We often hear from our clients that Customs seized their cash even though they were carrying less than $10,000. The typical scenario is a couple traveling overseas. The husband is carrying $6,000 in cash and the wife carries another $6,000 in cash. To most people, this appears to not violate the $10,000 reporting rule, right?
Unfortunately, it’s wrong. In the eyes of Customs, this is “structuring”. Structuring is when a person has divided more than $10,000 upon import or export of money or equivalent to avoid reporting. The law against structuring is found under 31 USC Section 5316.
We all know air travel is stressful, but next time, be sure to just report all the currency you have with you over $10,000. The cash is not taxed and reporting the money will ultimately save you time and stress. Cash seizures at airports will take several hours and you will more than likely miss your flight, or your connecting flight and the important events you have planned at your destination.
It is important to note that structuring still applies even if it is done over several days, weeks or months and structuring still applies regardless of the form of the money (whether it is in cash, travelers checks, or other monetary instruments).
So what are the penalties for currency seizures?
There are both civil and criminal penalties for structuring currency, it all depends on the circumstances of the seizure. The money can be seized, forfeited, and you may be fined, or face additional criminal penalties if there is a pattern of illegal activity over a year long period.
Additionally, once you are in the Customs database and have a record for one currency seizure, each entry and exit to and from the US may result in heightened scrutiny from CBP.
If you or someone you know has faced a currency seizure for structuring or a cash seizure for failure to declare, contact experienced money seizure attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.