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Travelers staggered by Cuba's new customs taxes


#1

Anyone had any personal experience with these changes at Cuban airports? Looks like it’s aimed at “mules” who bring stuff in for resale, but vacationers could get caught in the collateral damage? I got the following additional info from one of the Spanish languahe blogs I follow: [ul]
[li]Apparently the rules are complex and they have published a booklet (88 pages!) for sale in kiosks to describe the rules.
[/li][li]Also I understand the supervisors from the Aduana in the airport will be wearing red jackets with yellow lettering.[/li][/ul]

Travelers staggered by Cuba’s new customs taxes
Posted: 09/03/2012 11:56:57 AM MDT
HAVANA—A steep hike in customs duties took effect in Cuba on Monday, catching many air travelers unaware and leaving some shocked at the new fees.
Nelida Diaz, a Cuban-American who arrived with her husband for a visit to the island where she was born, said she was astonished when officials docked her $588 at customs.

“We come every year, and they had never charged us like that,” Diaz said outside the terminal at Havana’s international airport, her blue, shrink-wrapped bags piled on a luggage cart. “There is a lot of irritation among the people.”

Authorities have defended the measure as necessary to impose order in airports, which at times can look more like cargo terminals for all the baggage.

Experts say the measure targets so-called mules, who make frequent trips back and forth to places like Ecuador, Panama and Miami, carrying huge bags overstuffed with merchandise destined for resale or to supply the island’s growing ranks of private entrepreneurs.

But some fear it could also hurt Cuban families that rely on goods imported five suitcases at a time, as well as the many islanders who are able to visit relatives abroad by agreeing to bring back heavy loads for others who pay the airfare.

Travelers are allowed to bring in 66 pounds (30 kilograms) of miscellaneous goods without being charged. Everything after that gets taxed at $4.55 a pound ($10 per kilogram).

Islanders get a once-a-year pass to pay excess baggage fees in the local peso, worth 24 to the dollar, but starting with their second trip they must pay the much higher dollar-based rates. Anyone who’s not a permanent resident pays the higher rate from the start.

“They charged me 102 Cuban pesos ($4.25) because I’m a Cuban and it’s my first time traveling to the U.S.,” said Maria Roque, a resident of Matanzas province who was returning to Cuba from a trip to visit her son.

But Roque said she was put on notice at customs: “The next time, I’ll have to pay in dollars.”

While the new duty schedule was announced two months ago, many travelers said Monday they were taken by surprise. The terminal appeared normal on the outside, but passengers said operations seemed confused and sluggish at customs.

“There’s a lot of disgust in there,” said Roberto Suarez, another Cuban-American, who reported paying double his usual customs fee. “There are people who came with a little money set aside to help family, and then they get hit with this.”


#2

Not much chance of a regular tourist getting caught up in this but it still seems like a money grab against their own people


#3

Can’t see it affecting the average tourist at all.


#4

I agree, you don’t see aduan gang wisking away tourists but boy I have seen them actually “manhandle” Cubans off an Air Transat plane out of Montréal, geesh, it’s like they were criminals AND were carrying anthrax.
Talk about scare tactics…
The elderly lady in question sat next to me on the plane and had been visiting her sister in Montréal. I helped her off the plane with her bags (carry-on and a half-full medium-sized plastic bag). She was shaking because of the inspection she was to go through and told me it was alway a “humiliating” experience so she unfortunately did not often bring things back… poor dear.


#5

[quote=@zendudette] I agree, you don’t see aduan gang wisking away tourists but boy I have seen them actually “manhandle” Cubans off an Air Transat plane out of Montréal, geesh, it’s like they were criminals AND were carrying anthrax.
Talk about scare tactics…
The elderly lady in question sat next to me on the plane and had been visiting her sister in Montréal. I helped her off the plane with her bags (carry-on and a half-full medium-sized plastic bag). She was shaking because of the inspection she was to go through and told me it was alway a “humiliating” experience so she unfortunately did not often bring things back… poor dear.[/quote]

Try being a nonresident Canadian returning to Canada, their Gestapo like tactics make Cuba’s look like a kindergarten training program.


#6

Yeah, most airlines have a 50 pound limit on average on luggage plus carry on? So unless you were bringing a 2nd bag and paying the extra baggage fee it shouldn’t be an issue?!

But for those that used to get special permission to bring extra bags with humanitarian stuff for the locals, that won’t be an option any longer I am guessing without paying some hefty fees.


#7

You can read the new rules here:
http://www.granma.cu/ingles/cuba-i/5sept-Aduana.html
It seems it only applies to “Cuban and permanent resident travelers returning to the country”, not tourists.

At the bottom of the page is a summary of the changes in rates:

TARIFFS LEVIED BEFORE RESOLUTION NO. 222
$51 to $250.99: 100% of the import’s value.
$251 to $500.99: 150% of the import’s value.
$501 to $1000: 200% of the import’s value.

CURRENT TARIFFS:
$51 to $500.99: 100% of the import’s value.
$501 to $1000: 200% of the import’s value.

So this appears to be a reduction in the rates for value between $250 and $500, not an increase. What seems to be interpreted as an increase is the fact that for a second trip, the duties are levied in CUC, rather than CUP. But I find that confusing. If the value (above the $50 duty free amount) is say, $100 US, then wouldn’t the duty have been 2500 CUP previously, as the value of $100 US is equal to 2500 CUP? The duty then would have been 2500 CUP, as 100% of $100 US.

Or do they actually mean that the duty charged would have only been 100 CUP, but now (on the second trip) would be 100 CUC?

Could someone explain this to me? Not that it will have the remotest effect on me personally. I just like to know stuff.


#8

[quote]

Try being a nonresident Canadian returning to Canada, their Gestapo like tactics make Cuba’s look like a kindergarten training program. [/quote]

try being a Canadian coming back to Canada and getting a pr!ck for a customs agent


#9

Now you know how the custom agents survive with 20CUC a month.


#10

More like $20 per hour in Canada. ::slight_smile:


#11

[quote=@iggy1] [quote]

Try being a nonresident Canadian returning to Canada, their Gestapo like tactics make Cuba’s look like a kindergarten training program. [/quote]

try being a Canadian coming back to Canada and getting a pr!ck for a customs agent[/quote]

Sounds like you both have come through Toronto.


#12

never had an issue at canadian customs in the 100+ trips we have taken. (land, sea & air) Always declare and so what if they take you to secondary; they are simply doing their jobs. :stuck_out_tongue: ::slight_smile: :slight_smile: :sunglasses:


#13

Do I detect an employee of the Gestapo posting ???


#14

I find your use of the word Gestapo very insensitive. Comparing border guards to Nazis is unconscionable and offensive.


#15

Do I detect an employee of the Gestapo posting ???[/quote]

wouldn’t surprise me


#16

Do I detect an employee of the Gestapo posting ???[/quote]

not at all an employee of CBSA. just a traveller who doesn’t sweat the small stuff. Life can be way to short. :-* :-*


#17

We travel lots and have never had a bad agent at the border. I also am an importer of American raw materials ( about 8 times a year )for manufacture here and have never had a bad time.
Gestapo ???
Yeesh !


#18

Had you experienced the interrogation accompanied harassment, scare tactics, invasion of privacy & theft of personal property that I did, solely because I gave up my residency. You wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss a valid comparison.

Yes Jack I entered through the hell-hole Pearson!


#19

“Gestapo” and “Nazi” are words and terms that should not be used lightly.
Think before you post.


#20

Many of us do probably use terms like Nazi, Gestapo, etc. a bit too lightly. (Remember the soup Nazi on Seinfeld a few years back.) But like a lot of these things, it is a simple literary device called hyperbole. That’s not to say we should use such terms so lightly.

But from what Dave has described elsewhere, it seems that the CBSA agent he dealt with was pretty extreme. I have no basis to compare, only having entered Canada through Toronto-Pearson once, but that was an unpleasant experience. Wheras every time returning through Calgary, it has always felt more like a “welcome home”, and never any unpleasantness like luggage searches, etc. Is it just something about TO?