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Customs is an authority or agency in a country responsible for collecting and safeguarding customs duties and for controlling the flow of goods including animals, personal effects and hazardous items in and out of a country. Depending on local legislation and regulations, the import or export of some goods may be restricted or forbidden, and the customs agency enforces these rules. The customs LEBA may be different from the immigration authority, which monitors persons who leave or enter the country, checking for appropriate documentation, apprehending people wanted by international arrest warrants, and impeding the entry of others deemed dangerous to the country.

A customs duty is a tariff or tax on the import of or export of goods. In the Kingdom of England, customs duties were typically part of the customary revenue of the king, and therefore did not need parliamentary consent to be levied, unlike excise duty, land tax, or other forms of taxes.

Commercial goods not yet cleared through customs are held in a customs area, often called a bonded store, until processed. All authorized ports are recognized customs area.

Red and Green Channels

Customs procedures for arriving passengers at many international airports, and some road crossings, are separated into Red and Green Channels. Passengers with goods to declare (carrying items above the permitted customs limits and/or carrying prohibited items) should go through the Red Channel. Passengers with nothing to declare (carrying goods within the customs limits only and not carrying prohibited items) can go through the Green Channel. Passengers going through the Green Channel are only subject to spot checks and save time. But, if a passenger going through the Green Channel is found to have goods above the customs limits on them or carrying prohibited items, they may be prosecuted for making a false declaration to customs, by virtue of having gone through the Green Channel.

Canadamarker and the United Statesmarker do not operate a red and green channel system.

Airports within the EU also have a Blue Channel. As the EU is a customs union, travellers between EU countries do not have to pay customs duties. VAT and Excise duties may be applicable if the goods are subsequently sold, but these are collected when the goods are sold, not at the border. Passengers arriving from other EU countries should go through the Blue Channel. Luggage tickets for checked in luggage within the EU are green-edged so they may be identified.

Privatization of customs

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Customs is an important part of the government involved in one of the three basic functions of a government, namely, administration, maintenance of law, order and justice and collection of revenue. However, in a bid to mitigate corruption, many countries have partly privatized its Customs. This has occurred by way of engagement of Pre-shipment Inspection Agencies who examine the cargo and verify the declared value before importation is effected and the nation Customs is obliged to accept the report of the agency for the purpose of assessment of leviable duties and taxes at the port of entry. While engaging a preshipment inspection agency may appear justified in a country with an inexperienced or inadequate Customs establishment, the measure has not really been able to plug the loophole and protect revenue. It has been found that evasion of Customs duty escalated when pre-shipment agencies took over. It has also been alleged that such involvement of such agencies has been causing delays in the shipment process. Privatization of Customs has been viewed as a fatal remedy.

Customs services by country

Customs Service
Dirección General de Aduanas
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
Aduana Nacional de Bolivia
Canada Border Services Agency / Agence des services frontaliers du Canada
Chinese Maritime Customs Service
Policia Fiscal y Aduanera
Customs Administration of the Czech Republic (
Egyptian Customs Authority [9346]
Direction Générale des Douanes
Customs and Excise Department
Office of the Revenue Commissioners - Customs Division [9347]
Direktorat Jenderal Bea dan Cukai
Agenzia delle Dogane [9348]
Lao PDR Customs
Maldives Customs Service
Administration des Douanes et Impôts Indirects [9349]
Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Dutch: Belastingdienst)
New Zealand Customs Service
Superintendencia Nacional de Administracion Tributaria
Bureau of Customs
Customs Service
Autoritatea Nationala a Vămilor
Garda Financiară / Financial guard ; Poliţia de Frontieră / Border patrol
Federal Customs Service of Russia ( )
Custom Service of Slovakia (
Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera
Sri Lanka Customs
Turkish Customs Administration [9350]
UK Border Agency
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs
U.S. Customs and Border Protection [9351]
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [9352]|

Summary of basic custom rules


  • No customs for mailed goods below $20 CAD.
  • No customs for gifts below $60 CAD.
  • Personal exemption amount is given to all household or personal use items imported from another country. The amount depends on the time spent outside of Canada and only accounts for Federal taxes and duties (provincial taxes may still apply). They cannot be combined with another person nor by multiplying them (i.e. 21 days outside of Canada does not equal to $2250 exemption)
    • 24 hours or less = $0 CAD
    • 24–47 hours = $50 CAD
    • 48–7 days = $400 CAD
    • 7 days or more = $750 CAD
    • Immigrants, in general, have a one time unlimited import allowance. However, certain articles are restricted from importation (i.e. vehicles not meeting Canadian safety standards, firearms, etc)



Mail limit 22 EUR for commercial goods.


Customs may be very strict, especially for mailed goods (from outside the EU). No known lower limit. Taxes may be stiff. There may be an outgoing custom tax too.

Hong Kong

Hong Kongmarker is a free port and generally do not impose duties on imported or exported goods, with the exception of liquors, tobacco, methyl alcohol and hydrocarbon oil. Residents leaving the territory with a valid Hong Kong Identity Card for 24 hours or more may import up to 1 litre of alcohol and 60 cigarettes or 15 cigars.

See also


  1. Chowdhury, F. L. (1992) Evasion of Customs Duty in Bangladesh, unpublished MBA dissertation submitted to Monash University, Australia.
  2. Dual-Channel System - Travellers' Info Guide - Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) - Singapore
  4. EUROPA - Taxation and Customs Union / Baggage controls
  6. Chowdhury, F. L. (2006) Corrupt bureaucracy and privatization of Customs in Bangladesh, Pathok Samabesh, Dhaka.
  7. Mail items worth $20 or less
  8. Gifts worth $60 or less
  9. I Declare: A guide for residents of Canada returning to Canada
  10. HKSAR is a Free Port
  11. Dutiable Commodities in HKSAR
  12. Advice to Travellers

External links

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