U.S. Customs Money Seizure


Are you the Victim of a US Customs Money Seizure?

Many American citizens traveling abroad are unaware of the requirement to report the transportation of U.S or foreign currency.  In fact, U.S law requires that any currency or other monetary equivalents that exceed a $10,000.00 threshold must be reported directly to U.S Customs and Border Security prior to entering or leaving the country.  The consequences for violating the law can be severe, and may include the seizure of the assets as well as other penalties.  In a global environment of escalating crime and the threat of terrorism, U.S. Customs agents are particularly sensitive to large, unreported sums of cash entering or leaving the country.

Reporting Requirements

The Currency and Foreign Transaction Reporting Act (CFTRA) specifically outlines the currencies and the other “monetary instruments” that must be reported.  This includes cash and coins of domestic or foreign origin as well as traveler’s checks.  Any negotiable instruments that can be transferred to another legal entity such as money orders, checks, stocks, promissory notes and securities are all subject to the provisions of the Act.

There are exclusions in the law that exempts certain elements with transferable value.  This would include bills of lading, warehouse receipts, and checks or money orders which have either not been endorsed or have endorsements with restrictions.

How to File a Proper Report

U.S. Citizens are not prohibited from carrying sums in excess of $10,000.00 in or out of the country.  Regardless of the monetary value, the reporting requirement can be satisfied by filing FinCEN Form 105 which is available through the U.S. Customs and Border protection department.  There are no associated custom duties, fees, or taxes that must be paid to transport currency.  Filing the appropriate form completely satisfies any legal obligations.

When Funds are Confiscated

Involuntary seizure of currency or other monetary assets usually results from a failure to file the proper form or including erroneous information in the text.  In most instances, the violation was a result of a lack of knowledge relating to the reporting requirement.  On other occasions, customs officials may misinterpret the intent of the seizure regulations.

Time is of the essence in currency seizure cases and it is important to immediately file a petition for relief.  The longer the money remains in the custody of U.S. Customs, the more likely that the assets will be forfeited to the government.

Customs seizure law is complex, and it is important to have experienced legal representation throughout the process.  Most of the currency that is seized will ultimately be forfeited to the government, primarily due to a lack of aggressive recovery efforts.  This is an area of the law where an attorney with expertise can prove extremely valuable.

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