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I live in Toronto, Canada. I recently returned from a trip to New York. I was away for 5 days and declared $750CAD for the purchase of a designer belt and some cosmetics. This was exactly the amount I spent while I was away. The customs officer checked my receipts and everything was fine. He proceed to check the rest of my bag. I was traveling with some designer purses (purchased in Canada) that I keep in prestine condition in their dust bags and stuffed (so they do not get squished in my luggage.) i will admit that they are in good condition, but when you pay that much for a purse you take care of it! Well, because they look new, the customs officer accused me of purchasing them while I was in New York. I was only able to show receipts for some of the bags, others were purchased a long time ago or received as a gift and i was unable to prove purchase in Canada. One of my bags in particular, was purchased in Italy two years ago. When I was asked about this specific bag, i was honest in explaining that it was purchased abroad and that I claimed $800CAD for it at the time of my travel in September 2014. He pulled up my customs form from this trip in 2014 and saw that I had only claimed $800CAD but, felt as though the bag was worth more. He charged me $172CAD in taxes valuing the bag at $1300CAD (900EURO). Unfortunately I no longer have the receipt (as it was two years ago!!) But, wondering a few questions:

  1. Shouldn’t I have been charged the difference in the value of the bag and what i claimed at the time in September 2014? So, $1300 - $800 = $500 Tax on $500 rather than $1300?

  2. Do i have to travel with all the receipts for every purchase i have ever made? Seems a little ridiculous!! At what point in time does the item need to be owned for me not to required a receipt? How will I know this won’t happen again for items i have purchased here that I no longer have receipts for?

This whole system seems strange... How can you charge tax on items at customs that were purchased in Canada that I’ve already paid Canadian taxes on? Or, items that you have been using for years and have passed through customs with multiple times already.

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    A credit card/bank statement with the purchase recorded on it may be sufficient proof of purchase if you didn't pay in cash. As far as I know, they have to refund you even if you produce proof after payment, as it's not a fine. – Crazymoomin Nov 14 '17 at 11:42
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    So it's "guilty until proven innocent"? – Matteo Tassinari Nov 14 '17 at 13:17
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    Take a picture with your phone of all of those items in front of your house before leaving on your next trip. – sirjonsnow Nov 14 '17 at 13:52
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    @MatteoTassinari No, because there is no "guilt", just an assessment of owed duty. It isn't a crime to buy handbags inside or outside Canada and then bring them into Canada. – David Richerby Nov 14 '17 at 18:58
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    Even though this system is irritating, it's how most if not all countries operate, because there aren't a lot of practical alternatives. How else is a country to know whether your items were purchased abroad or not? The usual arrangement is that goods you're bringing into the country are subject to duty, and there's an exception for travelers' personal belongings being brought back.It's up to you to prove you qualify for that exception. If your belongings are dirty underwear, you're probably fine. If your belongings are a $30 million diamond, you're going to need some paperwork. – Zach Lipton Nov 14 '17 at 20:20
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As for question 2, Canada says that "it is the individual's responsibility to establish that such items were initially taken out of Canada and were not acquired abroad." In short, they can suspect that your goods were purchased outside of Canada, and it's your responsibility to demonstrate otherwise.

In your case, I can imagine the customs officer saw a number of pristine designer bags in their original packaging and found that unusual for a five-day trip. There's nothing wrong with it, and it's certainly easy to imagine a trip where you would want to carry several such purses, but it's not hard to see why the officer was suspicious, especially as you were importing other luxury items nearly up to the $800CAD limit of what you can bring without paying duty.

The Canada Border Services Agency has a mechanism by which you can register your items at one of their offices before you travel. You show the items to an officer, and they'll give you a BSF407 form, which represents official proof that your possessions came from Canada or were previously legally imported to Canada. If there's a question at the border, you can show that form as proof you didn't buy the items abroad.

This is, of course, a significant hassle, but may be worthwhile if you're traveling with valuable items and want to avoid trouble and costs at the border.

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    Also [having an official form stating your valuables] may help with insurance and damages claims when the airline misplaces your luggage. – Mindwin Nov 14 '17 at 15:07
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    Yup, I agree, that's what happened, you looked walked and quacked like a purse smuggler. Don't do that. – Harper Nov 14 '17 at 21:19

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