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Border Wine Taxes & Fees Modified for HST

It\’s the summer travel season. Many British Columbian wine enthusiasts will be venturing south of the border and will want to bring a few bottles home with them. As most will know, that is a very expensive proposition in BC if you exceed your miserly duty-free allowance of two 750ml bottles of wine per person. However, the introduction of the HST has made these importations ever so slightly less expensive. Previously, for BC, the charges were 85% liquor board markup plus 10% PST plus 5% GST.  However, the sales tax portion has now gone down from 15% to 12% and is calculated in a way which is slightly more advantageous. Canada Border Service Agency (Customs) has revised its memo on this issue to show the new tax collection rates and process. The following table shows you the comparative rates for importing a non-duty-free 750 ml bottle of wine into a Canadian province when you return from a trip to the U.S and also shows you the effect of these charges if you import a 750 ml bottle of wine that cost $15.

As you will see, the rates charged at the border for British Columbians are very high in comparison to most other provinces (Quebec is also very high). In BC, you will end up paying more than double the original price once you have imported the wine. Once again, British Columbian wine lovers are getting soaked by our government on this issue.

Excise Tax
Liquor Board Markup

Border charges
for a $15 bottle of wine

Total Cost
of $15 Wine
British Columbia
85% of value
(min $1.83, max $12.75)
$0.47 $2.60 for 750 ml bottle
$0.47 $3.12 for 750 ml bottle
$0.47 39.6% of value
66% of value + $0.67

Please note that for almost all provinces, these rates are only valid in the \”travellers stream\” – which means you must personally bring the wine across the border with you. If you ship the wine, the rates are generally much higher (it\’s hard to believe that the BC rates could be higher, but they are!). There are also quantity limits for these rates: 45.45 litres for BC; 45.45 litres for AB (although the memo says 9.09 which is wrong); 45 litres for ON; no limit for MB; 9 litres for Quebec. Also note that the way of calculating these fees differs from province to province – see the CBSA memo for details.

You may also wish to read my Bringing Wine Back to Canada After a Trip article.

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Washington State Privatization Initiative Certified

The Costco led initiative in Washington state to privatize the remaining elements of Washington\’s liquor distribution system has been certified and will appear on voters\’ ballots in the fall. If the measure passes, Washington\’s remaining state liquor stores (which have a monopoly on spirit sales) would be privatized. The distribution system would also be deregulated and price controls repealed. As will be apparent (and despite the \’success\’ of the anti-HST campaign), the process for getting a voter initiative such as this on to the ballot is much easier in WA than here in BC. Still, progress and reform south of the border may have some influence on legislative policy here in BC. Is it too much to hope that our archaic distribution system and irrational wine tax structure will soon be changed? If you need reassurance that the time for change is overdue, read Jake Skakun\’s recent blog post: \”A Layman\’s Attempt to Understand What It Means to be a Licensee\” where he shares his frustration at our outdated system.