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HOLY SH*T !!!

I would have lost it. Was this through the port of Miami or MIA airport ? I've never had these issues going through FLL.

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I feel your pain. However, in saying that, I do believe that they were right according to the website below.... albeit, they were being d*cks about it. As you did have more than the 100 cigars allowed under personal exemption, they were subject to seizure.

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/kbyg/customs-duty-info

Tobacco Products

Returning resident travelers may import tobacco products only in quantities not exceeding the amounts specified in the personal exemptions for which the traveler qualifies (not more than 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars if arriving from other than a beneficiary country and insular possession). Any quantities of tobacco products not permitted by a personal exemption are subject to detention, seizure, penalties, abandonment, and destruction. Tobacco products are typically purchased in duty-free stores, on sea carriers operating internationally or in foreign stores. These products are usually marked "Tax Exempt. For Use Outside the United States," or "U.S. Tax Exempt For Use Outside the United States."

Cuba:

In December 2014, President Obama announced his intention to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.  The President did not lift the embargo against Cuba.  Absent a democratic or transitional government in Cuba, lifting the embargo requires a legislative statutory change.  Since the announcement, however, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has amended the Cuba Assets Control Regulations (CACR), effective January 16, 2015, to authorize travel within certain categories to and from Cuba and to allow certain imports from and exports to Cuba.

All travelers, including those from Cuba, must comply with all applicable laws and regulations.  This includes the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”) (2016) limitations on personal exemptions and rules of duty extended to non-residents and returning U.S. residents.

Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to engage in all transactions, including payments necessary to import certain goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs as determined by the State Department and set forth in the State Department’s Section 515.582 list located at http://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/.  On October 17, 2016, the Office of Foreign Asset Control relaxed restrictions so authorized travelers, arriving direct from Cuba, are now able to bring Cuban merchandise for personal use back to the United States and qualify for the U.S. Resident exemption (HTSUS 9804.00.65, which allows up to $800 total in goods, and adults 21 and older may include 1 liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes, and 100 cigars). This exemption also applies to travelers, arriving from any country in the world, with declared Cuban merchandise.

 

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Damn, I'm sorry you went through this. I came through Miami last November, and the U.S. Customs officer told me they had bigger fish to fry, and didn't want to hassle anyone with cigars. Things are defiantly changing.

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Don’t want to rub it in, so don’t answer if it’ll annoy you further, but what did you lose and what did you keep?

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That’s very disheartening to hear and I am sorry that this happened to you.

I heard a saying once to the effect of “those with the least amount of power feel the greatest need to exercise it”.

You did everything right and still got screwed. That makes me think twice about declaring in the future...

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12 minutes ago, Lotusguy said:

That’s very disheartening to hear and I am sorry that this happened to you.

I heard a saying once to the effect of “those with the least amount of power feel the greatest need to exercise it”.

You did everything right and still got screwed. That makes me think twice about declaring in the future...

My thoughts exactly. 

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3 hours ago, bpm32 said:

Don’t want to rub it in, so don’t answer if it’ll annoy you further, but what did you lose and what did you keep?

Kept 100, they stole 350

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It sounds very wrong that they didnt want to show you the statute.

In Brazil the limit is 25 cigars. No paying taxes allowed. They confiscate everything above 25.

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13 hours ago, Fuzz said:

I feel your pain. However, in saying that, I do believe that they were right according to the website below.... albeit, they were being d*cks about it. As you did have more than the 100 cigars allowed under personal exemption, they were subject to seizure.

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/kbyg/customs-duty-info

Tobacco Products

Returning resident travelers may import tobacco products only in quantities not exceeding the amounts specified in the personal exemptions for which the traveler qualifies (not more than 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars if arriving from other than a beneficiary country and insular possession). Any quantities of tobacco products not permitted by a personal exemption are subject to detention, seizure, penalties, abandonment, and destruction. Tobacco products are typically purchased in duty-free stores, on sea carriers operating internationally or in foreign stores. These products are usually marked "Tax Exempt. For Use Outside the United States," or "U.S. Tax Exempt For Use Outside the United States."

Cuba:

In December 2014, President Obama announced his intention to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.  The President did not lift the embargo against Cuba.  Absent a democratic or transitional government in Cuba, lifting the embargo requires a legislative statutory change.  Since the announcement, however, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has amended the Cuba Assets Control Regulations (CACR), effective January 16, 2015, to authorize travel within certain categories to and from Cuba and to allow certain imports from and exports to Cuba.

All travelers, including those from Cuba, must comply with all applicable laws and regulations.  This includes the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”) (2016) limitations on personal exemptions and rules of duty extended to non-residents and returning U.S. residents.

Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to engage in all transactions, including payments necessary to import certain goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs as determined by the State Department and set forth in the State Department’s Section 515.582 list located at http://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/.  On October 17, 2016, the Office of Foreign Asset Control relaxed restrictions so authorized travelers, arriving direct from Cuba, are now able to bring Cuban merchandise for personal use back to the United States and qualify for the U.S. Resident exemption (HTSUS 9804.00.65, which allows up to $800 total in goods, and adults 21 and older may include 1 liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes, and 100 cigars). This exemption also applies to travelers, arriving from any country in the world, with declared Cuban merchandise.

 

From my understanding the next paragraph under Cuba (see below) clearly states that amounts above the exemption are allowed but subject to 4% duty. 

Additionally, the Tobacco products section as noted above limits 100 cigars "if arriving from other than a beneficiary country and insular possession". While Cuba is not an insular possession (Virgin Islands / Guam) I am not sure if Cuba qualifies as a beneficiary or not.

I would think the Cuba specific section clears it from the seizure limit, but I'd be interested to hear from anyone who either has legal experience with US Customs policy or if anyone else has encountered this issue since the 2016 limit was lifted. 

 

Cuba:

In December 2014, President Obama announced his intention to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.  The President did not lift the embargo against Cuba.  Absent a democratic or transitional government in Cuba, lifting the embargo requires a legislative statutory change.  Since the announcement, however, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has amended the Cuba Assets Control Regulations (CACR), effective January 16, 2015, to authorize travel within certain categories to and from Cuba and to allow certain imports from and exports to Cuba.

All travelers, including those from Cuba, must comply with all applicable laws and regulations.  This includes the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”) (2016) limitations on personal exemptions and rules of duty extended to non-residents and returning U.S. residents.

Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to engage in all transactions, including payments necessary to import certain goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs as determined by the State Department and set forth in the State Department’s Section 515.582 list located at http://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/.  On October 17, 2016, the Office of Foreign Asset Control relaxed restrictions so authorized travelers, arriving direct from Cuba, are now able to bring Cuban merchandise for personal use back to the United States and qualify for the U.S. Resident exemption (HTSUS 9804.00.65, which allows up to $800 total in goods, and adults 21 and older may include 1 liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes, and 100 cigars). This exemption also applies to travelers, arriving from any country in the world, with declared Cuban merchandise.

Declared amounts in excess of the exemption are subject to a flat 4% rate of duty, and any applicable IRS taxes, pursuant to HTSUS 9816.00.20 and 19 CFR 148.101, which impose a duty rate of 4% of the fair retail value on goods from a Column 2 country.

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Sorry, but no.

I had written a very long post citing this and that, then thought better of it, and just boiled it down to this: 450 cigars is not considered personal use under CBP regulations (limit is 100). As such, it is subject to the penalties for importing of commercial quantities (detention, seizure, penalties, abandonment, and destruction). That 4% flat rate only applies to items that are for personal use, and not deemed a commercial quantity.

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/kbyg/customs-duty-info

https://www.cbp.gov/trade/basic-import-export/cbp-public-notice-process-imports-cuba

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/82/~/importing%2Fbring-cuban-cigars-to-the-u.s.-for-personal-use.

Oh, and if you're thinking, "Fine then, I'll go every few weeks and grab 100 cigars", the duty free limits (monetary value, booze and tobacco) are cumulative over a 31 day period.

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I agree that a customs agent has the authority to determine what is and isn’t for “personal use” although they should have gone about it much more professionally in this case. 

The customs site does seem contradictory though, where almost every mention of a 100 cigar limit is in relation to a Duty Free limit instead of seizure except when not from a beneficiary country. 

I submitted a question to the customs site to hopefully get a more direct answer from the gov’t. I will supposedly hear back in 15 business days but I’d be surprised if I got anything helpful. 

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3 hours ago, kevpro said:

I agree that a customs agent has the authority to determine what is and isn’t for “personal use” although they should have gone about it much more professionally in this case. 

The customs site does seem contradictory though, where almost every mention of a 100 cigar limit is in relation to a Duty Free limit instead of seizure except when not from a beneficiary country. 

I submitted a question to the customs site to hopefully get a more direct answer from the gov’t. I will supposedly hear back in 15 business days but I’d be surprised if I got anything helpful. 

Don't get caught up with the "beneficiary country" thing, that's about reduced tariff rates. Cuba is not listed as a beneficiary country for the US, so no help there.

https://unctad.org/en/publicationslibrary/itcdtsbmisc62rev6_en.pdf

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11 hours ago, Fuzz said:

Don't get caught up with the "beneficiary country" thing, that's about reduced tariff rates. Cuba is not listed as a beneficiary country for the US, so no help there.

https://unctad.org/en/publicationslibrary/itcdtsbmisc62rev6_en.pdf

Thanks for clearing that up. It seems then the 100 cigar limit may be similar to the Aduana policy requiring sealed boxes, as in most people report no issues but could be enforced at any time.

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Hell, I had a very polite US Customs guy tell me the limit was 50 cigars, not 100. If you want certainty stay away from the government I guess.

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2 hours ago, bpm32 said:

Hell, I had a very polite US Customs guy tell me the limit was 50 cigars, not 100. If you want certainly stay away from the government I guess.

The CBP website does contradict itself. One page says the duty free limit is 100, another says it is 50. However, the cigarette quantity also changes from 200 cigs to 300 cigs. Maybe big tobacco wants you to smoke less cigars and buy more ciggies?

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/kbyg/customs-duty-info

Tobacco Products

Returning resident travelers may import tobacco products only in quantities not exceeding the amounts specified in the personal exemptions for which the traveler qualifies (not more than 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars if arriving from other than a beneficiary country and insular possession).

https://www.cbp.gov/trade/basic-import-export/cbp-public-notice-process-imports-cuba

Returning Resident

Articles imported by or for the account of any person arriving in the United States who is a returning resident, has attained the age of 21, after having remained beyond the United States for a period of not less than 48 hours, for his or her personal or household use, but not imported for the account of any other person nor intended for sale, if declared in accordance with regulations of the Secretary of the Treasury and if such person has not claimed, an exemption under subheadings 9804.00.65, 9804.00.70 and 9804.00.72 within 30 days preceding his arrival, and claims exemption under only one of such items on his arrival:

9804.00.80      Articles (including not over 50 cigars, or 300 cigarettes, or 2 kilograms of smoking tobacco or a proportionate amount of each, and not over 1 liter of alcoholic beverages)

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OP, that sucks. Plain and simple. What I've found with my travels in and out of the U.S.A. is that the limit is WHATEVER the CBP officer on duty says it is. Y'all can cite statutes all you want, and arguing at the time only WILL only make it worse. I've seen people loose their collective sh!t while having things confiscated. They tried citing statutes and all that jazz, did not help one bit.  It all depends on who is working that day and what kind of mood they are in, plain and simple, nothing more. 

What happened to you sucks. It really does, CBP ruined your trip at the end.  When I came in through Miami the last time, I had 8 boxes (200 cigars) and 4 liters of rum, declared it all and the CBP officer asked if I smoke that many cigars, I said yes, and showed him my cigar lounge membership card I had at the time, he replied with "well, it's your health" and then let me through. It all depends on his/her mood, which is sad. 

Everything one needs to know can be found on this page: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/kbyg/customs-duty-info 

We take a risk every time we leave the country and come back with anything in excess of 1 liter of alcohol and more than 100 cigars. 

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That sucks the big one!! I had a run in with my flint and butane lighter when laws changed in the US. I even printed out a copy of the regs from the TSA website. The A**hole didn’t care. He kept telling me it was a torch. I was traveling with a friend on the way to a herf in SoCal. When my friend came to back me up, a second TSA agent came and told him to back off to prevent any problems. I now never fly with anything I can’t lose. Those with few qualifications and too much power are dangerous. I trust those people like my wife and mother in law going shopping for the kids with my credit card...

 

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I am going to move this temporarily to the waterhole. There may be others who have experienced this or who have a US legal background and can advise. 

I have always assumed Oz and the US took it's unfriendliest, unhinged and surliest individuals....put them through a weekend course before issuing them a badge/stamp/uniform and placing them at border patrol. 

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Wow JYO! I feel for your loss. I would have been irate! Maybe I need to go back and reread rules. It was my understanding that you could bring back as many as you wanted, as long as for personal use, and you paid the 4% tax over 800. I was thinking of filling my suitcase when I go, and leaving clothes behind. And seriously, 450 cigars? Sounds like you came across the one d#@k in customs.

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