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The Customs list defining what items can be brought into Ecuador tax-free

Published on November 07, 2022

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Lenin Castro, Deputy Director General of Customs Regulations of the National Customs Service of Ecuador (Senae), explains what items travelers can bring into Ecuador.

Due to the devaluation of other currencies against the dollar, more Ecuadorians are making shopping trips to neighboring countries like Colombia. Travelers should be aware of the items that can be brought in as personal items that are tax exempt.

“Customs has a list of items for personal use, such as clothing, jewelry, costume jewelry, books, toys, which increase for the Christmas season,” says Lenin Castro, Deputy Director General of Customs Regulations at the National Customs Service of Ecuador (Senae).

Castro adds that the detail of all personal items is in the Customs mobile application, called ‘Senae Móvil.’

In a recent interview, Castro talked about the personal items that travelers can bring into the country by land and air.

The devaluation of some currencies, such as the peso, has led Ecuadorians to make shopping trips in other countries, such as Colombia. In what cases can people enter items without paying taxes?

Customs has a list of items for personal use, such as clothing, jewelry, books, toys, which increase around Christmas time.

There are also electronic items, such as a camera, a computer, a tablet.

All these objects can be entered as effects for personal use, as long as they are not for commercial purposes.

In addition, people must be sure that they do not need any control document from other entities, otherwise it would be prohibited.

How can you know what are the personal items and control documents that other entities have established?

Customs has a mobile application, called Senae Móvil, which is available on the App Store and Google Play.

The application details the list of personal items for those who enter by air and for those who enter by land.

The platform even has a calculator with which you can find out the value of taxes and duties to pay, if applicable.

Why is there a difference between the personal items that people can enter Ecuador by air and by land?

It is due to the type of customs control that is carried out.

For example, in land entrances there is the so-called ‘contraband smuggling’ in the case of alcoholic beverages, which does not occur in air entrances.

And smuggling is assumed when people make many trips to enter large quantities of products.

If any product is not on the list, people can make an inquiry to Customs.

What personal items can travelers bring into the country by air and by land?

They are processed foods when they are sealed or vacuum packed. Although, by land, Agrocalidad and the National Agency for Sanitary Regulation, Control and Surveillance (Arcsa) prohibit the entry of balanced feed for animals, to avoid risks to food safety.

What other entities issue regulations on the entry of products into the country?

The Ecuadorian Standardization Service (INEN), with technical regulations.

In addition, people can approach Customs officials at the borders, who advise on the entry of products.

Customs confirms that the articles that enter as personal are not intended for commercial purposes.

Travelers must consider that, at the time of entering with personal items, the control is made to the family nucleus, made up of parents and children.

For example, if two of the members try to enter new tablets there can be complications.

What technological items can be entered as personal effects?

By air, people can bring two cell phones, one used and one new. The same goes for laptops.

If a person travels for work matters and carries technological items, they must demonstrate that they are work tools. For example, through a contract.

Electronic calculators, mice, headphones, keyboards, and even Global Positioning System (GPS) devices also qualify as personal items.

The proximity of the World Cup in Qatar has led people to demand more televisions. Can travelers enter with these items as personal belongings?

Yes. By air, people can bring in a television of up to 32 inches, with tax exemption.

On the other hand, by land you can only bring it in with the payment of taxes.

Do medicines or vitamins qualify as personal items?

People can enter with medicines when the amount is for personal use.

You can also bring health devices, such as blood pressure monitors.

What happens if travelers bring in items that are not on the personal effects list?

If they do it by air, people must request the customs registration form (FRA), with which the user has three options on the items: pay taxes, return them or abandon them.

Where do people find the customs registration form?

People can request the customs registration form from the airline when the plane lands at the international airports Mariscal Sucre in Quito and José Joaquín de Olmedo in Guayaquil.

In addition, the form can be requested from the Customs staff, after the bags are collected to leave the airport.

The form can also be requested at the land crossings of Rumichaca, San Miguel, Huaquillas and near Macará.

How does Customs control that people do not enter products for commercial purposes without declaring them?

In the range of $500 and $2,000 items are considered personal.

Articles that exceed the determined value enter a warehouse. In that case, people must register in the Ecuapass computer system to make an import.

This applies if the traveler has filled out the customs registration form.

What happens if a person did not fill out the form and enters items over $2,000?

It would be a contravention and the sanctions depend on each case.

The treatment given to a tourist who entered a product due to a bona fide mistake is different from that given to those who engage in smuggling.

For example, there was a case of a person carrying, in a suitcase, cell phones valued at 150 basic salaries ($63,750), which could be a crime.

When products are brought in for very high values, it could be a crime, so Customs must file a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office.

Taking into account a greater influx of Ecuadorians to certain destinations, has Customs increased controls?

As the influx of tourists increases, the number of customs controls increases.

Between January and September 2022, apprehensions for contraband have increased by 21%, compared to the same period in 2021.

What are the products that have been seized the most for contraband in 2022?

Clothes, shoes, food, cell phones and electronic equipment, such as printers.

In 2021, a regulation was established for the registration of cell phones that travelers bring into the country and ordered the blocking of devices when taxes are not paid. What is that?

As soon as the regulations came out, Customs enabled a system for travelers entering by air to register their cell phones.

Cell phone importing companies send, in advance, the information for the registration of the devices.

This information enters a database called a whitelist, to which Arcotel also has access.

Customs has had some meetings with the Internal Revenue Service (SRI) and Arcotel to address the issue together.

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