Do the new duty-free limits affect you?

Other / Canada

It’s been a little over a week since the new (and increased) duty-free limits have been in place.

As of June 1st, 2012, the government increased the previous daily allowance of goods that Canadians can bring back, after 24-hours, from $50 –> $200!

And for Canucks who are spending 48-hours in the States, they are now allowed to bring back duty-free goods worth $800, as opposed to $400 for a week’s stay under the old rules.

As a Canadian who enjoys at least 2 trips/year to Buffalo, these new rules don’t really affect me. Being generous, I may spend $100, but I certainly never recall a time that I’ve spent $200. Then again, I’m referring to Buffalo – not New York City!

HOWEVER, if I were to restock my fridge, doing groceries there and/or spotted a great deal on a designer purse that I’ve been eyeing, I can see myself breaching the $200 mark.

SO will these new exemption limits as per the Canadian government have any affect on you? Or will it simply mean that you wouldn’t have to lie (as badly) to the customs officer on the way back?

30 responses to “Do the new duty-free limits affect you?”

  1. Eric says:

    The majority of groceries aren’t taxable at the border anyways so even if you bought 300$ worth of groceries it won’t matter.

  2. Eric says:

    Never been to the US let alone shopped there. May eventually travel for a vacation, but I can’t see myself bringing back that much.

  3. Amanda says:

    Didnt even know it had changed but as someone who lives on a border with the USA I do a lot of grocery shopping over there. I’m not usually there more than a few hours but they’ve always been good with us as long as we’re honest and don’t have alcohol/tobacco. We bought a $200 bike/accessories and they let us cross. On black Friday we bought a few hundred worth of goods and again they let us through.

  4. Karen says:

    We live right on the BC/ Washington border and travel to the US frequently. The new rules will definitely affect my family. We regularly shop in the Staes but rarely buy anything besides groceries because of the duty. I’m thrilled that I will be able to purchase larger items without getting dinged at the border!

  5. Delane says:

    Groceries Don’t count in your total. ( I found that out when we went to apply for our nexus cards. ) Ten years too late ! All the things I didn’t buy because I counted it! We will drive down for the day and get over $300 in groceries and its not included in the total. There are limits on Dairy and Meat though. 🙂

  6. Kel says:

    Definitely affected. Heading to Supermall in Tacoma for a day and stopping by at Seattle Premium can reach that $200 limit easily.

  7. BBQ Shopper says:

    I was cross-border shopping last weekend, was going with the intent of purchasing a BBQ that was $250+ savings cross-border. Spent the night to allow for the 24hr period, spent $900 on my bbq, there were 4 of us in the car so we should have been expempt for $800…..wellllll apparently, if you go OVER the $200’s they are allowing you to bring in, you loose the WHOLE amount!!! So we ended up paying duty and taxes on our whole purchase. It’s a great idea, just wish I had been informed in advance about the loosing your $200 “break” if you go over………

  8. JT says:

    @Eric: I have a feeling you will be more inclined to buy once you get there 🙂

    I cross over often, but usually spend a night or two anyway. I take advantage of the higher limit.

  9. bullwhip29 says:

    @ BBQ Shopper
    It is my understanding that the $200 exemption limit per person can’t be pooled together anyway, so even if your BBQ was $800 they may not have let you through with it. Don’t get me wrong, many of them will just ask for the total and just waive you through, no questions asked. On a couple of long trips I’ve actually had the customs agent look at both my wife’s and my own receipts to make sure everything was on the up and up. Friends of mine bought a whole bunch of stuff from Coach outlet one time and tried to make use of the exemption for each of their toddlers. No dice for them.

    @ Eric
    It’s funny that you claim to have never been to the US, yet you know the cross border shopping regulations and went to the trouble of actually posting such info on this message board. Weird…

  10. Elyshia says:

    I have been entertaining the idea of doing a trip to the states for a large grocery purchase, I am ‘new’ to couponing and have only been actively partaking since December 2011. Does anyone know the answer to the following question:

    If I plan to get say $300 worth of groceries, but by utilizing coupons only end up paying less than $100… Would I pay duty on the sum total BEFORE coupons or AFTER using coupons?

    I dont go across the border ever and I would like to get answers before I cross! Thanks in advance to anyone who can assist me 🙂

  11. bhlombardy says:

    @ BBQ ShopperJune 12th, 2012

    As bullwhip29 said: The limit is $200 in individual allowances. One item cannot be pooled across 4 people.

    And even if you went across, if you bought a single item worth more than $200 you lose the total value. Again, it’s indivdual purchases totalling less than $200.

    Had you spent (for example) $40, $75, and $30 in items and also spent $800 on a BBQ, the smaller purchases totalling $145 would be exempt… the BBQ would not be.

    And you are told that in advance. That rule (rgardless of the allowance amouns), is detailed in the “I Declare” pamphlet and has been for at least 30 years. (The pamphlet is available at the border crossing and online).

    Also, if you have any questions regarding and potential purchases like that you can always stop in the Canadian border station to ask them before crossing into the US and making your purchase.

  12. bhlombardy says:

    @ Elyshia

    You don’t pay tax on groceries, coupons or not. Buy $400 of grocery items if you wish, they arent taxable upon return (with a footnote)*

    *Any grocery items you would normally pay tax for in your province in Canada, say pop, chips, etc…you can expect to have to pay tax for at the border.

    That being said… to answer your actual question regarding coupons (on normal taxable items, not most groceries perse) — The exact wording is “value of the goods returning to Canada”. To you the value can be defined as what you paid for them. Coupons or sale prices are valid methods to bring the value down.

    Paying with a gift-card however (not that you asked, but people do) does NOT count as a discount. It’s considered a method of payment.

  13. bhlombardy says:

    To be clear… only the taxable groceries you might buy are what are included in your $200 exemption allowance.

    if you bought $400 worth of groceries… used $300 worth of coupons and spent $100 in the end… but $50 of the items were taxable items, then you’re under the $200 limit and have $150 remaining in taxable items.

  14. kerry says:

    I never go,would rather support my local economy..Everything I buy is usually on sale and in the Vancouver area…

  15. Elyshia says:

    Thank you 🙂

  16. Mandolinatou says:

    I’m American and I have been in Canada for 7 years now. It will definitely affect me, as a bargain shopper from the states there are so many things I can’t do quite as well here. Every time I go back we drive. I plan out my trips with bigger purchases I need to make. This year my spouse needs a computer and men’s underwear. I tend to stock up on higher end hiking/gym/causal dress shoes every trip. I can get merrells and eccos for 25 dollars each in the states. I can get gap mens underwear for 25 cents each at the clearance store (no not an outlet store and no we don’t have one in Canada). I am not sure where we’ll get the computer yet but we’ll save 15% at least on Quebec taxes.

    While I would like to support the local economy. I don’t believe in the Quebec government at the moment nor Stephen Harper. The less I can pay in taxes here the better. What I think about Quebec in particular is our taxes are too high, our services are getting worse, and we’re getting told that the younger generation should just accept the austerity. What I believe we need to do if we’re in a period of austerity is everyone needs to share in it. People need to stop thinking about themselves and what the government gives them and think about society as a whole and what it needs. We need young people with jobs who can buy houses, pay taxes and start businesses. So if budget cuts need to come maybe my child tax credit needs to be taken back, and maybe boomers need to retire later, and yes maybe? tuition should be increased. To not discuss boomers retirement or the crisis in health care is cleaning up by shoving the pills under the rug and throwing the dust on our children. I don’t support anything about it. I can’t do much at the moment except vent on blogs and spent as little as possible in Canada. If I could work under the table and not pay any taxes right now I would. It’s not a matter of wanting to keep the money for myself. I want to pay reasonable taxes into a system that works. Currently I am paying taxes for health care I can’t access, I literally can’t get into my doctor. My 3 year old does not have a doctor at all. We’re relatively healthy people, thank goodness. I can’t imagine being an immigrant with a chronic health condition here or a boomer with a retiring doctor because apparently doctors can’t be replaced in Montreal, since there is shortages of doctors north in Quebec province. So as an example our Children’s hospital which normally has 22 psychiatrist (emergency, on call, in patient, and outpatient) now has 10 and they aren’t hiring because they aren’t allowed to hire. Every specialization is like this, we can’t hire more specialists just to replace retiring specialists. Our youth aren’t graduating from secondary..something like 60% of boys from many schools in Montreal are dropping out prior to age 16, this is occurring in my neighborhood which is not the poorest sector in Montreal. The mafia has been bulking us for millions for decades in the construction industry and everyone but Charest knows about it. There is mismanagement of government funds everywhere, there is a failing school system, an increasingly less assessable medical system, and boomers retirement is an oncoming train. Yet no one wants to discuss it. I will buy local under the table.

  17. Cj says:

    Curious about if this will positively affect us Internet/eBay buyers?
    Will there still be customs & duty for items bought & mailed back to Canada?

  18. jp says:

    just wondering were you crossed? there are some crossings that let that sort of stuff go alot eaisier then others. Manitobia is the worst probably because they dont have that many cars crossing but they check everything almost everytime……where as most of the ones in ontario and quebec are pritty good they just want to keep the line moving. These ne regulations are money for black friday! I am so excited!

  19. bbq says:

    sorry that was for bbq

  20. Lana says:

    CJ – It will not affect internet buying. Since you have not left the country to
    collect your purchases, there is no duty/tax exemption.

    If you buy online, have the purchases mailed to a US address, then cross the
    border and say for 24 hrs down there while picking them up, you would have a $200 duty exemption.

  21. SUE says:

    We’re still bringing back the same $ amount after a few hours shopping in Port Huron which is generally close to $200 per person. We’ve always stated the amount spent, what we spent it on and always had the receipts visible in our hand should they be requested. While I talk about supporting our local (London) economy, I can’t afford to purchase clothes here when the $80 spent on one pair of work pants here will buy me 2-3 pairs of pants and at least a couple of shirts in Port Huron.

  22. nick says:

    not too much since we live too far from the border

  23. bullwhip1929 says:

    @ Cj
    Lana is right. This won’t change anything. Goods shipped to Cda will still be subject to taxes, duties (if appl) and possibly even brokerage fees. If you are planning a vacation to the US anyway, try to plan any potential purchases you may have in mind in advance so that you can pickup goods on the US side of the border on the way home.

  24. adorita says:

    It doesn’t affect me at all. I never understood the deal about shopping across the border for the sake of saving money. Should just enjoy you holiday rather than spending strategically. Most stuff are about 15-20% cheaper in US, which comes to $160 max for a week of visit. How much is hotel? Besides, $160 is worth about 6 hours of time for most people. How is that worth a trip? If you go for a holiday, that’s fine. But going across just for saving is not worth it.
    I suspect this change is more for reducing work for the custom workers. The tax revenue generated by returned residences are just not worth the money spent monitoring them.

  25. bambinoitaliano says:

    I have no intention of cross border shopping just because I do not live close to the States. Having said that, should I have electronic items that I can get a good bargain for, it would certainly be the incentive for me to go. I am still confuse regarding certain electronics that are made in certain countries are exempted from tax under NAFTA.

  26. Cj says:

    Thanks all for your input!

  27. tyramanitoba says:

    does the 200 include tobacco?

  28. Breylormom says:

    Wish they would increase the amount of wine you can bring back….it is still only 1.5 L (which is only a measly 2 x 750mL bottles). Wine is so much cheaper in the USA. We found a decent wine on sale for $3 bottle, which cost $12 here in Canada. I would have picked up a case if I could have brought it back.

  29. Mary says:

    Now if only they’d give an exemption for same-day visits. =/ And this is a good resource

    released by CBSA and basically has everything you need to know about cross-border shopping. It sucks you can’t pool together family limits. What I do wonder is, if I traveled with another person, and we had a $200 limit each, and we BOTH paid (split payment into our 2 credit cards) for one $400 item, would we still get dinged? Technically, we are now both part owners, so you’d *think* it should fly. But it probably won’t lol.

    I also love how even infants get a personal exemption limit but those items have to be for the “use of the infant” – well, if I buy nice hardwood floors or cars, won’t the baby still get to enjoy it by way of playing on the floors; or riding in the car?

    Canada needs to get with the times; our exemptions and retail atmosphere in general is just horrible. I guess there’s also a lot of political pressure to basically force us to “buy in Canada”, although we’re not necessarily “buying Canadian”.

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