How to Get the Most Out of Cross-Border Shopping to the US

From refunds to states without tax, a jaunt over the border is never a bad idea.

We Canadians are suckers when it comes to crossing the border to shop. Even with the increase of U.S. brands, not only setting up shop, but offering shipping to Canada, you’d think there wouldn’t be much of an interest to head south and buy — in some ways staying put makes sense, but that doesn’t stop us from packing our bags, getting some deals and enjoying a wider selection south of the border.

On a recent trip to Boston and I got an amazing deal on a Michael Kors watch I had been eying for a few months. I popped into a Michael Kors boutique and was instantly excited when I saw it for $50 less than what I had seen in Canada. I was even more excited to learn that Massachusetts only has 5% sales tax, making it much less than if I had purchased it at home. Depending on how long you’re out of the country, you can bring back a decent amount of items and avoid duty all-together, which isn’t the case when you order online. Plus with the strong Canadian dollar as of late, the prices you see are essentially the price you pay.

Hoping to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak? Read on to find out how.

What You Can Bring Back (without paying duty)

Less Than 24 Hours
Nothing.

24 Hours or More
Up to $200CAN. No alcohol or tobacco.

48 Hours or More
Up to $800CAN.
1.5L of wine (2 bottles); 1.14L of alcoholic beverages (1 standard bottle of liquor); 8.5L of beer/ale (24 cans/bottles)

7 Days or More
Up to $800CAN. While you must be carrying any alcohol or tobacco products, you don’t need to be travelling with the rest of your goods. They can be coming via mail/courier at a later date.

Shopped Too Much (it’s OK we’ve been there)
If you don’t qualify for a personal exemption or have done over your amount, you have to pay GST/HST, as well as any other duty/tax/assessment that applies.

If you’ve been out of Canada for more than 48 hours, you’ll get a special 7% duty rate on any goods that are travelling with you and exceed $300CAN more than your exemption of $800CAN. It also doesn’t include alcohol or tobacco.

States with No Taxes (for anyone!)

Alaska
Delaware
Montana
New Hampshire
Oregon

States that Offer Tax Refunds for Non-Residents

Louisiana
North Dakota
Texas
Washington (only residents of Alberta, Yukon, NWT and Nunavut qualify)

How-to get your money back

1. Bring all of your original receipts (ask for a duplicate during the transaction if you want a copy for yourself), your passport, and airline ticket or e-ticket confirmation for proof of travel.
Note: In Texas each receipt must have at least $10 in sales tax to qualify. In Louisiana you will only receive a refund for purchases made at tax-free merchants.

2. Head to a refund centre. Locations are usually in shopping centres, in addition to airports. Find tax refund centres in Louisiana and refund centers in Texas. For refunds in North Dakota, you will need to fill out a refund form and apply for it online or by email.

3. If you don’t receive your refund immediately, you should expect it via mail with 90-120 days.