Because these matters change so frequently I strongly suggest that you browse the appropriate websites of your country of residency even after reading the following.
For Canadians this site is pretty clear: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/E/pub/cp/bsf5056/bsf5056-07e.pdf It’s only 32 pages long but covers everything. Some parts are surprising.
For the US I got lost finding a ‘one-stop’ URL for travelers but I did stumble onto an interesting piece of information which I hereby relate.
The Customs Service, which relies increasingly on innovative enforcement and administrative technology, remains the second largest revenue source for the federal government (the Internal Revenue Service is number one), returning $22.1 billion to the U.S. Treasury in 1999 — about $18 for every $1 the agency received in operational funds from the government.
If you don’t want to be a contributor I suggest you a lot some time to browsing the internet for up to date info. Prior to 9/11 the perfunctory inspections were cursory. Now they are not so be aware and avoid surprises. Special attention to medicines should be given. One layman site that is lengthy but comprehensive is the following.
I did find this on the official site (August 2007) so I guess it’s valid ????
Washington – U.S. Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner today announced that starting November 4, 2002, the standard personal exemption-the total value of merchandise travelers may bring back to the United States without having to pay duty will increase from $400 to $800. The increase was contained in the Trade Act of 2002, which became law on August 6, 2002. All other personal exemption rates remain unchanged.
The duty-free exemption applies if:
- The items are for your personal or household use.
- They are in your possession when you return to the United States. Items to be sent later may not be included in your $800 duty-free exemption.
- The items are declared to Customs. If you do not declare all items that you obtained during your trip, you risk forfeiting them.
- You are returning from an overseas stay of at least 48 hours.
- You have not used your exemption, or any part of it, in the past 30 days. If you use part of your exemption you must wait another 30 days before you are allowed another $800 exemption.
- The items are not prohibited or restricted.
Family members who live in the same home and return together to the United States may combine their standard personal exemptions. Children and infants are allowed the same exemption as adults, except for alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.
Only 1 liter of alcohol and 200 cigarettes or 100 cigars may be included in this exemption.
Items purchased in “Duty Free” shops are subject to duty if the value of your total purchases exceeds $800.
For more information on duty-free exemptions, please read Customs “Know Before You Go” brochure. This publication is also available on the U. S. Customs Service Web site.
(Canada)* What are your personal exemptions? After each absence of 24 hours or more You can claim up to CAN$50 worth of goods without paying any duties. This is your personal exemption. You must have the goods with you when you arrive and you cannot include tobacco products or alcoholic beverages in this exemption. If the goods you bring in are worth more than CAN$50 in total, you cannot claim this exemption. Instead you have to pay full duties on all goods you bring in.
After each absence of 48 hours or more You can claim up to CAN$400 worth of goods without paying any duties. You must have the goods with you when you arrive. Although you can include some tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, a partial exemption may apply to cigarettes, tobacco products or manufactured tobacco. See the section called “Alcohol and tobacco” for more details.
After each absence of 7 days or more You can claim up to CAN$750 worth of goods without paying any duties. Although you can include some tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, a partial exemption may apply to cigarettes, tobacco products or manufactured tobacco. See the section called “Alcohol and tobacco” for more details. With the exception of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, you do not need to have the goods with you when you arrive.
Certain goods may not be imported into Canada. These include endangered species of animals, firearms, and many kinds of food products (such as some fruit). The Canadian dollar is strong relative to the Mexican Peso. If you shop abroad, you can still bring home a bargain. Sometimes it pays to import items even if you have to pay duty, especially if the item is much more expensive in Canada than abroad or unavailable here.
Items CAN be shipped separately but they must be declared upon your return as part of your exemption with the balance calculated upon receipt at customs. Prior to now, goods from continental North America had to accompany the traveling passenger to be eligible for the exemptions. If however they are not prohibited items they can be shipped and entered subject to duty. A call to your local customs officer PRIOR to traveling will clarify this and give you the tariff for calculating duty to guide you in establishing whether or not it’s a good deal. Remember you are subject to laws of the state and country you land in even if you are in transit.
With regards to bringing back “extra” liquor it is strongly suggested that you don’t try to “slip one or two by” as the penalties for this activity have just been scaled upwards. First you lose the booze, you pay the amount you should have paid in duty, excise tax, G.S.T. etc times 60%. Actually I’ve always suggested that you forget trying to beat the system and be content with the ONE freebee.
GOOD LUCK whatever you do, but don’t smuggle!
The rest of the world can Google like I did.