How to avoid airport Custom Duty & Tax

Recently, topics surrounding Customs tax are trending on social media. In particular, this video where a lady had to pay some 20 Millions Rupiah in Custom tax for bringing a branded bag. This is the video for the curious one.


I feel the pain whenever I see people that know nothing and get fined in the Airport Custom. I do not encourage ‘smuggling’, but knowing what you can bring in and what you can’t, will save you a lot of money.i feel you bro meme

My personal experience with Soekarno Hatta’s Customs.

There were countless times when I see white chalk marks on all sides of my luggages. Custom officials would then ask to open and check the bags. Most of the times I would not bother to remove the marked areas, if I did not carry anything or buy anything overseas that would exceed the limit. Often they would check the luggage briefly and if they did not see anything ‘worthy’, the custom officials would give you green light to go.

There was this one time when I came back from Sydney, Australia. I did not plan to buy anything in Sydney so I packed light. When visiting Ikea in Sydney, I decided to buy solar lamps that you can place in your garden. I bought these knockoff, chinese-made LED solar lamp that costs only $2 each for 20 pieces. As you can see from the image, the items were quite bulky and I had to pack it in few boxes. This literally looked like a tasty fish for the Custom officials. The whole ordeal lasted more than 30 minutes and in the end nothing happened. These smart alec Custom officials think they were so smart with their smartphones and tried to intimidate people. They would want to get you to say these are commercial items or sample sale items.

I wanted to smack them so hard in the face. If I wanted to sell this in Indonesia, I would bring items like rare gold, antique collection or branded bags. How much money can you make from these LED solar lamp. After they were satisfied and checked the price from eBay Australia and other sources, they told me I can go. They did not even bother to help packing the forced open box. Yeah nice try, thanks Custom officials! Your reputation proceeds you.

But there are some lessons that I want to share with you in regards to Customs Tax and Duty.bea cukai bandara soekarno hatta

  1. Know your game

You can bring into our lovely country, FOB of $250 per person or $1,000 per family. This means if you are travelling with your family, your shopping items cannot exceed $1,000. From this point, I hope you are getting the ideas. The custom officials will try to prove that you are buying things overseas. You will try to prove that it is not new.

Now, if let’s say you just bought a new Audemars Piguet watch worth over $15,000. How can you prove that it is not new? You can simply wear the watch in the airport. Now don’t be the idiots that keep the receipts and the box in your luggage. If you can afford an expensive watch, you can surely afford a watch winder. If you really want to keep the invoices, you can take a photo in your phone and dispose the paper receipt.

  1. Pack pretty but not too pretty

In the earlier video, you can see the lady bringing the said branded bag still in its shopping bag. I can almost assume she hand carry the item. This is a big No-No. Consider this game over. You are handing a golden ticket to the Custom official.

Instead you should either wear the bag while you just landed or pack the bag in your luggage. Remember when packing your handbag in your luggage, please leave out the box and receipt. If you insist on bringing the box, fold away they box and place in separate luggage.

  1. Avoid packing in boxes

If possible, always avoid packing in boxes. Although there is nothing valuable inside, you always risk getting hold up and end up spending unnecessary time in the airport. The most annoying part is that you alone have to clean up after the mess they made.

  1. Do not bring same multiple items

You will have a hard time explaining to them, why you want to buy the same items in multiples for your own personal use. You can easily get a way with one or two branded goods. But more than that, you will have a hard time convincing these smart alec. Because not only you need to convince that the items are used, for personal use and also you are not trying to sell these items again in Indonesia. Bringing more than 2 branded goods can easily push over the FOB limits.


You simply need to make it very clear to the Custom officials that the items you brought in to the country, are not new, for personal use and not for resale. Do not be intimidated by these custom officials.

What happens if your items do not pass the Customs.

When the Custom officials flag your items, most likely you will be moved into the Custom office area. Most likely you will have to pay for the tax, that exceeds the FOB limit. Find out how much you need to pay, leave your stuff and settle it another day. Never make a rush decision. Do not worry about your precious items. They will be stored carefully inside.

You need to go over and check if the excised items are correctly listed. Different items belong to different category and the tax ranging from 5% to 25%. You can check the rates in their official website. Also the next time you go back to pay for your fine and claim your goods, please make sure to bring your NPWP. Non-taxable person is taxed doubled (20% compared to 10%).


Frequent flyers, any other tips that’s worth sharing about Customs Duty & Tax?

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