Cross-border Shopping Guide / FAQ for Canadians
What’s the personal tax exemption when I come back to Canada from shopping?
In the most concise form, the personal exemption limits are:
Effective June 1, 2012, the new personal exemption will be as follows.
|Increased traveller personal exemption limits effective June 1, 2012|
|24 hours or more||up to CAN$200||Goods must be in your possession at time of entry to Canada.|
|48 hours or more||up to CAN$800|
|7 days or more||up to CAN$800||Goods may be in your possession at time of entry to Canada but are also permitted to follow entry to Canada (via courier, mail or delivery agency).|
If you bring goods over the exempted value, after being absent from Canada over 48 hours, the value for duty of the goods shall be reduced by an amount equal to that maximum specified value and, in the case of alcoholic beverages and tobacco, the quantity of those goods shall be reduced by the quantity of alcoholic beverages and tobacco up to the maximum quantities allowed.
If you are only absent from Canada less than 48 hours and you bring back goods over $200, you’ll have to pay duty/tax on the full value.
There are many details and exceptions to the personal exemption limits. Please read our article for more details.
How many bottles of wine/liquor can I bring back to Canada?
None, if you’re out of the country for less than 48 hours. But if you’re willing to pay duty and tax, there’s no limit.
If you have been outside Canada for at least 48 hours and are of legal age, you can bring back only one the following free of duty and tax as part of your personal exemption:
- 1.14 L (40 oz.) of liquor; or
- 1.5 L of wine; or
- 24 X 355 ml (12 oz.) containers of beer.
How many cigars/cigarettes can I bring back to Canada?
If you’re out of country less then 48 hours, you have to pay the applicable duty and sales tax. Otherwise, you can bring back all or any the following if you’re over the legal age.
- 200 cigarettes;
- 50 cigars or cigarillos;
- 200 tobacco sticks; and
- 200 g (7 oz.) of manufactured tobacco.
What is the tax exemption applied to mail order items?
You don’t have to pay duties and taxes if your mail ordered item is:
- a gift worth $60 or less; or
- worth $20 or less.
This exemption applies on a per item basis. Items sent to a Canadian as a gift by another person must include a card or notice indicating it is a gift. Clearly identified gifts worth CDN$60 or less are not subject to duties or taxes; however,gifts greater than CDN$60 are subject to duties and taxes. This CDN$60 exemption does not apply to tobacco, alcohol, advertising material, or items sent by a business or association.
Are children’s clothes duty free? How much duty do I pay?
This depends on where the cloth were made. If the children’s clothes are not made in US or Mexico, you will need to pay 17% duty plus taxes. Thankfully, you don’t pay PST for children’s clothes. Please read our article on Canadian duty and NAFTA.
How bad is the wait at the USA-Canada border crossings?
USA shopping is a rewarding pastime to Canadians, as long as it’s not all spent at the border crossing. Canadian Border Services Agency offers an up to the minute estimate of the wait time at all border crossings (Canadian side). Check it out before leaving home.
US Customs & Border Protection has a counterpart wait time estimate at the US side. Check it out when returning.
Where can I find Canadian $ exchange rate in the last few days?
Yahoo Finance has those rates and charts. Find out 3 month CA$ to US$ exchange rate chart here.
What’s the closest US factory outlets to Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Kingston and Montreal?
Please read our article on US factory outlets.
Can I pay taxes at the border with a credit card?
Yes, you can pay with all major credit cards, i.e. Visa, Mastercard, American Express.
Is there an annual limit to your times crossing the border and making the duty free claims or are you allowed to cross the and make the $750 claim as long as you meet the stay criteria?
No, there is no limit on the exemption amount regarding border crossing frequency.
Please read our disclaimers for the use of information presented here.