Here’s a road-trip warning: If you’re planning on bringing numerous bottles of wine from the western U.S. into Canada, beware of doing so at any border crossing into British Columbia. That’s because you’ll get hammered by a ruinous provincial tax, apparently intended to protect B.C. wine producers… or perhaps just fill government coffers.
The tax—officially called a provincial liquor mark-up fee—is shocking: more than 47%. Add federal custom duties and sales taxes, and the total surges to 54%.
It doesn’t take much for the tax grab to take effect. Every adult who has been in the U.S. for 48 hours can bring back 1.5 litres (two normal bottles) of wine duty free. Above that amount, the hammer comes down.
Take our recent experience at the Canadian customs crossing at Kingsgate, south of Cranbrook, B.C. We drove through with nine bottles of wine, purchased in the Walla Walla Valley wine area of south-central Washington.
Incidentally, wines from this region are excellent but not cheap. We paid an average of $30 US for reds, which at a current currency rate of $1.28 converts to $38.40 Canadian. So, as you can see, we got hit twice: at the wineries and, especially, at customs.
Anyway, four of those bottles (there were two of us) were duty free at customs. The other five bottles—which the customs’ agent kindly priced at an average cost of $21 (total $105 US/$135 Cndn)—were taxed. The federal duty and sales tax added up to about $9.
The B.C. mark-up fee was $63.75. That’s right, $63.75! This brought the total tax to $73 Cndn…. for five bottles of wine. You can buy five bottles of decent wine for that amount.
Consider the poor buggers who, blithely unaware, show up at the border with four cases of wine. The medical travel insurance might be needed for the ensuing heart attack.
We had been warned in advance of the B.C. tax grab and advised to return to our Calgary home via an Alberta border crossing. But that would have meant a three-hour detour.
Still, we might have thought twice had we known how vicious the tax bite would be. Especially when we found out the provincial tax for coming through Alberta would have been about $10, versus $64 for the pleasure of entering Premier Kristy Clark’s B.C.