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We’re Canadians backpacking abroad for 6 months. We brought well-used camping gear over with us that we purchased in Canada years ago (we no longer have receipts). It’s halfway through our trip and we want to mail the camping gear home now (from Europe) so we can stop lugging it around. Are we likely to be charged customs fees for our gear even though we purchased it at home? If so what’s the best way to avoid that?

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    Yes it’s likely (you won’t be able to ship it without a customs form and that should trigger import taxes). Exemptions for personal items are usually linked to you carrying them with you through the border, or when moving. You could put a very low value on the customs form, but if they don’t agree with it it may turn out quite nasty (I.e. they would tax on their estimate and possibly add penalties on top). Probably depends how obvious it is that the items indeed have a very low value.
    – jcaron
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 10:28
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    @jcaron You could still benefit from the personal exemption (as if you bought them outside Canada) when mailing goods from abroad. Duties and taxes are assessed on the mail but refundable upon declaration on arriving in Canada.
    – xngtng
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 10:32
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    To be honest, customs is not the only problem, whether you technically qualify for a relief or not, I find that getting the shipping company to declare it properly is often a struggle as well. For small parcels and individuals (I assume they treat corporate clients differently), they don't want to bother with the details and are happy to just collect some taxes that may or may not actually be owed and slap their fees on top, even if you put something else on the form. Getting that rectified after the fact is a pain.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 11:34
  • @xngtng I believe most other countries don’t allow that (in the case of regular short term travel and not when moving to the country). Do you have a link explaining the procedure for this in Canada?
    – jcaron
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 12:25
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    @GiacomoCatenazzi Here is a good example where a ATA Carnet should have been used (but was not): 2022-09-05: Welsh charity cyclists in Spain get £7k bike customs charge - BBC News. This situation would have been avoided with a Carnet. Expensive sportsgear and the equipment for music groups on tour in other customs areas are a common usage of Carnets. Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 6:01

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If the 'gear' has any product type and/or numbers, a customs service can determin in which country it was sold (if they want to).

So be truthful and declare them 'as canadian bought between 20?? and 20?? for an estimated amount of CND ??? (see list inside)'.

Add list of product name, type, number and price.

If you have any documents on how they were transported to Europe, add/include a copy of that too.

Upon entry into Canada they should be also be declared as used goods, bought in canada, and sent back per post (with receipt and a copy of the list).

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  • Thank you everyone who commented. I think this solution would have worked, but between the hassle, shipping costs and age of the gear, we decided to just leave it behind. In hindsight it seems like the ATA Carnet would have been ideal
    – Emily
    Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 6:23

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