Importing Alcohol into Canada: What You Need to Know
Being outside of the country, whether you are traveling or living abroad, gives you an opportunity to learn about new cultures, try new foods, and sample different kinds of wines and spirits that aren’t available at home. Luckily for you, it’s possible to bring these wines and spirits back to Canada as souvenirs of your journeys to other places. However, there are some important things you need to know about importing alcohol into Canada, whether you are bringing it with you or having it shipped.
Just How Much Alcohol Can You Bring into Canada?
The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) allows you to bring a certain amount of alcohol with you in your luggage for personal use if you have been outside of the country for a year or longer. You can bring 1.5 liters of wine, a total of 1.14 liters of alcoholic beverages, or up to 8.5 liters of beer or ale. The CBSA defines alcohol as products that exceed 0.5% alcohol by volume. You can’t bring alcohol in your luggage for personal use if you’re under the legal drinking age.
Shipping Alcohol to Canada
You’re allowed to ship a greater amount of alcoholic beverages than that to Canada, though. The amount you’re allowed to ship will depend on the province. Also, you’ll need to contact that province’s liquor control authority before you ship the alcohol.
Below are the regulations for shipping alcohol to Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
Shipping Alcohol to Ontario
In Ontario, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) regulates the import of alcohol. The LCBO is also in charge of the liquor permit process. In order to ship alcoholic beverages into Ontario for personal use, you must fill out a liquor permit form.
The LCBO allows individuals to ship up to 120 bottles of spirits that are 750 mL, 1 L or 1.14 L, and up to 1200 bottles of wine that are 750 mL or 1 L in size. You must report all of them on the application form. If you’ve lived outside of Canada for less than five years, the alcohol needs to have been in your possession for at least six months. Have you lived outside of Canada for more than five years? The six month rule doesn’t apply – you simply have to have owned and used the alcohol you’re importing. You also can’t import the alcohol from someplace other than where you’ve been living abroad. So, let’s say you’ve been living in England for the past four years. You can’t import wine from France (no matter how much you love Bordeaux).
On the liquor permit form, you’ll need to enter the number of containers and calculate the deposit as well as the tax on each bottle. The tax and deposit information is listed here. You’ll also need to add HST. To calculate how much HST you owe, multiply the total tax by 13%. When you are clearing customs, you will submit the liquor permit form. You’ll also need to pay the tax and deposit on your alcohol, which is the sum of the tax, deposit and HST.
Shipping Alcohol to Quebec
In Quebec, the Societe des alcools du Quebec (SAQ) is the authority that controls the import of alcohol. To import alcoholic beverages into Quebec, you must contact the SAQ before you return to Canada.
The SAQ allows immigrants, residents and Canadian citizens to bring alcohol into Quebec as long as the alcohol has been in their possession for at least three months before their return to Canada. The alcohol must be imported no later than one year after your return, and it must be part of the same, single shipment as your personal effects. Furthermore, the alcohol cannot make up the larger portion of the shipment in either quantity or value.
A family can only bring in one beverage collection, and the amount of beverages in that collection depends on your status under Canadian law. Canadian citizens can bring in up to 180 liters of alcohol per full year spent abroad, up to 540 liters. Immigrants to Canada can also bring in up to 540 liters of alcohol. Temporary residents are allowed to bring in up to 90 liters for each year of their authorized stay, provided that the beverages were acquired three months before they came to Canada.
When your shipment arrives in Quebec, the CBSA will require the SAQ’s authorization to release the beverages. In order to obtain the SAQ’s authorization, you’ll need to provide documentation that you lived abroad, a shipping document listing your personal effects, and a list of the beverages in your collection. You’ll also need to pay a markup fee, the specific tax, the GST, and Quebec’s sales tax (QST) on each bottle. The specific tax is $1.40 per liter for all alcoholic beverages, and the GST and QST are 5% and 9.975% respectively. The markup fee for wine and beer is $3 per liter and $5 per liter for spirits. You will also need to pay federal duties and customs fees for your alcoholic beverages that are part of your shipment when you clear customs.
Shipping Alcohol to British Columbia
British Columbia does not place any restrictions on the amount of alcohol you can bring with you if you’ve been living outside of the country for a year or longer. This applies to immigrants, former residents of Canada who have lived abroad for at least a year, and temporary residents. The British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) requires that you possess the alcohol for at least six months before your return to Canada, and that it accompanies your personal effects.
You will pay a reduced provincial markup and tax on the alcohol you import into the province. The BCLDB has based its tax on 750 mL bottles. Table wine is $2 per bottle, fortified and sparkling wines are $3 per bottle, and spirits are $8 per bottle. These amounts will be prorated for different sized bottles or partially full bottles. It’s important to remember these amounts don’t include federal duties and taxes.
The BCLDB prepares the B3 Canada Customs entry form for you. This form contains information about the wines and spirits you’re importing. You need to supply the BCLDB with the following information: the number of bottles you’re bringing in, the size of these bottles, the type of alcohol, and the percentage of alcohol. The BCLDB also needs the name of the country you’re emigrating from as well as your local address, phone number and email address in case the agency needs more information. When the BCLDB has all of this information, a representative will fax, email or mail the completed form to you.
If you’re planning an international move to Canada from abroad and have personal items that need special care (such as an alcohol collection), you’ll need to contact a reputable company specialized in shipping to Canada to help you with the logistics, which can be quite complex.