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When you return to Canada, you may qualify for a personal exemption. Personal exemptions allow you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying duties.
The term duties can include excise taxes, GST, and HST. It does not include provincial or territorial sales tax. However, we have working agreements with some provinces and territories that allow us to collect provincial and territorial tax, levies, and fees on goods that are more than your personal exemption.
The federal government has agreements with New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland to collect HST at a rate of 15%. If you live in a participating province, and the value of the non-commercial goods you import is more than your personal exemption, you have to pay HST instead of GST regardless of where you enter Canada.
Except for restricted items, you can bring back any amount of goods, as long as you are willing to pay the duties and any provincial or territorial assessments that apply. This rule applies even if you do not qualify for a personal exemption.
To find out if the goods you are bringing back are worth more than your personal exemption, convert foreign-currency values and any foreign sales taxes you paid to Canadian dollars at the appropriate rate of exchange.
All amounts quoted in this pamphlet are in Canadian dollars.
What are your personal exemptions?
After an absence of 24 hours or more - $CAN 50
You can claim up to $50 worth of goods without paying duty or taxes. This is your personal exemption. You cannot include tobacco and alcohol in your 24-hour exemption.
If the goods you bring in are worth more than $50 in total, you cannot claim this exemption. Instead, you have to pay duties on the full value.
After an absence of 48 hours or more - $CAN 200
You can claim up to $200 worth of goods without paying duty or taxes. These goods can include some tobacco products and alcoholic beverages.
After an absence of seven days or more - $CAN 750
You can claim up to $750 worth of goods without paying duty or taxes. These goods can include some tobacco products and alcoholic beverages.
To calculate the number of days you have been absent, do not include the date you leave Canada but include the date you return. It is dates that matter, not times. For example, we consider you to have been absent seven days if you left Friday the 7th and returned Friday the 14th.
Who is eligible for these exemptions?
You are eligible for a personal exemption if you are:
a Canadian resident returning from a trip abroad;
a former resident of Canada returning to live in this country; or
a temporary resident of Canada.
Even young children and infants are entitled to a personal exemption. As a parent or guardian, you can make a customs declaration for a child, as long as the goods you are declaring are for the child's use.
Do you spend part of the year outside Canada?
If you spend part of the year in another country for health reasons or pleasure, that country usually considers you to be a visitor. As such, you continue to be a resident of Canada for customs purposes. This means you are entitled to the same exemptions as other Canadians. When you import foreign goods or vehicles for your personal use in Canada (even temporarily), you have to meet all the import requirements and pay all the duties you owe.
What conditions apply to your personal exemptions?
You cannot combine your personal exemptions with another person's or transfer them to someone else.
In addition, you cannot combine your 48-hour ($200) with your 7-day ($750) exemption for a total exemption of $950. If you use only part of your $750 exemption, you cannot use the balance for a trip you take later.
In general, the goods you include in your personal exemption have to be for your personal or household use, souvenirs of your trip, or gifts. Goods you bring in for commercial use, or for another person, do not qualify for the exemption and are subject to full duties.
In all cases, goods you include in your $50 or $200 exemption have to be with you.
With the exception of alcohol and tobacco, goods you claim in your $750 exemption may precede or follow you by mail or other means.
Tobacco and alcohol
You can include alcoholic beverages and tobacco products in your 48-hour ($200) or your 7-day ($750) exemption, but not in your 24-hour ($50) exemption. All tobacco products and alcoholic beverages have to accompany you in your hand or checked luggage.
The following conditions apply:
If you meet the age requirements set by the province or territory where you enter Canada, you can include up to:
- 200 cigarettes;
- 50 cigars or cigarillos;
- 200 tobacco sticks; and
- 200 grams of manufactured tobacco.
If you bring in more than the free allowance, you will have to pay the duties that apply. In some cases, provincial or territorial limits and assessments may also apply.
If you meet the age requirements set by the province or territory where you enter Canada, you can include:
- 1.5 litres of wine; or
- 1.14 litres (40 oz.) of liquor; or
- 24 ?355 ml cans/bottles (8.5 litres) of beer or ale.
You can bring in more than the free allowance of alcohol except in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. However, the quantities have to be within the limit the province or territory sets and, in most cases, you have to bring the alcoholic beverage with you.
If you bring in more than the free allowance, you will have to pay both customs and provincial or territorial assessments. For more information, check with the appropriate provincial or territorial liquor control authority before you leave Canada.
We classify coolers according to the type of alcohol they contain. For example, we consider beer coolers to be beer and wine coolers to be wine, and apply the quantity limits accordingly.
We do not classify beer or wine that contains 0.5% alcohol by volume or less as an alcoholic beverage. As a result, no quantity limit applies.
While you are abroad, you can send gifts duty and tax free to friends in Canada under certain conditions. To qualify, each gift has to be worth $CAN 60 or less and cannot be an alcoholic beverage, a tobacco product, or advertising matter. If the gift is worth more than $60, the recipient will have to pay regular duty on the excess amount.
It is always a good idea to include a gift card to avoid any misunderstanding. While gifts you send from abroad do not count as part of your personal exemption, gifts you bring back do.
Prizes and awards
In most cases, you have to pay regular duties on prizes and awards you receive outside Canada. For more information contact any of our customs offices.
Making a full declaration and paying any duty you owe is a simple, straightforward process. You can pay by cash, traveller's cheque, VISA, or MasterCard. You can sometimes pay by personal cheque if the amount is not more than $2,500. The customs inspector will give you a receipt showing the calculations and amounts you paid.
Special duty rate
After any trip abroad of 48 hours or longer, you are entitled to a special duty rate. The rate applies to goods worth up to $300 more than your personal exemption of $200 or $750 which do not qualify for duty-free entry under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This rate applies only to goods that come with you, and does not apply to alcohol or tobacco products. The special duty rate for goods that are not eligible under NAFTA when combined with the GST is 14%, and 22% when combined with the HST.
Although there is no duty on goods that are eligible for the U.S. tariff rate under NAFTA, you still have to pay the GST or HST that applies.
Regular duty rate
If you do not qualify for a personal exemption, or if you exceed your exemption limit, you will have to pay GST or HST, as well as any duty or other tax or assessment that applies on the excess amount. These rates vary according to the goods you are importing, the country where the goods were made, and the country from which you are importing them. You may also have to pay provincial sales tax if you live in a province where we have an agreement to collect the tax and you return from your trip through your province.
How goods qualify under NAFTA
Your goods qualify for the U.S. duty-free rate under NAFTA if they are:
for personal use; and
marked as made in the United States or Canada; or
not marked or labeled to indicate that they were made anywhere other than in the United States or Canada.
Your goods qualify for the lower Mexican duty rate in a similar way.
For more information on goods eligible under NAFTA, contact any of our customs offices in this pamphlet and ask for a copy of Memorandum D11-4-13, Rules of Origin for Casual Goods Regulations.
World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement
The duty on a wide range of products originating in non-NAFTA countries has been eliminated or will be reduced to zero over the next few years. NAFTA goods also qualify for the WTO agreement rate, so if the duty rate payable on the goods you are importing is lower under the WTO agreement than under NAFTA, customs officers automatically assess the lower rate.
Value for duty and foreign sales taxes
Value for duty is sometimes called customs value. It is the amount we use to calculate duty, and is generally based on the price you paid for the goods.
In most cases, we consider any foreign sales tax added to, or included in the price, to be part of the value. However, some foreign governments will refund sales tax to you if you export the items you bought. In such cases, you do not have to include the amount of the foreign sales tax that was or will be refunded to you.
What to expect when you return to Canada
When you return to Canada, you have to declare all of the goods that you got abroad such as purchases, gifts, prizes, or awards that you are bringing with you, or having shipped to you. Remember to include goods still in your possession that you bought at a Canadian or foreign duty-free shop. As well, make sure you declare any repairs or modifications you made to your vehicle, vessel, or aircraft while you were out of the country.
If you aren't sure if an article is admissible or if you should declare it, always declare it first and then ask the customs officer. Remember that customs officers are there to help you, and will work out your personal exemption and any duties you owe in the way that benefits you most.
We want to make the experience of returning to Canada as pleasant as possible for you. If you have any difficulties with the customs process, we want to resolve them quickly. Please do not hesitate to speak to the supervisor on duty. In many cases, the supervisor will be able to resolve your concerns at once.
Making your declaration
If you are returning to Canada by commercial aircraft, you will receive a customs declaration card to complete before you arrive. You can list up to five family members living at the same address on one declaration card.
These cards are also used at some locations for travellers arriving by rail, vessel, or bus. If you have any questions about the card or Canadian regulations, please ask the customs officer when you arrive.
If you arrive in Canada in a private vehicle such as an automobile, aircraft, or bus, you can usually make an oral declaration.
If you are declaring goods claimed as part of your $750 exemption that preceded or will follow your arrival in Canada, ask the customs officer for Form E24, Personal Exemption Customs Declaration. You will need your copy of the form to claim these goods. Otherwise, you may have to pay the regular duties on them.
We have areas at most major airports where you can pay any duties and taxes you owe while waiting for your baggage to arrive. If you want to claim more than your exemption limit, or if you have something to declare, follow the red signs to the declaration area. If you are within your exemption limit and have nothing to declare, follow the green signs to an exit.
In co-operation with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, we have introduced the CANPASS program to streamline customs and immigration clearance for low-risk travellers. CANPASS participants arriving by either private aircraft or private boat report by telephone before leaving the United States. Any duties and taxes they owe are billed to their credit cards. We have also introduced the CANPASS - Highway program at selected land borders across Canada. Participants using the CANPASS lane declare their goods on a special declaration card and the duties and taxes they owe are billed to their credit cards.
You and the customs officer
You may occasionally find yourself going through a more detailed customs procedure. In some cases, this simply means that you may have to complete a form. In other cases, a customs officer will need to identify the goods you are bringing into the country or examine your luggage.
If you are travelling with children, do not be surprised if our officers talk to them, or ask you questions about them. Keep in mind that they are looking for missing children.
You should also know that our officers are legally entitled to examine your luggage as part of their responsibility to protect Canada's safety, economy, and environment. You are responsible for opening, unpacking, and repacking your luggage. We appreciate your co-operation.
By making your goods easily accessible for inspection and having your receipts handy, you will be helping us to help you. It is a good idea to keep all your receipts for accommodations and purchases, and for repairs done or parts you got for your vehicle. We may ask to see them as evidence of the length of your stay and the value of the goods or repairs.
If you disagree with the amount of duties and taxes that you have to pay, you can contact any of our customs offices. A consultation can often resolve the issue quickly and without cost. If you are still not satisfied, our officers can tell you how to make a formal appeal.
False declarations and the seizure of goods
If you do not declare goods, or if you falsely declare them, we can seize the goods. This means that you may lose the goods permanently, or that you may have to pay to get them back.
Depending on the type of goods and the circumstances involved, we may impose a penalty that ranges from 25% to 80% of the goods' value.
The law also allows us to seize vehicles you use to unlawfully import goods. When this happens, we impose a penalty you have to pay before we return the vehicle. We usually seize commodities such as alcohol and tobacco products outright when they are not properly declared, and you cannot get them back.
We keep a record of infractions in our computer system which can influence the customs inspection process. If you have an infraction record, you may have to undergo a more detailed customs examination on future trips.
If you have had your goods seized and disagree with the action taken, you can appeal. To do this, you should write a letter to us within 30 days of the date of the seizure, to tell us you want to appeal. You can send the letter to any of our customs offices. You can find more information about the appeal process on the front of your seizure receipt form.
Claiming unaccompanied goods
When goods arrive that preceded or followed your arrival in Canada, you have 40 days to claim them by producing your copy of Form E24, Personal Exemption Customs Declaration. This is the form you had to complete when you returned from abroad.
The carrier who delivers the goods will ask you to pay the duties that apply, along with a processing fee. You then have two options, you can:
accept delivery by paying the amount owing and then file a claim with us for a refund; or
refuse to accept delivery.
If you refuse delivery, the carrier will return the package to us and ask you for a telephone number where we can reach you to discuss the assessment. The carrier will give you a copy of the assessment notice for your reference. Once we have determined that the goods are eligible for free importing as declared on your Form E24, we will release them for delivery to you without an assessment.
If you have to replace any of the goods you brought in under your personal exemption, and you want to avoid paying more duties, you have 60 days from the date you imported them to do so. Contact us for advice on how to do this.
Need more information?
To find out the duty rate of an article, or to learn more about your rights and responsibilities under customs law, contact any of our customs offices before you leave Canada.
A list of our main customs offices appears in this pamphlet, but we also have local offices in many other cities. You can find the address and telephone number of the office nearest you in the government section of your telephone book.
Comments or suggestions
If you have comments or suggestions, we would like to hear from you. Please write or fax us at:
Operational Policy and Coordination Directorate
Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
Sir Richard Scott Building
191 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa ON K1A 0L5
Fax: (613) 954-3577
1557 Hollis Street
P.O. Box 3080
Parklane Centre Station
Halifax NS B3J 3G6
Telephone: (902) 426-2911
400 Place d'Youville
Montr閍l QC H2Y 2C2
Telephone: (514) 283-9900
130 Dalhousie Street
P.O. Box 2267
Qu閎ec QC G1K 7P6
Telephone: (418) 648-4445
Northern Ontario Region
2265 St. Laurent Boulevard
Ottawa ON K1G 4K3
(613) 998-3326 (after 4:30 p.m. and weekends)
Southern Ontario Region
400 Grays Road North
Hamilton ON L8E 3J6
Telephone: (905) 308-8715
Pearson International Airport
Cargo Building B
P.O. Box 40
Toronto AMF ON L5P 1A2
Telephone: (905) 612-7937
185 Ouellette Avenue
P.O. Box 1655
Windsor ON N9A 7G7
Telephone: (519) 257-6400
Unit 130 Airport Place
1821 Wellington Avenue
Winnipeg MB R3H 0G4
Telephone: (204) 983-6004
3033 34th Avenue North East
Calgary AB T1Y 6X2
Telephone: (403) 292-8750
333 Dunsmuir Street
Vancouver BC V6B 5R4
Telephone: (604) 666-0545
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