Canada Cross Border Shopping

Canadians love to hit the boutiques, department stores, and premiere outlets in the US. When returning to Canada with goods purchased in the US, you may qualify for a personal exemption. This allows you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying regular duty and taxes. There are exceptions for a minimum duty that may apply to some tobacco products.

Here are some general guidelines on what you can and cannot bring home when returning to Canada. Items allowed into Canada must still be declared on your declaration card.

Absence of less than 24 hours

There are no personal exemptions for same-day cross-border shoppers.

Absence of 24 hours or more

You can claim goods up to CAN$200 without paying any duty and taxes. You must have the goods with you when you enter Canada, and tobacco products or alcoholic beverages are not included in this amount. If you bring in goods worth more than CAN$200, you have to pay full duty and taxes on the total amount. 

Absence of 48 hours or more

You can claim goods worth up CAN$800 without paying any duty and taxes. You must have the goods with you when you enter Canada. Although you can include some tobacco products and alcohol, a partial exemption may apply to cigarettes, tobacco products, and manufactured tobacco. See the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) web pages on Alcoholic beverages and Tobacco products for more details. 

Special duty rate

If you exceed your personal exemption after a trip of 48 hours or longer outside Canada you will be charged a special duty rate of 7% on the next CAN$300-worth of goods. The rate applies only to goods that accompany you and does not apply to tobacco products or alcoholic beverages. You still have to pay any Goods and Services Tax (GST) or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) that applies. In some provinces, the CBSA also collects the provincial sales tax.

Absence of seven days or more

You can claim up to CAN$800 worth of goods without paying any duty and taxes. You must have the tobacco and alcohol with you when you enter Canada, but the rest of the goods can arrive later by mail, courier, or delivery agency. Although you can include some tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, a partial exemption may apply to cigarettes, tobacco products, and manufactured tobacco. See the CSBA web pages on Alcoholic beverages and Tobacco products for more details.  

Part of the year outside Canada

Even if you spend part of the year in another country, you are still considered a resident of Canada. This means that you are entitled to the same exemptions as other Canadians. When you import foreign goods or vehicles for your personal use into Canada (even temporarily), you have to meet all import requirements and pay all applicable duty and taxes.

Conditions on your personal exemptions

Except for restricted items, you can bring back any amount of goods as long as you are willing to pay the duty and taxes and any provincial or territorial assessments that apply. This rule applies even if you do not qualify for a personal exemption.

You are eligible for a personal exemption if you are

• a Canadian resident returning from a trip outside Canada

• a former resident of Canada returning to live in this country, or

• a temporary resident of Canada returning from a trip outside Canada.

Even young children and infants are entitled to a personal exemption. As a parent or guardian, you can make a declaration on behalf of a child as long as the goods you are declaring are for the child’s use.

You cannot combine your personal exemptions with those of another person or transfer them to someone else.

You cannot combine your 48-hour exemption (CAN$800) with your seven-day exemption (CAN$800) for a total exemption of CAN$1,600.

In general, the goods you include in your personal exemption must be for your personal or household use. These goods include souvenirs, gifts that you received from friends or relatives living outside Canada, or prizes that you won.

Goods you bring in for commercial use or for another person do not qualify for the exemption and are subject to applicable duty and taxes.

You should have all purchases made abroad and your receipts readily available. Be prepared to make a full and accurate declaration, including the amount of goods you are bringing with you, in Canadian dollars.

Making a full declaration and paying any duty and taxes you owe is a simple, straightforward process. You can pay by cash, travelers’ cheque, Visa, American Express, or MasterCard. The CBSA also accepts debit cards at most offices. If an amount is no more than CAN$2,500, you can sometimes pay by personal cheque with suitable identification. A border services officer will give you a receipt showing the calculations and amount you paid. 

Gifts

While you are outside Canada, you can send gifts free of duty and taxes to friends at home in Canada under certain conditions. To qualify, each gift must not be worth more than CAN$60 and cannot be a tobacco product, an alcoholic beverage, or advertising matter. If the gift is worth more than CAN$60, the recipient will have to pay regular duty and taxes on the excess amount. It is always a good idea to include a gift card to avoid any misunderstanding.

Gifts you send from outside Canada do not count as part of your personal exemption, but gifts you bring back in your personal baggage do and are treated like any other purchases. 

Jewelry

Because jewelry is often very valuable and can be difficult to identify, you should travel with as little as possible.

Take the following steps before you leave Canada. It will make it easier for you to re-enter the country with jewelry:

• Obtain an appraisal report and a signed and dated photograph of each piece of jewelry from a recognized Canadian gemologist, jeweler or your insurance agent.

• Obtain written certification that the items or jewelry in the photographs are the ones described in the appraisal report.

• Take the jewelry appraisal reports, certification statements, and photographs to a CBSA office to be validated.

• If the jewelry was purchased in Canada, keep the sales receipt.

• If you imported the goods previously, make sure you have a copy of your receipt.

• Carry the appraisal reports, certifications, and photographs when you are traveling outside Canada. 

Cultural property

Some antiques or cultural objects considered to have historical significance to their country of origin cannot be brought into Canada without the appropriate export permits. Before you import such items, you should contact Canadian Heritage:

Movable Cultural Property

Prohibited goods

Obscene material, hate propaganda, and child pornography cannot be imported into Canada. 

Prohibited consumer products

This is a partial list of consumer products that are banned in Canada and cannot be imported:

• Baby walkers

• Infant self-feeding devices

• Jequirity beans and items containing them

• Lawn darts with elongated tips

A full list of products that are prohibited under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act is provided in Canada Consumer Product Safety Act Quick Reference Guide – 2011

Health products (prescription drugs)

In Canada, health products may be regulated differently than they are in other countries. For example, a drug that is available without a prescription in one country may require a prescription in Canada. There are also restrictions on the quantities and types of health products that can be brought into Canada.

For more information on importing health products into Canada, please consult Health Canada’s Guidance Document on the Import Requirements for Health Products under the Food and Drugs Act and its Regulations.

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