Update: The info below was verified as correct as of May 20, 2016.
As of June 1, 2012, the value of goods that Canadian residents can bring back into Canada duty- and tax-free has increased.
Here’s the lowdown on current personal exemption limits, all in Canadian dollars.
For trips of:
• Less than 24 hours: No exemption Yes, contrary to popular belief, this means that if you’re doing a cross-border daytrip, everything you bring back is subject to applicable duty and taxes. That includes alcohol. Anecdotally, many travellers report being waved through by the agent and not charged duty and taxes for the purchases they’ve declared. But don’t count on it.
• 24 hours or more : $200 This limit has increased from the previous $50. You can claim exemption in this category if you have been away at least 24 hours but haven't been away long enough for the 48-hour exemption. But keep in mind that if you bring back more than $200 during this period, you’re liable for duty and taxes on the full amount. Plus, you’re not entitled to bring back any alcohol or tobacco without paying duty and taxes on it; for that, you have to stay away 48 hours or more.
• 48 hours or more: $800 This limit has increased from the previous $400. Within this amount, you can bring back a certain amount of alcohol and tobacco according to these guidelines . For alcohol, that’s 1.5 litres of wine, a total of 1.14 litres of alcoholic beverages OR a maximum of 8.5 litres of beer or ale. (Anyone else think this law favours beer drinkers?)
• 7 days or more: $800 This limit has increased from the previous $750. Tobacco and alcohol limits are as above for 48 hours.
Those are the basics. For all kinds of eye-crossing specifics and qualifications, see Canada Border Services Agency official site.
What has been your experience at the border with duty and taxes?