Today’s Editorial September 15: Time for honesty

One law we believe residents returning from overseas have routinely ignored in the past is the duty-free allowance.

Nearly every resident has been at the airport and seen someone coming back from a weekend trip to Miami with four or five pieces of luggage and standing in the queue marked ‘nothing to declare’.

Yes, consumer goods are cheaper in Miami, but they’re not that cheap and most of these people are either very forgetful of what they just spent or they’re trying to get one over on the government.

The customs officials have been relatively lenient with they way they’ve dealt with these people in the past, but no more. The government is in a severe economic crisis and needs all the revenues it can get. As a result, there is a crackdown on people who are under-claiming their purchases made overseas.

Penalties for under-declaring can be severe, with fines and seizure of items. It’s time for returning residents to declare the true values of their purchases, providing receipts as proof, or face the consequences.

While all of that is fair enough even in times when there is no economic crisis, it is also important that customs officers remain polite and professional in the way they deal with people. They also need to know what is dutiable and what is not.

Customs officers also need to be careful not to profile just certain people for inspection and to make sure the laws are applied fairly to everyone.

Although customs officers should look for situations they consider suspicious – like the passenger returning from a weekend trip from Miami with four or five bags – they have to be careful not to treat returning residents and tourists like criminals just because they are heavy packers.