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I'm going to Japan for a few weeks, and since I don't go to Japan super often (last time was 2 years ago) I was thinking of bringing back some Japanese alcohol that I can't get in Canada. I know I have an alcohol duty-free limit as a Canadian citizen, but I was thinking of going over that limit (and declaring it, of course). I can't seem to find a good resource to calculate the duty though, to determine if it's worth it or not, and I don't want any surprises when I return.

The specific types of alcohol I am considering bringing back are whiskey and plum wine, if it helps at all.

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    In my experience, Customs won't be bothered by small overages. I bring back extra wine all the time. Just make sure you declare the overage, and be prepared for secondary screening. The worst that will happen is you decide the fees are too much and abandon it. – Chris Cudmore Apr 18 at 14:54
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    @ChrisCudmore I don't mind paying the overages, I'd just like to have an idea how much they are ahead of time so I don't randomly get dinged for like $100 that I wasn't prepared for. – Ertai87 Apr 18 at 14:59
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The duty you owe is a moving target, as it is subject to a national excise duty and to provincial taxes, and possibly GST on top of that. Your personal exemption also varies depending not only on the type of alcoholic beverage, but on the length of your trip. It is apparently enough of a headache that CBSA does not bother to include alcohol in its Duty and Taxes Estimator, which is too bad.

For Ontario, I would expect the Importing Beverage Alcohol guide from the LCBO to be most up-to-date, but note that the provincial taxes are based on where you enter Canada, not where you reside. If you go through customs in Vancouver, you would be subject to British Columbia taxes even if you live in Manitoba.

Toronto-based private immigration consultancy ImmiGroup estimates

In general, expect the cost of your beer and liquor to double and the price of your wine to increase by 60% once you've paid duties and taxes at the border.

There is a company called Border Buddy, aimed at commercial importation, which provides a web-based online calculator for calculating duties (note that they appear to be unaffiliated with the mobile apps going by the same name). I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but it seemed more optimistic, estimating around 18 CAD in duty on 50 CAD of whisky. The wild variance from ImmiGroup's estimate makes me think it is omitting some levy or another, however.

  • Thanks! As it turns out, I reside in Ontario and I'm entering Canada through Toronto, so that's not a concern for me. I wonder if the staff at the airport would have an idea, as I'm leaving Canada and also re-entering through the same airport. – Ertai87 Apr 18 at 17:05
  • You aren't far off; this issue comes up from time to time at FlyerTalk and the reigning advice is apparently, literally, to call CBSA and ask for an estimate. The central switchboard is 800-461-9999 and they can connect you to an office in your province. – choster Apr 18 at 17:12

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