Archive for the 'Cross border shopping' Category

Sep 06 2012

Why Canucks Cross The Border

WHY CANUKS CROSS THE BORDER Have you ever wondered why your fellow Canadian get so excited about crossing the border to visit American to go shopping? There are several reasons actually but one main trigger of this shopping-cart temporary migration is that every now and then the Canadian dollar (CAD) is on par with the American dollar (USD). This makes shopping in the US an extremely exciting and valuable experience. With the continuous evolution of e-commerce and online shopping, we are seeing something of a decline in this cross border shopping trend. Especially when you can get anything from cheap promotional mugs to discount Louboutin shoes on the internet, it is hard to envision that savings-savvy Canadians are still going to want to make the trip over – but still they do. We may have a little insight as to why:

Sometimes you can only get certain things in the US:

As great and as vast as Canadian shopping is, the fact remains that there are some US-only stores that exist that Canucks are very jealousy over. In the US there are some stores and highly recognizable brands that are Canadian-coveted and one such example is Target – or as it is lovingly referred to by raving fans, “Tar-jay”. Does it seem like a lot of effort to cross the border just to shop at Target? Maybe, but Canadians are hungry for savings and Target provides them with some basic essentials and even things for the home that are stylish, functional and affordable. Of course, we have discount stores here in Canada but the fact is that some of the goods are just not as fashionable or affordable, even after the exchange rate is factored in. another example of why Canadian cross the border is that certain stores that are available online like J. Crew, have brick and mortar operations in the US. Shopping directly in the stores allows them to enjoy deep in-store discounts and completely shirk the often sky high shipping costs that incurred to get items to their front doors.

Canadians do love a good bargain, and they can find good deals in the USA. To even get better bargains, consider coupon codes from to get the satisfaction of bargaining you’d like.

Many times you can get a wider variety in US stores than in their Canadian branches:

There are many US stores that have branches on Canadian land and while they carry some great lines, often times they don’t carry all of the lines or the lines they do carry are limited. A good example of this is the brand Anthropologie. With only one single store in Toronto, the Canadian line is very limited and doesn’t comprise all the offerings that are available to the American shoppers. For consumers this is very frustrating because when you see something online that you really like, you expect to be able to go to the store and purchase it – this is just not the case. For specialty items you may want to purchase you are confined to buying them online and as we’ve already discussed, shipping costs are exorbitant – they can sometimes be double the cost of the actual item itself! This is why Canadians are happy to pack up and make the trek to the US – value, variety and versatility!

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May 18 2012

New Personal Exemption Limits for Canadian Shoppers Effective June 1, 2012

Published by under Cross border shopping

Canadian residents returning to Canada will have a increases to personal exemption limits, effective June 1, 2012.   CBSA also promise to expedite clearance and make cross border travel more convenient.

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).

This is a great news to cross-border shoppers. I hope this becomes a wake-up call the price gouging Canadian retailers.

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Dec 09 2011

5 Easy Steps to Calculate Canada Customs Duty and Taxes

First of all I’d like to thank BoB for giving me this opportunity to write this guest post on

His website has been very inspirational for me as a blogger on all things customs and made me realize how many people had questions.

So how many of you have not the slightest clue how to calculate how much duty or taxes you will owe Customs when you import something or buy something online and have it shipped to Canada?

Well, this post is for you.

I am going to show you how to step by step calculate Canada customs duty and taxes on personal importations to Canada.

1. The first question you need to ask is where are the goods manufactured and exported from directly? – This will determine the available tariff treatments – i.e. MFN 02 (most favoured nation), GPT 09 (General Preferential Treatment), or UST 10 (US Tariff) etc…
-in order to benefit from a free trade agreement (NAFTA, CRT, IT etc) the goods must be shipped directly from that country to Canada.

2. Find the correct Harmonized System code in the Customs Tariff. New update for 2012 is available now at

3. Next, determine which tariff treatments are available for the particular HS code.
-in order to use a free trade agreement tariff treatment you must have a Certificate of Origin or Statement from the Exporter in the CBSA prescribed format if your goods are over $1600 CAD. ( Soon to be raised to $2500 once the Canada US border Deal goes through)

4. Note the corresponding duty rate for the HS code based on available and applicable tariff treatment and the unit of measure.

-i.e. Imported from China, a wool blazer for a man would be under HS code 6103.31.00.00 and would not qualify for GPT 09 as its not available so it the default tariff treatment of MFN 02 would apply; with a duty rate of 18%. Unit of measure would be NMB for Number, so the number of pieces would have to declared and duty rate applied per piece.

5. Do the Math.

a. O.k., so lets say the blazer is $100 USD, this would have to converted to Canadian currency and called the value for duty (VFD). So lets say the exchange rate is 1.0327, then 100 USD = 101.03.

b. Then VFD is mulitiplied by the duty rate 18% to determine how much the duty is…so:

101.03 x 0.18 = $18.18 in duty.

c. Value for tax is the total of VFD and Duty. In this case it would be 101.03 + 18.18= $119.21
d. Now, HST or GST/PST is applied based on the province of residence of the importer. so for Ontario, HST of 13% is calculated on the VFT.

i.e. 119.21 x 0.13=$15.49

e. Then add the duty and the tax and total owing on the blazer for Customs would be $18.18 in duty and $15.49 in HST for a grand total of $33.67

Simple right? Feel free to ask any questions.

Thanks for reading.


Other Provinces tax rates:

Alberta has no provincial sales tax so only GST of %5 is applied
BC has HST of 12%
Manitoba has GST 5% and 7% PST
New Brunswick has HST of 13%
Newfoundland and Labrador has HST of 13%
Nova Scotia has HST of 15%
Prince Edward Island has GST of 5% and PST of 10% (effectively 10.5% as PST is also applied to GST) so the effective rate is 15.5% for both.
Quebec has GST of 5% and QST of 8.5% currently (will rise to 9.5% january 1st 2012). LIke PEI, QST is applied to GST so the effective rate is 8.925% for a combined rate of 13.925%
Saskatchewan has GST of 5% and PST of 5% for a combined rate of 10%.


C.I. is a Customs Officer or Border Services Officer with the Canada Border Services Agency. He has been running a blog/website as an unofficial online resource for information on all things pertaining to Customs legislation, policy and procedure in order to help people navigate the complex world of Customs. Topics covered span a wide range from Canada Customs Limits to understanding how Canada Customs Duty. Recently, C.I. added a forum to facilitate more discussion and the information more searchable.

The motivation behind C.I.’s website is the belief that we are all on this planet to serve one another…

Connect with C.I on Twitter @customsinfo

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