Canada Increases Cross-Border Spending Limits

By Beacon Staff

Expect to see more filled luggage racks on Canadian vehicles this summer.

Thanks to changes made by the Canadian government recently, beginning June 1 visitors to the U.S. will be able to bring home more purchases without paying taxes at the border.

Canadians staying here for more than 24 hours will be able to return with $200 worth of tax-exempt goods, up from the previous limit of $50. For stays longer than 48 hours, the limit is now $800, twice as much as before. Visits under 24 hours remain unchanged at $50.

The increased limits for cross-border spending is welcome news in Montana, especially the Flathead Valley, where Canadian visitors have become a valuable economic resource.

“It’s a really positive development for Kalispell and Northwest Montana,” Joe Unterreiner, president of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, said. “It just makes our retailers more accessible to Canadian visitors.”

Tourism is one of the state’s leading industries, generating $2.4 billion in 2010, according to the Montana Department of Commerce. In 2009, more than half a million Canadians visited the state and spent roughly $150 million, according to Sen. Max Baucus’ office. The latest tax-exempt limit increases are expected to only boost those numbers.

“With the new $800 exception, I believe Canadians will buy more items and specifically larger ticket items,” Donna Townley, a University of Lethbridge economist, said in a statement.

“Businesses located in key cross-border markets like the Flathead Valley, Great Falls, Bellingham, and Spokane should quickly become involved in economic development initiatives like Canada Certified by NXGEN so they can take advantage of the ramped dollars and transactions flowing into their markets.”

NXGEN Payment Services, based in Whitefish, recently unveiled the Canada Certified program, which allows local businesses to process Canadian debit cards and provide credit card receipts in Canadian currency.

Deborah Coulson, the executive director of marketing and strategy for NXGEN, said businesses that are “Canada Certified” have a better chance of capitalizing on Canadian spending and becoming more business-friendly.

“We are committed to helping Chambers of Commerce and local merchants across the border reap all the incremental benefits of Canada Certified that will result from these rule changes,” Coulson said in an email. “There’s never been a more important time for merchants to become and display the Canada Certified logo in their business.”

Ken Sechser, the store manager at Lowe’s in Kalispell, described the latest changes to cross-border spending as “a big boost” to everyone.

“If you talk to all the businesses, you’d get the same response,” Sechser said. “They definitely help contribute to the economy of the Flathead.”

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