The law concerning reporting transportation of more than $10,000 in currency and/or monetary instruments coming into or out of the United States is clear; any amount more than $10,000 must be reported. So what about two or more of transactions of $10,000 or less?
It is illegal to structure an importation or exportation in order to avoid filing the required report under 31 USC § 5324(c)(3). For example, if a person wanted to transport $25,000 from the U.S. to Brazil, it is illegal to divide the money into smaller sums and export those smaller sums on the same or different occasions to avoid filing a report. It does not matter if the money is divided and given to a person on the same flight (or same car, bus, boat, etc.), or if it’s done days, weeks, months, or years apart if done to avoid having to file a report — structuring the transaction to avoid filing the report is illegal and carries serious civil and/or criminal consequences. It does not matter if you have other reasons for structuring the transaction, so long as one of those reasons to is to avoid having to file a report your structuring of the transaction is illegal.
On the other hand, dividing the money for any reason other than evading the reporting requirement is legal. However, my typical cautionary disclaimer applies: you still have to prove it and convince Customs that your intent was not to avoid filing a report, and hope that your evidence is strong enough to get your money back (remember, Customs will have seized it pursuant to 31 USC § 5317).
If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information available on this website or call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.
Please read these other articles:
- Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
- Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
- Structuring currency imports and exports
- Is it $10,000 per person? Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
- Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
- Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
- Responding to a Customs currency seizure
- How do I get my seized money back?
- Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
- How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?