Archive for March, 2016

How to Import Alcohol into Canada

Posted by

Alcohol in Canada is one of the more difficult items to import since it is regulated heavily by both the federal and provincial governments. While the provincial liquor boards represent monopolies that control and approve all imports of alcohol into their regions, in most cases private imports are allowed. Border Bee has created a calculator specifically for this channel of imports, so you can see in advance how much that bourbon will cost before you ship it back home.

Note: travellers may import without a permit when arriving with alcohol in their luggage or car. The below requirements are for unaccompanied alcohol shipped to Canada.

Here are some general requirements:

  • No more than 45 L of beer, wine or alcohol can be imported per shipment
  • You can only import into your province of residence and must be of legal drinking age in your province
  • Authorization must be obtained from your provincial liquor board before customs release
    • although the goods can be shipped beforehand, we recommend contacting a broker to ensure the alcohol in question can be imported
  • Most provinces permit businesses and individuals to import as long as the goods are not re-sold (incl. at an event)
  • Each provinces has a mark up and requires specific details to approve your importation. In addition to the mark up, federal customs and excise taxes will apply (at a much lower rate than the mark up).
    • be sure to know the following details before shipping:
      • the year
      • the country of origin
      • the manufacturer
      • the alcohol content
      • the brand
    • you will also need proof of payment (we strongly recommend not paying in cash)
  • as an alternative to shipping your alcohol, you can also order directly through your liquor board, who will handle the shipping and clearance for you


Quebec is the most advanced when it comes to private imports of alcohol, as they have even developed an online permit issuing system. Calculate your cost here.


Ontario also allows imports of alcohol for private end uses. Before shipping, you will need to consign the shipment to the “LCBO c/o ” + “your name, address and contact.” Find out your cost here.

British Columbia/BCL:

The BCL is reviewing their current system, but as of 2016 both consumers and businesses can import into the province. The shipment must be consigned to “BC Liquor Distribution Branch C/O” + “your name, address and contact.” On arrival, you will need to contact the LCDB or hire a broker to obtain the release of your shipment before the courier can deliver it. Find out your cost here.


In Alberta, individuals should contact the AGLC directly to import their purchases. Their customs team will release your shipment once your mark up invoice has been paid.

Border Bee has contacted the remaining Canadian provinces and is awaiting confirmation of their particular mark ups and requirements.

Got some mescal stuck in Customs? Need a quote to ship a crate of wine?


Imports of alcohol are permitted but must be made directly through the liquor board, who will clear and bill the order for you. Importers should contact the MBLL directly to ensure their shipments can be imported and cleared: 204-957-2500 ext. 5538

What is undervaluation?

Posted by

“Undervaluation” is one of the most common Customs infractions and one that the CBSA invests a lot of time in discovering. The infraction is an attempt by the importer or shipper to conceal the real cost of a sale so that Customs duties and taxes will be assessed on a lower amount. While undervaluation can take many forms, the least complicated and most common is simply including a fake price on the invoice used for Customs clearance.

The CBSA uses a few methods to combat this scheme. They will frequently ask importers to present a “proof of payment” from a verified third-party (such as a bank or credit card provider) before releasing control of the goods. Should the price initially declared to Customs vary greatly from what was actually paid, Customs will often issue a penalty against the importer and may deny their right to import and seize the goods in question.

How to import Wine into Quebec

Posted by
caveat empor: the casual import channel is not the best way to stock your cellar. The mark up is high and you may need to drink all your wine at once to overcome the sticker shock. What private permits do offer is a way for you to get that Bordeaux your friend shipped you out of Customs purgatory. If you are interested in collecting or sampling, most provincial liquor boards offer a B2C sourcing channel which is likely more cost-effective and less stressful.
SAQ import permit

You will need a permit from the SAQ to get your wine out of customs

note: If you are a traveler bringing back alcohol in your car or luggage, you merely need to declare the amount when you arrive at the frontier.

Generally speaking, each provincial liquor board constitutes a monopoly under which only they can import wine and alcohol. Even interprovincial importing is illegal, as one unfortunate New Brunswick man discovered after a beer run to Quebec. Despite this, private imports of alcohol do occur (although the procedure will vary by province).

The following procedures are based on import steps into Quebec, which has its own online portal to expedite occasional imports. First you must be:

  • importing less than 45 L of wine, beer or alcohol
  • a resident of Quebec
  • over 18 years of age

Here is the process:

  1. Hire a customs broker: As usual, self-clearing is an option, although it will require a few trips back and forth between the customs office, the SAQ, and the transporter carrying your goods. Your broker will only require your transporter’s manifest and a commercial invoice with the following details:
    1. Quantity of wine in litres
    2. Percentage of alcohol for each wine
    3. country of origin and year of the wine
  2. Ship your goods and indicate your customs broker if using a third-party shipping service
  3. Your broker will obtain a permit from the SAQ, pay the taxes on your behalf, then bring the permit to the Customs office for release and to pay the other taxes (there are several different kinds of taxes on alcohol and all must be remitted to the correct party).
  4. Once released, your broker will present the proof of release to the SAQ and you will be free to pick up your wine (your broker may also arrange delivery for you)

Residents can also self-clear by following the above steps and creating an account on the SAQ’s website. If you are confused by the shipping documents, we recommend hiring a broker. Be warned when self-clearing that even once your SAQ mark up is paid, additional duties and taxes must be paid to the Customs office.


Use our mark up calculator to determine whether importing your purchase is worth it

Is there another way?

Rest assured that there is no cheaper way of getting booze into the country other than by old-fashioned rum-running.

Can businesses import private orders?

Yes, obtaining import permits for commercial samples of wine is common. If you plan on wholesaling however, you will have to deal directly with the SAQ as the permit process is for occasional imports only.

I’ve been collecting a cellar while living abroad, can I bring it back tax-free?

No, but you will be subject to lower rate of $4.40 / litre. To qualify you must have lived abroad for over a year and bought the wine more than three months before moving back.


Ecommerce, Customs and You provides answers to your questions on importing goods, written by the Border Bee staff.

Recent Posts