New duty-free limits for Canadians: what you can bring back, alcohol and all

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 This has not changed with the new regulations. 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?

Follow Carolyn Ali on Twitter at or on Instagram @carolynali1

Comments (81) Add New Comment
I see no favoritism..
A 2 - 4 of cold ones (~8.5L) has about the same amount of alcohol as a 40-pounder (1.14 L) of hooch.
Duhh - Grade 8 math
Rating: +22
buy yanky = scabs
Rating: -39
And no duty on beer if I stay home and brew my own.
Rating: +23
Stephen Harpo
How about weed?
Rating: +7
Pat Crowe
You're a piss tank. Aren't ya Carolyn.
Rating: +9
What about cars? That was supposed to change years ago.
Rating: +28
Adrian Paraschiv
This is no joke guys! I was humiliated by the Canadian Border Agents (not all of them) for having maybe 6-7 tubes of Extraveral (basicaly valerian), a mild herbal help for sleeping and sedative. There was in the content a 0.02ml of I don't know what forbidden for importation in Canada (Who knew!). The boss of the shift decided to arrest me for trafficking!!!. The Agent that was checking my bags apologised (she knew it was an abuse) I've got hand cuffed and put into a room. I spoke with a lawyer and the Police and they let me free immediately. This was 2-3 hours from my arrival and after a 16 hours air trip. I am a Canadian citizen and I had to pay for their abuse. Later I received a letter admitting they couldn't find any wrongdoing. So everything was about the mood of the boss in charge that night and because I told them I have 2l of alcohol instead of 1.14(what a stupid number!). Since then I'm not bringing back anything from my country of origin Romania.I never sow a blond Canadian in the area for additional baggage checking! Only Arabs and me! The profiling is in flower and I wonder where I sit in. Is Romania a danger to Canada? They never check me when I come from the US! This experience disgusted and marked me forever, even after over 10 years from the event. I just wanted to share how things can go wrong with our Border agents that are speaking to you like you are already a criminal and you are not supposed to get into the Country that you belong to. It's a shame and it probably can be worst than that!
Never mess with the Border Agents anywhere in the world. They are ALL vicious and can ruin you plans big time!
The standards above are just BS. What are they protecting? Few kilograms of alcohol that will ruin Canada's treasury? It's big money for controlled anything Canada. Are they protecting the interest of the Big Tabacco companies? Of course they are. This is state policy with huge state benefits. It's a shame for a Country that has so much things to give to immigrants!
Rating: +24
Michael Olsen
I am a Canadian citizen. In 2011, I went to the Philippines for 2 weeks. I came back to Canada and I was treated like I was a criminal almost. As a Canadian citizen, as a security guard where I have to be bonded, after I opened my bag for the guard to go through, he still seemed sceptical that he could not find a glitch in my story. I left but I felt like I was a criminal when I was done. Not a welcome to the country of my birth, the country I have lived in all my life.
Rating: +32
Update for day trips (source: friend who is a border guard)

- 12 beers (not listed on the site, but this is the internal limit)
- up to $200
Rating: +27
Rating: +21
KiDDAA Magazine
No guns what?
Rating: 0
CBSA employees are the worst and treat everyone like criminals.
Rating: +18
I have never had an issue with border guards. Answer the questions, don't lie, pack in a fashion so that if they have to take a look it's easy and they don't have to take your car apart. *shrugs* It's not hard.

By the way Adrian, many Roma gypsies from Romania are attempting to get refugee status in Canada. Most skip their hearings and just stop showing up, or are inadmissible, costing Canadians money and creating a backlog that impacts legitimate refugees. So yes, to answer your question, there is a reason Romanians may be checked more thoroughly.
Rating: 0
Is Romania a threat to Canada? Absolutely YES.
Rating: +21
Be honest with the border guards and have your receipts ready. Would you want their job on a daily basis, as they are confronted by so many travellers who may or may not be honest or a threat to their own safety? Unfortunately, some travellers spoil it for others by being defensive, rude and miserable to the border guards. You are asked questions because they are trained to do so....they are human too. Pay the duty if you have to and let these border guards do their jobs they are hired to do.
Rating: +250
The limits on alcohol are laughable. There is no reason people shouldn't be able to bring back say, a case of wine from a trip to New Zealand, a few boxes of craft beer from a weekend trip to Portland, or a couple bottles of Scotch from a holiday in Scotland...
Rating: +47
While back from Italy, I had my luggage emptied at customs for carrying home-made prosciutto that was hand-made by my wife's grandmother.
Granted that fresh meat could be dangerous, but cured/dry prosciutto?

Anyways, they confiscated it,
I asked them if I could at least eat it on the spot (instead of throwing it away),
they refused,
I got mad,
then they called security because I looked mad (as if I was a menace)
Go to hell Canada!
Rating: -17
Smart Canadian Blond
@ Adrian
While I was in Paris a few Roma Gypsies tried to rip me off on more than one occasion (ex.Gold Ring trick ,lies,stealing from my bag). Sorry,but unfortunately many have a reputation.
I have traveled extensively and have been questioned by border guards both ways while they searched my bags and car.
No disrespect towards you at all.
Rating: +32
Martin Dunphy

Roma is, essentially, a (preferred) alternative for the word Gypsy.

It has nothing to do with someone from Romania (unless, of course, a Roma person actually hailed from Romania).
Rating: -3
its cheaper and I'm not rich
Maybe we should get on our government to stop taxing everything so much. I get medications shipped to the U S then bring them back. Saves me large and I love it thank you.
Rating: +6


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