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Cross-border shoppers hit by new surtax, while interest rates rise
3/20/2019 5:44:01 PM
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By Knowledge Bureau  | Thursday, August 09, 2018



By Evelyn Jacks

Canadians spend anywhere from $4.7 billion to $8 billion on cross-border shopping, and if you spent either the July or August long weekend looking for bargains in the U.S., you may have had an unpleasant surprise: Despite the loonie holding some ground against U.S. currency, a new 10% surtax on certain consumer goods came into effect on July 1, applied if you exceeded your exemption limit.

A few weeks ago, Canada was hit with steel and aluminum tariffs by the U.S., which led to a $2 billion counter-measure from the Canadian government. This month, the Canada Border Services Agency has confirmed that a surtax will apply on certain goods to Canadian citizens who have exceeded their exemption limits; this charge is above and beyond the standard duties already in place.

Each year, Canadian residents take an average of 20 million overnight trips across the border, and it’s these quick visits that will hit your wallet the hardest. After all, there are no duty exemptions if you’ve stayed in the U.S. for less than 24 hours, so this new surtax will apply to all purchases made on such short trips. Make sure you’re familiar with the exemption limits for U.S. stays between 24 and 48 hours, and over 48 hours, so you know when standard duties and this new surtax apply.

The 10% surtax is being levied by the U.S. government on the value of the applicable duty on any items classified as steel or aluminum products, as well as on a classification referred to as “Other Goods.” This category covers a wide range of things, including coffee, yogurt, candy, household and cleaning products, some types of alcohol, appliances, and electronics. Outdoor enthusiasts will be hit, too: The new surtax applies to various types of pleasure boats, sailboats, sleeping bags, mattresses, and more. Even your playing cards used around the campfire will cost more if they are made in the U.S.! A complete list of applicable items is available on the Department of Finance website.

Meanwhile, there is more bad news for consumers. Even if you’re planning to focus on buying homegrown Canadian products, Canadian interest rates are still on the rise, with the most recent hike announced by the Bank of Canada on July 11. That won’t help the millions of Canadians who hold a share of the $2 trillion in consumer debt.

Of special interest to advisors dealing with cross-border tax issues, we are pleased to cover U.S.-Canada tax and trade matters in detail at this year’s Distinguished Advisor Conference, to be held November 10-14 in Quebec City. This new knowledge is critical for advisors from across the financial services spectrum. At this year’s DAC, economist Dr. Jack Mintz and other U.S. tax experts, including Dean Smith of Cadesky Tax, will be addressing the implications of U.S. policy on Canada’s competitiveness, and the tax consequences affecting Canadians. Check the Knowledge Bureau website for a full agenda and to register. We recommend you act soon. This is a very popular annual conference, and early registration ends September 15.

© 2018 The Knowledge Bureau, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Evelyn Jacks is the founder and President of Knowledge Bureau, which brings continuing financial education in the multiple areas of specialization to advisors and their clients. She is the author of 52 books on tax and wealth planning. This article originally appeared in the Knowledge Bureau Report. Follow Evelyn Jacks on Twitter @EvelynJacks. Visit her blog at

Notes and Disclaimer

The foregoing is for general information purposes only and is the opinion of the writer. No guarantee of investment performance is made or implied. It is not intended to provide specific personalized advice including, without limitation, investment, financial, legal, accounting or tax advice.

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