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Molly Sep 3rd, 2002 08:59 AM

Tax Refund for Visitors
This is FYI - I came home from Canada yesterday through Dorval. I was told that I needed to get my receipts stamped at Customs in Canada. After we checked in, we had to wait to pay the $10 fee/tax to leave Canada. At this point I asked where I get the receipts stamped. I was told that I should have gotten them stamped downstairs at Canadian Customs. We were not able to go back at this point. It was too late! I thought this was ridiculous - why would they have it in a place where we would not need to go? Why wouldn't they have it near the Duty Free shop or something? So now I cannot get the tax back on anything that I purchased (worth $548.31 CAN, $80.96 in tax alone). I don't know how much I would have gotten back, but I'm sure it would have been a decent amount. <BR><BR>Also, we then we had to take our bags all the way through Customs ourselves. I thought this was absolutely crazy. We had all our baggage going through the Duty Free shop making it impossible to shop. We had a big trolly with our bags on it and our son in a stroller. Crazy! I won't look forward to our trip home from Dorval again. It took forever!

Brian in Atlanta Sep 3rd, 2002 09:12 AM

I think you can still get your tax back on your hotel bill. It doesn't need to be stamped.

traveller Sep 3rd, 2002 09:13 AM

With all the friendly information that has been given on this site about this particular topic, including websites over and over to the Government of Canada page for travellers, and the fact that you state you were told that you needed to get them stamped at Canadian customs, I fail to see why you are angry. <BR><BR>I also suspect that since 9/11 you have to be responsible for your bags(and even before as I have often had to carry my bags through customs, never thought about complaining about it though), it is just a matter of security. Would it not have been possible for you or your partner to watch the bags and toddler while the other shopped at duty free?<BR><BR>Really, some people are never happy.

gary Sep 3rd, 2002 09:42 AM

The whole idea of the US customs pre-clearance is to make it easier for people traveling to the US from Canada. And in fact it does save a lot of time and hassle - especially on arriving at your US destination.<BR><BR><BR>The downside of course is that once you are checked in and leave the check in counter you have effectively left Canada. Of course you have to purchase your duty free before you go through US Customs and immigration because your duty free purchases have to be declared to them. <BR><BR>I can't believe that anyone would prefer it the other way - i.e. after a long tiring flight having to stand in a long Immigration line before you can collect your bags and then go through customs before you can go home. I really wish the same thing was available on travelling from the US to Canada.

Molly Sep 3rd, 2002 10:39 AM

Dear Traveller - Customs in Canada sounded to me like going through Customs in Canada. No one ever said make sure you do this before you pay your departure tax. So why would I think that it was not the Customs that I would be going through? I believed that I would be going through Customs and that was when I'd be able to get my receipts stamped. <BR><BR>I don't believe I ever said I was angry. I typed this information so that other people may know and not do what I did. <BR><BR>

Molly Sep 3rd, 2002 10:46 AM

Gary - The pre-clearance does not save time and hassle on the Canada side though. When I arrive at an airport and check-in, I expect them to take my bags then and there. I do not expect to stand in line with my bags for another hour. <BR><BR>Also I knew I had to purchase my duty free before I go through US Customs and immigration. My point was, I shouldn't have to go through Duty Free with all my luggage. <BR><BR>I personally prefer to go through US Customs and Immigration in the U.S. It was not a long tiring flight - it was 1 hour. It was a long tiring drive to the airport and I wanted to get rid of my bags when I checked in.

Donna Sep 3rd, 2002 10:49 AM

At every international airport I've used, the Customs tax refund processing window/office has always been just inside the entrance and before the airline check-in counters. And, you must allow plenty of time, as well as bring your purchases with you, as they may wish to inspect them. You would not have gotten the entire amount refunded, rather, approximately half of it. The Province of Quebec no longer refunds the provincial tax.

Flynn Sep 3rd, 2002 11:40 AM

Gary, I prefer arriving in New York and going through customs there. In Toronto I have to wait on a very long line with other people who are also leaving Canada for other parts of the US. It's more of a 'cattle line.' Maybe I've been lucky when arriving at NY customs, but US citizens usually wait are on a shorter line.<BR><BR>In Toronto, I don't even know where the customs window is to get my receipts stamped. I've sent in Canadian VAT purchases before and found it harder to get the taxes back than in Europe where some stores handle everything and your credit card receives a direct adjustment in a few weeks. Maybe I'm doing something wrong in Canada but it's not so straightforward when you arrive at the airport.<BR><BR>Also, when arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto, in order to get rid of your luggage you have to go through customs first. The first time this happened my girlfriend left the airport earlier - we had been expecting to check luggage and then have a drink before I went through customs. My point is pre-clearance isn't all it's stacked up to be.<BR><BR>In closing, I don't believe some posters should have bitten Molly's head off - she was just sharing information.

Traveller Sep 3rd, 2002 11:44 AM

Maybe I'm not understanding the problem here, but you say you want your bags taken from you immediately? That is not possbile if you are going on an international flight from Canada to the US. You must clear US Immigration/Customs. They insist (US) that your bags be with you at the time. This is the American setup requirements. Not happy, complain to the people in YOUR government. <BR>Airlines are not allowed to check your bags BEFORE the US has decided you can or cannot enter their country. Otherwise you would have a lot of "unclaimed" bags travelling on flights to the US, without anyone accompanying them. Would you prefer that? <BR>By your last post, I would surmise that you really dont understand what US Customs and Immigration does at all. You want your bags taken immediately, Duty Free without having your bags with you, yet clear Customs/Immigration after Duty Free??? If they want to search you they need your bags! If they deny you entry, they need your bags! How else do you want this done?<BR>I really dont think you get it.

traveller Sep 3rd, 2002 12:02 PM

OK Molly, you did sound a bit angry but I concede, you were just trying to inform and I didn't mean to diminish that.<BR><BR>So for those of you who may be travelling who need those receipts stamped, be sure to do so BEFORE you clear customs (USA or other countries). However, if you leave enough time, once you have cleared customs/airport security, you can then go back through the other way for other things/reasons - you just have to clear again. It really isn't that big a deal - I have done it a couple of times for various reasons. <BR><BR>And Molly, it is important to note that most of what you experienced were because of the new security issues at all airports, post 9/11 but mostly from the USA side. These are good things even though they are kind of a pain and inconvenience us all.

Molly Sep 3rd, 2002 12:14 PM

Traveller - You are quite angry and I just don't know why.<BR><BR>When I come from Ireland to the U.S., which I do very often, I check-in - they take my baggage. I then go through security to get to the Duty Free area where I shop leisurely and baggage free. They even box everything I buy in Duty Free and put it on the airplane for me. I then go through U.S. Customs and Immigration to the Gate to board the airplane.<BR><BR>So I do not believe it is the U.S. Government. I believe it's Canada.

Flynn Sep 3rd, 2002 12:15 PM

Traveler, you are most condescending. Of course I realize what customs do - I just don't like the pre-clearance procedure at Pearson Airport. For a one-hour+ flight to New York, it takes over an hour to go through the customs line in Toronto -- Plus they allow late arriving passengers to go to the head of the line (this was covered in another post.)<BR><BR>This post is basically about tax refunds for visitors but going through customs in Toronto is time consuming and mismanaged.

Traveller Sep 3rd, 2002 12:47 PM

Okay, the wait time was not what I was addressing initially but consider this then: you think the way that TO or MTL airports manage the US Customs/Immigration is a Canadian issue? Do you think that the people working at US Immigration are Canadian employees? Do you think they are hired by the Airport Authorities in Canada? Possible that the US government hires/employs these people and they are understaffed in the Canadian airports? They have more employess in the US. Stands to reason. <BR>Also have you ever stood on a line in the US for 1-1 1/2 hours waiting to clear customs? I have, plenty of times, and this is pre 9-11 as well.<BR><BR>Initially I was addressing the issue of having ones bags with them when they clear US Customs/Immigration. And that for sure is a US rule, when departing Canada, if no clearance is provided at the arrival end in the US, one MUST have their bags with them at the time they clear. That was my comment regarding speak to your own government. It makes sense to me. This is very simple really. I guess I still dont understand the confusion. <BR>Personally, I have never flown from Ireland into the US so I cant comment on the setup. Perhaps it is quite similar to the system that Canadian customs use here upon returning to Canada. If you dont have your bags in tow, then they will give you a little card with a stamp on it, which you hand over, after you retrieve your bags, and you are either free to leave or you are pulled over for a thorough search. This is the way it is done coming back into Canada, at many airports. Sounds civilized as well. But then again, thats Canadian customs we are talking about now, entering Canada.

gary Sep 3rd, 2002 01:07 PM

I still say that given I'm required to arrive a good hour to an hour and a half before my flight leaves I have no objection to spending half that time going through US Customs and Immigration since I'ld be spending most of that time sitting around in the departure lounge anyways. I like that once I arrive at my destination I simply collect my bags and go. When I come back into Canada it is only the very rare time where C & I have taken less than half an hour and if I hit when a few 747's are unloading it could be twice that or more.<BR><BR>Finally it's the airlines that pick up the tab for the pre clearance and it has nothing to do with either the airports or the Canadian government. Obviously some people don't regard it as a convenience and that's fair but apparantly most people do or the airlines wouldn't be shelling out for it.

Jim Rosenberg Sep 3rd, 2002 02:31 PM

I find the ability to clear U.S. Customs & Immigration in Canada to be a nice service. As for the original post, the point is well taken. <BR><BR>Last year, the Canadian government implemented the requirement to have retail receipts validated before leaving Canada. They haven't gone overboard to make the process clear or unduly easy for visitors -- either at the airports or anywhere else. It doubtlessly cut down on the fraud potential, but there can be little doubt that it is also resulting in many visitors legitimately claiming the refund. <BR><BR>The result? Rather than eliminating it entirely, the rebate program can still be said to exist. Still, it has to be a whole lot cheaper to administer with the relatively low percentage of potential refund money actually being claimed and I've seen figures of 10 percent or less in terms of the number of qualifying visitors who claim it. From the government side of the equation, that's what you call a win-win deal.

Jim Rosenberg Sep 3rd, 2002 02:33 PM

My kingdom for an edit function...<BR><BR>"It doubtlessly cut down on the fraud potential, but there can be little doubt that it is also resulting in many LESS visitors legitimately claiming the refund." <BR>

Lauren Sep 3rd, 2002 06:30 PM

I don't think US citizens have a thing to complain about here. After all Canadians visiting the US get nothing back at all.<BR><BR>You do need to follow the rules.

s Sep 3rd, 2002 06:53 PM

Are Canadian visitors given a Value Added Tax in the US? I don't think so.

Lauren Sep 3rd, 2002 07:10 PM

In the US we have only sales tax. I know Canadian provinces have that too--and US citizens do not get it refunded.<BR><BR>Having said that, you follow the rules, you get your value added tax refunded. By the way, on my recent trip, I got all of a little over $10. B&B's earning under $30,000 Canadian are not obliged to charge the tax (or pay it to the Canadian government); presumably that is to give new B&B's a jump start. Since the B&B I stayed at was a relatively new enterprise, they have not reached that level yet. So, the only GST I had refunded was on two purchases in stores where the total amount was over $50. Just my luck most of my purchases were wine and local jams and jellies.<BR><BR>You get the tax refunded only on certain items and you do need to follow the rules. Food, wine, entertainment and attractions do not qualify for refunds. If you stop at Customs/Duty Free as you leave Canada, they will refund your money in either Canadian or US funds.<BR><BR>Again, US citizens have NOTHING to kvetch about due to the tax policies north of the border. Know before you go.<BR><BR>By the way, I will be going back to that B&B whatever the GST situation if I go back to NOTL again.

Flynn Sep 4th, 2002 06:20 AM

The people who post here from the US or Canada don't make the tax rules; we just follow them and pay and pay and pay...<BR>I believe what Molly was trying to share was her experience in trying to 'follow' the rules which turned out to be mismanaged at Customs in Canada.<BR><BR>True, we don't have a VAT in the US but then again many States don't charge sales tax on clothes. Electronics and cameras are less expensive here. I was really annoyed to be charged tax on a magazine in Canada. Things do balance out in the end. If Canada offers the VAT refund, I believe there should be a consistency in how it's adminstered at the various airports.<BR><BR>Additionally, too many 'brokers' leave official-looking government brochures all over Canada and unsuspecting tourists use that particular form and get way less refund. It just doesn't seem worth the hassle sometimes.<BR><BR>

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