Duties and taxes are collected by border officials on imported goods. Duty is a tariff or tax placed on goods that are brought into Canada or the US. Duty rates are determined by several factors such as where an item was made, where it was bought, and what materials it is made of. Goods will also be subject to tax. In the US, goods are subject to Internal Revenue Service tax (IRT). In Canada, most imported goods are subject to the Federal Goods and Service Tax (GST) and Provincial Sales Tax (PST). In some Canadian provinces and territories, imported goods are also subject to the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).
Duties for US citizens entering Canada
For alcohol, tobacco, perfume,etc. US Citizens entering Canada are allowed to bring the following quantities of goods into Canada without paying duties or taxes:
- 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 200 grams (6.4 ounces) of loose tobacco, and 200 tobacco sticks.
- 1.14 L (40 ounces) of liquor, 1.5 L (1.6 quarts) of wine or 24 12-oz bottles or cans of beer or ale (9 quarts or 8.5 L in total).
- Gifts that do not exceed CAN$60 each (not including tobacco, alcoholic beverages, or advertising matter)
US citizen returning to the US
US residents returning home with imported goods can avail of personal exemptions from duty and taxes depending on the length of their stay abroad. All goods that will be brought back as part of an exemption should only be for personal or household use.
1 If you are out of the country for 48 hours or more, you can bring US$800 worth of goods duty-free each month. This may include 200 cigarettes or 100 cigars (not Cuban) and 33.8 oz of alcohol (should be at least 21 years old). Family members that travel together can combine their personal exemptions.
2 If your absence was less than 48 hours, you will be given an exemption worth US$200 which includes 5 oz of alcohol, no more than 50 cigarettes or 10 cigars (not Cuban), and 4 oz of perfume.
3 If you have already used up part of your $800 exemption within the past 30 days, you are granted an exemption of $200.
Canadians entering the US
For alcohol, tobacco, perfume,etc. Canadians traveling to the US are allowed 1 L of alcohol (must be 21 years of age), 200 cigarettes, and 100 cigars (not Cuban) or 2 kg of fine cut tobacco.
Canadian returning to Canada
Canadian residents (permanent, former, or temporary) can be eligible for personal exemptions when returning to Canada. This means that you can bring a certain amount of goods into the country without paying duties or taxes.
The length of your time outside Canada will determine your eligibility for personal exemption and the amount of goods you can bring into the country without paying duties and taxes.
- An absence of less than 24 hours (same-day border crossing) will not qualify you for a personal exemption.
- An absence of more than 24 hours will qualify you to bring goods worth up to CAN$200 (not including tobacco products and alcoholic beverages). If you exceed CAN$200, you will not be able to qualify for this exemption.
- An absence of more than 48 hours will qualify you for goods worth up to CAN$800. This includes 200 cigarettes, 200 tobacco sticks, 50 cigars, and 200 grams of manufactured tobacco AND 1.14 L (40 oz.) of liquor OR 1 case of beer (24 cans/bottles that are 355ml each) OR 1.5 L of wine. If you exceed CAN$800, you will only be required to pay duties and taxes on goods that exceed the limit.
- An absence of more than 7 days will qualify you to bring goods worth up to CAN$800. You can opt to have your goods shipped except for tobacco products and alcoholic beverages which must be in your possession when you arrive in Canada.
Information about NAFTA
NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is a comprehensive trade agreement between Canada, the US, and Mexico which allows reduced tariff rates or duty-free treatment for goods that were manufactured in one of the three countries.
To qualify your goods for the duty-free or reduced duty rate under NAFTA, it should satisfy the following requirements:
- the items are for personal use only
- the items are marked as made in Canada or the US, or the items are not marked or labeled in any way that states they were manufactured anywhere but the US or Canada.