800 USD. I purchased it in Georgia and drove it back. The vendor gave me a receipt for $6500. When I got to the border the agent didn't believe me and took me inside. He called the vendor who confirmed the $6500. Boy was I nervous and it was such a close call.

    As for declaring everything, come on! They have no ideas about clothing if you take the tags off and wear or wash it.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by drjmar View Post
    I bought and Alfa Romeo Spider in 1991 four years old for $8800 USD. I purchased it in Georgia and drove it back. The vendor gave me a receipt for $6500. When I got to the border the agent didn't believe me and took me inside. He called the vendor who confirmed the $6500. Boy was I nervous and it was such a close call.

    As for declaring everything, come on! They have no ideas about clothing if you take the tags off and wear or wash it.
    Not exactly true about the clothing. I had a leather jacket that I bought in Canada and wore on a trip to Seattle. Coming back, I didn't declare anything because I hadn't bought anything but I was asked to come inside to talk to a customs officer. He said "Nice jacket" and then asked me to take it off and accused me of trying to smuggle it across the border. There was a patch on the sleeve that showed an RN number so he insisted it was made for the US market. I told him I had bought it at a store in Chinatown so I stuck to my guns and after several intense moments of me getting angrier and angrier he backed off and told me to be more careful where I buy things from. When I got home I found the CA number on another tag and I almost went back to show him but couldn't be bothered.

    The whole experience soured me on crossing the border and I only do it when absolutely necessary.
    If I saved all of the money I spent on watches I'd probably buy a watch.

  6. #6
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    Yeah, the borderline harassment I've been subjected to at land crossings has ultimately just made me cross the border less.

  7. #7
    Senior Member floco's Avatar
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    Thank you for sharing your story. It is a good lesson for all of us to always declare things honestly when crossing the border.

    When investigating on a case at the border, do you know if customs officer have access to your recent banking transactions (credit card purchase abroad or money withdrawals..etc) ?
    Let's say you spend a big amount of money abroad on your cc for a new watch, could this trigger a warning to the customs ?

  8. #8
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    At one point he asked me to show all my emails on my phone. But he then got distracted and I asked to go to the bathroom where I erased all emails and web site references that I could in a reasonable amount of time....lol...
    Now a days, there is legal precedent that allows them to force you to reveal any and all passwords for your devices. This would include bank account logins and so on. I guess you could insist for a lawyer at this point, but unless you just bought a Patek at 40K, it's cheaper just to declare it.
    One thing I found is if you enter at a different province than where you reside, they might not charge PST.
    Tom

  9. #9
    Senior Member floco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomb18 View Post
    At one point he asked me to show all my emails on my phone. But he then got distracted and I asked to go to the bathroom where I erased all emails and web site references that I could in a reasonable amount of time....lol...
    Now a days, there is legal precedent that allows them to force you to reveal any and all passwords for your devices. This would include bank account logins and so on. I guess you could insist for a lawyer at this point, but unless you just bought a Patek at 40K, it's cheaper just to declare it.
    One thing I found is if you enter at a different province than where you reside, they might not charge PST.
    Tom
    I heard about this password thing on phones or laptop. That is just crazy...

  10. #10
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    You undercut the actual price by $1,300. Quebec provincial and GST are 14.975% combined. You went through that experience and faced on-going border delays in an attempt to save less than $200. Hardly seems worth the effort.

    PS. Don't even think about applying for a Nexus card.

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