Do I have to pay duty on goods coming to Canada?

May 11, 2018

Do I have to pay duty on goods purchased outside Canada?

Trying to figure if you have to pay duty on something you’ve purchased outside of Canada can be confusing for people.

There are two basic questions to think about:

  1. Is it something you bought online and is being mailed to you?
  2. Is it something you bought while traveling outside of Canada?


Paying duty on items purchased online or being mailed

According to the Canadian government, any item mailed to Canada may be subject to GST and/or duty. Unless you have an exemption, you must pay the GST. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) calculates any duties owing based on the value of the goods in Canadian funds. Duty rates vary according to the type of good and where it was imported from. Depending on the value of the items in question, some other taxes may apply such as an excise duty or excise tax on luxury items.

Visit the CBSA’s website to learn more about Importing by mail or courier.


Paying duty on items purchased while traveling outside of Canada

If you are coming back to Canada after shopping in the US, the GST or duty depends on if you have a personal exemption. Those exemptions are based on how long you have been in the US, such as less than 24 hours, longer than 48 hours, or longer than seven days. The longer you are away, the higher the personal exemption (which can be up to $800 – if it’s higher, the duty is based on the value after the $800).

For more information on personal exemptions, consult I Declare.


Do I have to pay duty on goods purchased outside Canada?

So the basic answer to the question of “if” you have to pay your duty is yes – if a duty applies. You can’t just not pay. (The only exception is if you are driving home across the border.) It all depends on the Canadian customs official that stops you and what questions they ask…and how honest you are with your answers.


What penalties will I face if I don’t declare all of my purchases?

Now, if you don’t pay the duty on an item purchased outside of Canada, there is no question you will be in trouble.

  • If you make a false declaration or don’t declare at all, CBSA agents can seize the items, with fines ranging from 25-80% of their value – plus you may not ever get the goods returned.
  • If the item is a vehicle, CBSA can seize it and impose fines you must pay to get the vehicle back.
  • Even if you pay the fines, plus all applicable duties and taxes, you’ll have the infraction recorded in the CBSA’s computer system. It will hinder your ability to cross the border and/or purchase goods outside of the country.


At BorderBuddy, we believe it’s best not to leave anything to chance. Better yet, leave the issue of calculating duties to us. We’ll do all the calculations for you and – depending on the size of your purchase – can take care of all the customs paperwork on your behalf.

Candian Duty Calculator

BorderBuddy’s Duty Calculator quickly and easily estimates duty rates and taxes on goods being imported into Canada from the United States. Calculate duty on goods you are importing!