Navigating Duty Exemptions |

Clearit.ca's Blog on Customs Brokerage and News Updates

Navigating Duty Exemptions

Are you a resident of Canada coming home from abroad? Maybe you were doing a little shopping online? Or perhaps you’re moving to Canada? You have duty exemptions available to you in all these cases — but what those exemptions are change for each context.

To save you the most money in duty fees at the Canadian border in any situation, we’ve put together this guide!

Personal Duty Exemptions as a Resident

Importing by mail

Let’s start with the newest duty exemption for Canadians: USMCA has changed the rules!

Previously, if you shopped online or in another country and had your goods mailed to you, any value over $20 would have duty applied, while any value $19 or under would not — this is called the de minimis threshold.

Now, this de minimis threshold has risen — you now are safe for at least double that, with the new threshold for taxes set at $40 and duties set at $150. There is a catch, however: your goods must be sent by express courier shipment — if not, you’ll still only have the $20 level.

What does this mean in practice? If your express courier shipment is worth $39 or less, you don’t have to pay anything. If your express courier shipment is worth $149 or less you will pay sales tax, but not duty. If your goods are shipped through regular mail, you will pay duties and taxes above $20.

Importing at the point of crossing

If you’re bringing goods in with you at the border, the duty exemption rules change. These rules apply to:

  • Canadian residents returning from a trip
  • Former Canadian residents returning to live in Canada
  • Temporary Canadian residents returning from a trip

If you’ve been out of the country for under 24 hours, sorry — you have no exemptions!

If you’ve been out of the country for more than 24 hours, however, you have duty exemptions that start at $200. They are, as follows:

  • Between 24 to 48 hours: no duty or taxes on goods worth under $200, excluding alcohol and tobacco.
  • Over 48 hours: no duty or taxes on goods worth under $800, and a special duty rate of 7% on the next $300 of goods. Alcohol and tobacco are included in the exemption, but only to a certain point of volume.
  • Over 7 days: no duty or taxes on goods worth under $800, and a special duty rate of 7% on the next $300 worth of goods. Alcohol and tobacco are included in the exemption, but only to a certain point of volume. Unlike with previous tiers, staying out of the country for more than 7 days means that you can mail any goods that are not alcohol and tobacco to yourself and still claim duty at the time of border crossing.

Duty Exemptions as a New Resident Moving to Canada

Moving to Canada? Congratulations — time to import your possessions!

Good news; you don’t have to pay duty or taxes on your personal possessions. In order to qualify as personal possessions, you must have owned and used them before coming to Canada. New items you buy for your move generally will not count!

The process of declaring your goods is simple: fill out a BSF186 form and declare all goods you will bring with you and all goods you’ll be sending later.

Watch out, though — there are a handful of items you still will need to pay duty on if you’re moving with them:

  • Farm equipment
  • Construction, contracting, and manufacturing equipment
  • Vehicles to be used for business
  • Goods you bought on your way to Canada
  • Rented or leased items

You also need to watch out for the CBSA correctly assessing any items you’ve mailed to yourself as duty exempt. If they apply duty or taxes, you can dispute the charges — and we can help! If you need advice on any duty exemptions or disputes, why not contact us today?