By Josephine Matyas

Open any newspaper and you’ll see there have been big changes on the duty-free shopping landscape for Canadians crossing the U.S.-Canada border. With shopping being one of the top activities enjoyed by travellers heading south, it’s important to stay current on any changes and updates to the regulations.

In June 2012, the Canadian government announced changes to the duty-free rules and limits for Canadian travellers returning home from multi-day trips in the United States. The result was a jump in the number of one- and two-night overnight trips to the U.S. that took place, creating opportunities for travel industry members such as hotels and tour operators to take advantage of the trend.

We spoke with Stephen Fine, Founder and President of CrossBorderShopping.ca, about what’s new and trending in cross-border shopping.

Q: What are the highlights to changes in duty-free limits for cross-border shoppers?
On June 1, 2012, the Canadian government significantly increased duty-free allowances for Canadians returning to Canada from the United States. Before this date, Canadians were allowed to bring $50 worth of goods back to Canada for stays of more than 24 hours and $400 worth of goods for stays of more than 48 hours.

After the increase took effect, Canadians were allowed to bring $200 worth of goods back to Canada for stays of more than 24 hours and $800 worth of goods for stays of more than 48 hours. The duty-free limit for same-day trips remained unchanged at $0.

Trip Duration    New Duty-Free Limits    Old Duty-Free Limits
Up to 24 hours    $0    $0
24 – 48 hours    $200    $50
Over 48 hours    $800    $400

Q: What has been the immediate effect of the new duty-free limits?
These new duty-free limits have contributed to a significant increase in the number of Canadians who stay overnight in the U.S.

In fact, in the first month after these higher limits were introduced, we saw the largest number of overnight stays by Canadians in the U.S. in the past 40 years.

Q: What opportunities does the change in regulations create for travel industry professionals in Canada?
The fact that more Canadians are staying overnight in the U.S. to take advantage of higher duty-free limits not only presents new opportunities for U.S. retailers, but other businesses as well, such as tour operators, hotels, restaurants and attractions who will experience an increase in demand for accommodations, dining and activities.

For example, the higher duty-free limits create opportunities for overnight shopping packages. We see a tremendous opportunity for businesses to work together to create one- and two-night overnight shopping packages for Canadians.

Shopping Options
In Texas, you can shop until you drop – and it’s tax free! Shopping options in Texas are as big and diverse as the state itself: from premiere shopping malls and historic small towns, to hip, urban shopping districts. Shops and boutiques offer high-end couture, antique treasures and outlet deals.

Shop America Tours (www.shopamericatours.com/shop-texas) offers an assortment of packages in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, McAllen and San Antonio. Another plus for Canadian travellers is that international shoppers can get their tax back on purchases. Canadians should check out www.taxfreetexas.com for information on participating retailers, refund centres and procedures.

In Oregon, Woodburn Company Stores is the largest tax-free outlet centre in the West (with more than 114 stores). Big name brands, skylight-covered walkways and beautiful Northwest architecture and landscaping make this a unique and fun shopping experience. If Canadian visitors stop in at customer service and show their CAA card, they can get a Preferred Savings Guide good for additional discounts at participating stores.