See the rest of the blog posts

The Dutch Customs Scam

January 10, 2006

It turns out there is a secret toll you need to pay when you move to the Netherlands. This is a toll they never tell you about until you get the bill. The toll that I am referring to is how much the Customs people are going to charge you in bogus VAT charges. Customs will go through your stuff to verify that you are only shipping household goods and are not shipping stuff to be resold: fair enough. Everything I sent was stuff that had been used in my apartment in San Francisco for several months at least and I wanted to continue using in my apartment in Amsterdam. My mistake though was to keep the original boxes for any valuable electronics.

I have a unit from Sonos for distributing music around my apartment. I had gotten so used to having them in SF that the last three months in my pad without them has been difficult. But the movers notified me a few weeks ago that Customs found the box and would be charging me over 100 Euros for VAT (That’s the European abbreviation for tax for you Yanks out there). The fact that I had them for several months didn’t really matter. If I had a receipt for them I could avoid having to pay, but how many of you move to a new location with 3 suitcases of everything you need for 3 months, and carry all of your receipts for everything you own in those bags too???

I guess it could have been worse. They could have charged me for the LCD monitors I have had for a year, or the slide scanner I have had for 4 years, or all the books or CDs I shipped. I guess I wouldn’t have minded if they just called it a Customs Search Fee and charged everyone a flat rate of 100 Euros. My problem is that this is because according to them I bought these units then shipped them with a mover to simply avoid paying VAT in the first place. Ugh.

So I guess the moral of the story is, if you are moving to the Netherlands or maybe to Europe in general, throw away the original boxes for all electronics and let the movers pack everything in their own boxes.

Find Matt online: