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Personal exemption limits have been raised for Canadians returning to the country with goods purchased in the United States.  This allows Canadians to avoid duties and taxes on more purchases when they return to Canada after a U.S. shopping trip.

The changes are an attempt to reduce border congestion by allowing border guards to waive more cars through without checking their purchases.  In addition, the new import ceilings will harmonize the Canadian levels with U.S. limits.

As of Friday, June 1, 2012, exemption limits have been changed to the following:

New Personal Exemption Limits for Canadians Returning From the U.S.

Old Exemption Amount New Exemption Amount
After 24 Hours in the U.S. $50 $200
After 48 Hours in the U.S. $400 $800
After 7 days in the U.S. $750 $800

Note that under the new law there is no longer any specified seven-day limit on duty-free purchases as it is the same as the 48 hour limit.

Exemption Limits That Are Not Changing

  • You will continue to pay full taxes and duties on all purchases if your visit is for less than 24 hours
  • Personal Exemptions for alcohol and tobacco

Why Do Canadians Want to Shop in the United States?

As of May 2012, goods in the United States are roughly 14% cheaper than prices for the same item in Canada.   This changes constantly with currency fluctuations and general economic conditions.  This price difference can be even greater on specific items.  For example, one study found that running shoes that cost $146 in Canada would sell for $107 in the U.S.  It also found that a lawn mower that sells for $480 in Canada retails for $360 in the United States.

More information on Canadian Duties and Taxes

For more information on Duties and Taxes for both Canadian and American citizens see our page titled “What Will It Cost?