Black Friday and Thanksgiving week-end often ends in tears and frustration as Canadian travelers run into difficulties at Canada-US border crossings and at airports.

Canadians join in the U.S. tradition of bargain shopping on Black Friday and over Thanksgiving week-end.  Problems arise when Canadians do not have all of their receipts in order from their shopping trip.  If a traveler declares $500 worth of goods for a 24 hour trip, he/she is telling the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) that he/she has exceeded the personal exemption limit and will have to pay duties and taxes.  However, if one invoice is left in the bag for $100 (and is not included in a calculation) or the traveler does not use the calculator feature on an iPhone, the CBSA will say the traveler under-declared.  The CBSA often does not allow any grace for human error. The CBSA will allow the traveler to complete a Casual Accounting of Goods for for the value declared and will seize the goods that were not declared and impose a penalty of 30% or 40% or 50% or 60%.

Also, the primary CBSA officer wants to hear about all the purchases.  The Recourse Directorate has written in response to appeals that the traveler has the obligation to make a complete declaration.  So, please make a list and check it twice.  The CBSA officer may say that you have reported enough and you should clearly indicate that there is more on your list.  If you declare a sweater and forget to add the receipt in the total, you may have a grounds to appeal any enforcement action.

If the traveler is a NEXUS pass holder, the CBSA may confiscate the traveler’s NEXUS privileges AND impose a higher level of penalty on the under-declared goods. The ramifications can be quite costly and serious for a frequent traveler.

When the CBSA confiscates a NEXUS pass, the traveler must appeal the enforcement action and the confiscation of the NEXUS pass.  The bigger the mistake, the harder it is to explain human error.

I recommend that travelers keep all their receipts together so that a list can be prepared on the plane or before you leave a store parking lot.