The cash reporting requirement for currency and monetary instruments over $10,000 transported into or out of the United States is mandatory under the Currency and Foreign Transaction Reporting Act (or Bank Secrecy Act).
The act requires anyone who is entering or leaving the United States to file a form (PDF version here) (interactive/online version here) FinCen 105 (FinCen is the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) with the Customs officer in charge at any Customs port of entry or departure at the time of entry into the United States or at the time of departure from the United States. Form FinCEN 105 is titled “Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments” but is also sometimes referred to as a Currency and Monetary Instrument Report (CMRI). We’ll call it the cash reporting requirement here, too.
Ignorance of the cash reporting requirement won’t help you
Ignorance of the cash reporting requirement is not a defense to a customs cash seizure or criminal prosecution for a failure to report cash or its equivalent. Although you may not see them, around the airport and at airline gates there are typically signs posted alerting passengers to the reporting requirement. They contain much the same warning as in CBP’s currency reporting flyer. In addition, CBP Form 6059B, which is given prior to landing on international flights to the United States, contains a question about currency and a clear notice:
The transportation of currency or monetary instruments, regardless of the amount, is legal. However, if you bring in to or take out of the United States more than $10,000 . . ., you are required by law to file a report on FinCEN 105 . . . with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
If you have someone else carry the currency or monetary instruments for you, you must also file a report on Form FinCEN 105. Failure to file the required report or failure to report the total amount that you are carrying may lead to the seizure of all the currency or monetary instruments, and may subject you to civil penalties and/or criminal prosecution.
These cash reporting requirement notices make it nearly impossible for anyone to credibly claim ignorance of currency report requirement, even if it was a defense that could get you out of trouble.
How to report cash to Customs using FinCEN 105?
You can report cash to Customs using FinCEN 105. The form that includes detailed instructions, but basically requires personal information about the person transporting the currency or monetary instruments, the date of export or import, and the type and amount of currency being transported.
What are the penalties for not filing a currency transaction report?
The penalties for not filing a currency transaction report (FinCEN 105) when required are arrest, time in jail, and seizure of your money for the failure to report currency, and possibly structuring or bulk cash smuggling, depending on the circumstances.