New Canadian Duty Rules Benefit Cross Border Shoppers

Effective last June, Canadian duty-free rules came into the 21st century… sort of.  Now if you’re out of the country overnight you can bring back $200 instead of $50 worth of goods. And if you’re out 48 hours you can bring in $800 worth, up from $400.

For snowbirds, however, the bonanza isn’t breathtaking—the allowance going  from  $750 to only $800. And also for snowbirds who like to fill their golf bags with jugs of Canadian Club for half the price they pay at home, the rules haven’t changed.  The limit remains 1.5 litres of wine OR 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of liquor (try finding a 40 ounce bottle in the U.S.), OR and total of 1.4 litres of wine and liquor , OR 24, 12- ounce cans of beer.

But remember, there are also individual provincial minimum ages for bringing in alcohol to contend with. For Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, you must be at least 18 years of age: for the remaining provinces and territories, you must be at least 19.

For same-day shoppers the news is not encouraging. They still remain unable (legally) to claim any allowances of exemption from duties on any goods they bring in.

All values quoted above are in Canadian dollars.  For now, a good thing.

Another advisory we would like to emphasize, for snowbirds who like to carry supplies of foodstuffs from Canada to their U.S. homes and/or in the RVs.

Not all foodstuffs are permissible.  And just because you bought something in your local supermarket does not mean it can be taken into the U.S.  For example, there are certain fruits and vegetables that are not permitted—such as those that were exported into Canada in the first place (mangoes, papaya, oranges, etc) or even some apples.  There are certain cheeses that are not permitted, just as there are rules against the importation of certain food products with meat from sheep, lamb or goats.

You may also be asked to produce proof of origin of certain foods (where was it grown or purchased).

The rules also do not always appear rational: potatoes from western Canada are often under embargo because of certain disease, but potatoes form eastern Canada are OK.

For up-to-date listings of permitted foodstuffs, you can visit  the U.S governments website:

And never, ever, ever, try to enter the U.S. without declared any and all foods you have. There are heavy fines if you are caught.

I personally know of Canadian travellers who were with a $300 fine for not declaring an apple they left forgotten in the trunk, and then had their car inspected with all sorts of devices to see if they had any other “contraband” on board. You must declare everything. I personally make it a habit of never crossing the border into the U.S. or Canada with any food on board and being able to declare so honestly.  It’s just not worth the trouble and time loss to me.

Ironically, I also know of Canadians returning home from the U.S. who were hassled by Canadian border agents for bringing in a small bag of sweet onions from Washington and forgetting to declare them.

So enjoy the expanded duty free limits, but be aware that crossing the border either way requires your attention, diligence, and cooperation.

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