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Vacation info: Duty & taxes, Passports, and US border entry requirements

canadian border

Since so many of you are on vacation this week, I thought you might be interested to know a few things that have come to my attention this week.

Paying duty & taxes on purchases when returning to Canada

Do you like to shop while on vacation?  The length of your time outside the country will determine what dollar value of goods you can bring back with you without having to pay duty, GST, PST and/or HST.

Less than 24 hours – $0 – you pay tax on everything you bring back

24 hours or more – up to $200.  If you purchase more than $200, you pay tax on the entire amount of your purchases.

48 hours or more – up to $800.  If you purchase more than $800 worth of goods, the first $800 are tax and duty free.

There are special rules for alcohol, tobacco, and whether you need to be in possession of the goods or can ship them back to yourself.  For more details, consult Canada Border Services Agency.

It is also worth noting that no duty is payable on goods imported for personal use if the goods were made in Canada, the USA, or Mexico.  Tax may still apply on these goods if the above exemptions do not apply.

Canadian passport changes

There was a lot of grumbling on Facebook this week about fee increases for passports.  Since ours recently expired (oops), I was all set to renew them in late June, but decided to wait.  Here’s why:

Current fee (as of July 1, 2013) Previous fee
Adults (16 or over) $160 (ten years) OR $120 (five years) $87 (five years)
Children (3 to 15) $57 (five years) $37 (five years)
Children (under 3) $57 (five years) $22 (three years)


I’m downright giddy about not having to go through the hassle of a new passport every 5 years.  What a pain.  First, I have to drag the kids with me while I get mug shots taken.  Then, I have to fill out the forms.  Next comes another trip to the post office to courier everything with ID to the passport office.  Fun times.  If I get a new passport this year, I won’t have to do it again until my kids are 17 and 16 years old.  Maybe by then I’ll be able to leave them at home alone!  Yes, the kids’ fee has gone up and I still need to do theirs every 5 years, but any time the government is willing to reduce my paperwork requirements, I’m a happy girl.

Do I really need a passport to go to the USA?

There is no question that having a passport is the easiest way to cross the border.  Until this week, I had thought it was a requirement.  Apparently I was wrong.  According to the Canada Border Services Agency, there are other documents that can be used when entering by land or water.

For children, a birth certificate is sufficient.  I’m not crazy about this because a birth certificate does not have a photo, but perhaps it’s good news if you’re trying to save on child passport fees.

Adults can use an Enhanced Driver’s license instead (among other possibilities).  If you live in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, or Québec, then you may have one of these already.  UPDATE August 11, 2013:  Enhanced driver’s licenses are not automatic.  You need to specifically apply for one and pay a fee on top of your regular driver’s license fee.  I found this out the hard way.  Google your province name + “how to get enhanced driver’s license” for more details.

Happy travels!

August 11, 2013

1 responses on "Vacation info: Duty & taxes, Passports, and US border entry requirements"

  1. Wow. So many fees.
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