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ATTENTION: UW PHOTOGRAPHERS going to Baja Mexico:

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Marcus,

When I went to Guadalupe I also made it through Mexico City and Tijuana, and I should tell you they did try to shake me down in the former, but not on the latter. Bear in mind this was before it was actively enforced (Sept 2019) and that I speak native Spanish, so I managed to get away with not paying anything. 

Best of luck with it and with the great whites

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I went to Cabo at the end of May for a dive trip to Socorro.  Several people from our boat got hit by the tax, some up to $400 for high end Nauticam housings and Ports. I managed to get through with out getting caught.

I tried to be a bit sneaky and it worked. I was carrying two rebreathers and my DSLR gear. I put the rebreathers in pelican cases, and packed my camera gear in a standard suitcase. I went through the customs gate first with the two pelican cases with just dive gear. Of course the agents zeroed in on the Pelicans and had my open them. Meanwhile my wife slipped through unbothered with the suitcases full of camera gear.

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I have been traveling to Mexico for years.  I actually looked at buying a property there once, many years back.  Mostly I try to shrug off the seemingly never-ending corruption and scams,  but sometimes I find myself feeling really tired of it and like I just won't go back.  Recently I was booking a trip to Mexico and I just couldn't do it and booked a trip elsewhere.   It actually felt kind of satisfying to give the finger to Mexico, figuratively speaking.   Not saying I won't go back, but there is this bit of irritation every time I start looking at it.

I mean, come on, you don't pay duty anywhere in the world on personally owned items you take on a vacation and bring back home with you.  What's next?  "Duty" on my watch or shoes or cell phone whatever? 

I actually have Mexico-specific packing practices, and that just feels wrong. 

Okay, rant over.  I feel better now.

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In all fairness they are upfront with this rules, and it's the same in lot of country in Asia, or like in the stupid French/Swiss border, that I cross at least twice a week every week day for 7 years.

And no one time have a swiis boarder boy that try to make me pay import tax on my photo & diving gear (brand new on the back sit, stupid of me). Cost me hours to retrieve the proof of tax payment in France and to show that I was a transboarder worker.

 

Know a lot that had to pay something, and claim back at the exit (good luck to get your refund in less than 2 months)...

just my 2 cts.

Have a great day.

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I am so glad I stumbled upon this, such a great info with huge consequences. I was thinking of travelling to Mexico for diving but I won't be doing that any longer. It is such a shame since I was so set on Socorro. 

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On 10/12/2021 at 5:02 PM, Ced Ferre said:

In all fairness they are upfront with this rules, and it's the same in lot of country in Asia, or like in the stupid French/Swiss border, that I cross at least twice a week every week day for 7 years.

 

no, they are not upfront, and are flat out violating their own rules.   You're permitted two cameras and their accessories.   A housing is an accessory.   The Nautilus Fleet gives you a playbook for responding to the shakedown.   Unfortunately, it doesn't work and the boat operators are a pretty tiny part of the tourism industry in Cabo.   

I would like to go to Cabo Pulmo and a cruise up or down the Sea of Cortez, but not while this continues.   I've scratched my Socorro and Guadalupe itches.  

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Went to Socorro in FEB 2019 before these issues arose.  Read through threads several times and don't think I've come across a specific answer to question I have about a return trip in 2022.

If I were to fly USA to lets say Guadalajara or Monterey, spend a couple days then fly Domestically  to SJD and arrive at Terminal #1 (Domestic) would I still have to go through customs and the 'housings' shakedown??

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I just landed I'm SJD (Cabo) a few days ago and got shook down.  I used the mentioned "playbook" and it didn't work.  They tried to charge me duty on my housing, ports, video lights, and strobes.  As a last resort I showed them my passport with all of my trips to Mexico over the last few years, and said I will never come back, still didn't work.  I asked to speak with the supervisor and he removed the duty from the video lights and strobes.  I mentioned the housing is extremely used and barely functioning and he dropped the duty down to $50 usd.  I should mention that when he wrote up the receipt the supervisor didn't pay attention to the brand or model of the housing.  I would recommend if you use Nauticam to just say it's a Nauticam housing and say you can't remember the model number.  That way you can use that proof of duty payment for all future Nauticam housings you bring into Mexico.  Absolutely ridiculous, but I intend on upgrading my housing soon and won't have to worry about paying duties anymore.

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7 hours ago, Freelio said:

I just landed I'm SJD (Cabo) a few days ago and got shook down.  I used the mentioned "playbook" and it didn't work.  They tried to charge me duty on my housing, ports, video lights, and strobes.  As a last resort I showed them my passport with all of my trips to Mexico over the last few years, and said I will never come back, still didn't work.  I asked to speak with the supervisor and he removed the duty from the video lights and strobes.  I mentioned the housing is extremely used and barely functioning and he dropped the duty down to $50 usd.  I should mention that when he wrote up the receipt the supervisor didn't pay attention to the brand or model of the housing.  I would recommend if you use Nauticam to just say it's a Nauticam housing and say you can't remember the model number.  That way you can use that proof of duty payment for all future Nauticam housings you bring into Mexico.  Absolutely ridiculous, but I intend on upgrading my housing soon and won't have to worry about paying duties anymore.

That's insane that they tried to charge you on lights and strobes.  I can understand their confusion on whether a housing is a camera vs an accessory (IMO clearly an accessory), but there is no uncertainty on lighting.  A pure shakedown.

Question for you - did you declare everything on a customs form or did they search your bag?  

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They searched my bag.  The supervisor said that I only have to pay duties on the housing once and I can show the payment form next time I come to Mexico, but from looking at the form further I'm not so sure.

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On 12/5/2021 at 5:34 PM, Freelio said:

They searched my bag.  The supervisor said that I only have to pay duties on the housing once and I can show the payment form next time I come to Mexico, but from looking at the form further I'm not so sure.

Any chance you can post a pic of the form so I can translate it for you guys?

Thanks

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On 1/25/2022 at 11:20 AM, elmelodico said:

Any chance you can post a pic of the form so I can translate it for you guys?

Thanks

 

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Thanks @Freelio. I wasn't expecting such a detailed (and rambling) document; it even talks about sandwich ingredients (I'm not kidding). Here are the highlights:

According to the following bit, any cases, housings and other container that is specifically designed and sold with a camera, musical instrument, etc, will be tax free. It also states that any of these containers should be esencial for the items' proper and prolonged functioning, which is exactly what housings are for when you want to take them underwater, but hey, I don't make the rules.

So basically, that is the criteria they are using: since Nauticam sells the housings separately (although they are specifically designed for each model), they can apply tax to it because it wasn't sold by the manufacturer with the camera itself. 

I was also surprised to see the both the random price they agreed upon and its corresponding tax. I still think this is absurd, but I also reckon we can all agree $57 bucks is not a lot. The problem, I guess, is actually making the customs officer agree with such a "suggested retail price". The other problem I noticed is that it doesn't say absolutely anywhere about not having to pay that duty again.

Good to know, thanks again for posting it.

Screen Shot 2022-02-07 at 19.09.43.png

Edited by elmelodico

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After researching this further, there is indeed a legal basis to charge a 16% tax on many goods brought into the country.  Personally, I think a dive camera housing is an accessory and should not be taxed, but according to one liveaboard operator down there "a camera housing is considered professional equipment and is not on the acceptable list of sporting goods equipment that can be brought into the country."

That same liveaboard provides this information:

"CARNET;  A carnet is a document that allows for the temporary importation of goods including “professional equipment”.  The price for a carnet would be $500 – $525.  A company that can help you with this is Boomerang Carnets www.atacarnet.com

The individual applies on-line for this and it should be done a minimum of one week in advance. The carnet takes 24-48 hours but the company also has to register it in Mexico so it is wise to add 2-3 days for this.  The individual would need to supply a copy of their most recent tax return. They can black out their social security number.  Once they get the carnet and they arrive in Mexico, they show the carnet to customs. This should let them bring the housing into the country. When they exit Mexico, they need to go to customs again to show that the housing is leaving the country.  A carnet lasts for six months and can be extended."

The fact that this is a federal tax and yet is not imposed in Cozumel, Cancun, or other locations still makes me view it as a local scam.  It is unfortunate, because six of us were planning a liveaboard trip, but of that six, three are photographers and we are just not willing to add hundreds of dollars each to the price to our trip.  With recent Nauticam price increases, I could face a huge tax bill on my housing.  Neither do any of us want to be forced into the role of smugglers or have to worry about whether we will be "selected" on the way there.  What with covid tests and mask mandates and such, travel is already more of a hassle than before.

There are lots of places to dive.  I would rather add that $500-$1000 "fee" to my airfare or dive op or liveaboard costs instead and go someplace other than Mexico.  I guess I may never make it to Socorro.

I don't "blame" anyone who chooses to go, but going and paying just reinforces and rewards the practice.

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If there was some kind of 50usd tax for whatever reason, I could swallow it. But many of us are not rich divers (well, some of us) and its not like we do diving on top of everything else. We do diving instead of everything else. 

 

Meaning we don't have a spare 16% of a nauticam housing to spend, on top of a very expensive trip.

 

I agree with the sentiment here, whilst there's not many of us, the easiest way to make a change here is to boicott such practices.

 

Professionals will need to go there regardless for work, but for amateurs we can go elsewhere that is more accepting of our activities. We can also contact the biggest housing manufacturers (marelux, ikelite, nauticam etc.) and see if they have input or sway.

 

I'd be happy paying an admin fee weeks in advance to process papers and get stuff done, but paying a random amount of money dependant on how lucky I am when I arrive - no bueno Sir. 

 

Baja is MASSIVELY on my bucket list but I won't be visiting under these circumstances.

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sinetwo: 

Consider going to the Cocos rather than Socorro. Some similarity in the big animals, plus a country that is relatively safe and and a government that is tourist friendly unlike Mexico.

Mexico was off my list for now, possibly forever and that includes Cancún for whale sharks and Cozumel for drift diving.

The only way we can vote is with our pocketbook. 

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@divengolf I wanted to go to Baja for all the big stuff, not necessarily Socorro, but I'll look into Cocos.

 

Be aware the Cozumel and Quintana Roo do not have these restrictions - I've been there twice and no one I know has had this imposed on them. Mexico overall is an absolutely amazing and lovely place, so I wouldn't boicott those places! 

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Always wondered if it''d be worth grabbing the carnet as I bring stuff on more international travels.  Usually just the security deposit that isn't ideal depending on how much I bring along/register...

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Has anyone had this this tariff issue with rented gear?  

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I had that happen to me in 2017 on my way to Socorro. At the time, no one else on the Nautilus boat had that happen to them. So, they might be stepping up their game since then. The one thing I WAS told was that I wouldn’t have to pay the fee again next time I came through Mexico, as long as I had that papers Customs gave me. So now those papers are permanently in a zip lock bag in my dive bag. Were any of you who got hit with the fee told that? 

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I have been to Cabo with a housing about 5 times in the last 2 years, without issue. Granted, I have never hit the red light while diving.  However, I do not have hard sided luggage, my camera gear and regs is in a soft-sided Patagonia bag. I am not sure if that works, but I can guarantee that I will have a receipt value of a refurbished non/branded housing that fits a price I do not find too egregious. 

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