Declaring of cash when entering the EU


Cash cannot be brought into or taken out of the European Union at will. Cash amounts of €10.000 and higher or the same value in other currencies, stock bonds or traveler’s cheques must be declared.

The duty to declare cash when entering the EU is not one to be taken lightly or to be omitted, as a senior citizen was reminded of recently. The 76-year-old and her son from the Palatinate (Pfalz) intended to cross the border on the motorway at the border crossing of Rheinfelden travelling from Switzerland to Germany and were stopped at the border crossing by a control unit of the main customs office Lörrach.  

Gold smuggled in waistband

According to the customs office, the senior citizen and her son disclosed to customs they were returning from a business trip from Zurich and confirmed they did not have any goods, cash, or anything else to declare. The officers however observed clearly that the woman was quickly trying to hide an item in her waistband. Following repeated demands from the officers to hand over the package, the woman finally albeit unwillingly obliged. It became apparent, the senior citizen had tried to hide ten gold bullions weighing 100 grams each in her waistband. The gold, which had a converted daily value of € 52.500 , was purchased by the woman earlier on the same day in a bank in Zurich. However, the violation of the reporting obligation could turn out to be expensive for the senior citizen. A penalty of up to one million Euro can be imposed.

Benjamin Hasan, board-certified expert lawyer for banking law and capital markets law explains: “The woman should have declared bringing the gold bullions from Switzerland into the EU. This refers to the obligation of all travelers that are coming into or leaving the EU being required to declare cash amounts held of €10.000 and higher, or the same value in other currencies, stock bonds or traveler’s cheques. This measure is part of the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.”

New regulations for declaration of cash since June 3, 2021

The senior citizen was stopped by customs in April 2021. Since then and as of June 3, 2021, even stricter regulations apply. For example, the definition of cash has been expanded onto further items of value. This now also includes bank notes and coins, even if these are no longer in circulation but can still be exchanged at banks, transferrable bearer documents such as cheques, traveler’s cheques, promissory notes, and money orders, as well as gold coins with a gold content of at least 90 percent or gold bullions and the likes with a gold content of at least 99,5 percent.

Additionally, customs can demand a disclosure statement for cash amounts from € 10.000 and above, which are sent by post, air or courier.

In case of indications of cash being related to criminal activities such as money laundering or terrorist financing, the customs office may also take action in relation to amounts smaller than € 10.000.

Severe sanctions may be imposed in the event of non-compliance with the obligation of declaration. Apart from possible cash confiscation, each EU-country may impose its own effective, proportionate and dissuasive punitive measures.

For this reason, expert lawyer Benjamin Hasan explains: “In the event of doubt, one should inform oneself, whether and how cash needs to be declared, to avoid risking investigative proceedings or a punitive fine.”.

The content of this article is valid as at the date of its first publication. It is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you seek professional advice on your specific matter before acting on any information provided. For further information or advice, please contact Benjamin Hasan, Partner at the Frankfurt office, via telephone at +49 69 247 428 444 or by email at benjamin.hasan@kyprianou.com