I was down in Niagara Falls last weekend and decided to do a little cross border shopping. I’ve always been curious as to what the cost would be to exceed the exemption on alcohol. With this in mind I bought a 12 pack of beer and a 1.75 L bottle of bourbon.
The bourbon (my pal Jim Beam) was available in the U. S. of A. at an unbelievable price of $22. A similar bottle would be at least $40 or $50 at the LCBO. Coming back, I boldly declared to the custom guard that I’d bought a bottle of bourbon and a 12 pack of beer. My first hint that I was in trouble was when his eyes widened a bit and he asked for my receipts. The second hint was when he asked me what I thought the bottle would have cost me at the LCBO. The third hint (and at this point he was done hinting) was when he told me I’d be paying more than that in duty and instructed me to pull over to the left after exiting the custom booth.
All told, they wanted to charge me $36 in duty for the bottle, more than 150% of what it cost me. Part of this was an $18 “LCBO markup”. Outrageous! I decided in the end to abandon the bourbon and carry on with my trip (out of sympathy, the guy inside decided not to charge me for the beer). Truth be told, I think I would have been further ahead to pay the $36, since I this is still cheaper than what the bourbon would have cost at the LCBO. I certainly proved to myself is that the duty on hard liquor is VERY high. Apparently bringing across beer, even if you exceed the exemption, is reasonable, but you’ll lose money trying to bring across the hard stuff. Both customs guards asked me if I’d every paid duty on imported liquor before, and I think what they were implying was that I was a dumb-ass for trying to bring it across and it’s cheaper to just buy it at the local store.