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Canadian Customs Rules & Regulations

The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) permits Canadian citizens and foreign visitors to import a limited number of goods duty-free whenever they arrive in Canada by air, land or sea. The CBSA requires anyone arriving in Canada to complete a customs declaration form and indicate the quantity of any alcohol or tobacco products on their person, as well as the total value of any gifts or other goods purchased abroad.

Customs Tax Exemptions for Canadians

Tax exemptions for Canadian residents returning to Canada are based on the amount of time spent abroad. For example, those who leave the country for a period of at least 24 hours enjoy a £32 exemption on goods purchased abroad, but must pay duties on all alcohol and tobacco products. An absence of at least two days increases the tax exemption to £260 and permits the traveller to import up to two bottles of wine, 24 cans of beer or 1.14 litres of liquor. Those who remain abroad for a week or more enjoy the maximum tax exemption of £487 in goods and the basic alcohol allowance. Canadians who spent at least 48 hours abroad may import 200 cigarettes and 50 cigars duty free.

Customs Tax Exemptions for Foreign Visitors

Foreign visitors to Canada enjoy limited tax exemptions on products that they intend to give to friends and relatives as gifts. Each visitor may bring £39 in gifts for every recipient, as well as 1.14 litres of liquor, one carton of cigarettes and 50 cigars. In contrast to American customs, Canadian border officials allow visitors to import Cuban cigars. Canadian authorities permit visitors to import non-restricted firearms into the country, but they are required to present documentation confirming ownership and must declare these in advance, on forms provided by the CBSA.

Customs Tax Rates

Both Canadian and foreign visitors who exceed their maximum customs allowance are required to pay duties on goods that they import. Travellers importing goods other than alcohol and tobacco are charged a 7% rate if they spent at least 48 hours abroad. Additionally, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) of 13% applies to most purchases above the customs allowance. Travellers may pay all taxes at the Canadian border using personal checks for amounts that do not exceed £1,625, by debit card, traveller's checks, or by using a Visa, MasterCard or American Express credit card.

Importing Food Products

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) permits both visitors and Canadian citizens to import food products for personal use from the United States. Dairy and meat products, however, are subject to strict limits and restrictions. This limit includes a maximum of two dozen eggs, no more than £13 in dairy products and 20kg of meat. Importing food above the tax-free limit without a special permit issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs results in duties of up to 300% for each item.