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Peter’s vacation was amazing. He and his family had managed to escape winters cold embrace. They left our snowy climate for a blissful 10 days in the Caribbean. Although they had made their plans at the last moment they still managed to find a cheap flight south. They did however have to drive to New York City to take their plane. The seven-hour drive in each direction was a small price to pay for 10 days under the hot sun.

While visiting the islands, Peter’s wife Mary fell in love with a beautiful pair of tortoiseshell sunglasses. Although she paid an exorbitant price she truly felt that she was getting a one-of-a-kind item made of genuine tortoiseshell. She wore them everywhere she went and couldn’t wait to show them to her friends back home.

Although not big shoppers, Peter and Mary and the kids managed to help local economy by making several purchases throughout their 10-day stay.

On the return flight they filled out the usual Customs declaration forms required before entering the United States. They truthfully answered that they had nothing to declare as they were leaving nothing in the USA and were technically just transiting through the state of New York on their way home. They had no problems getting into the U.S. Getting back into Canada was another matter entirely.

Even though it was cold when they reached the Canadian border Mary was wearing her sunglasses since it was a bright and sunny day. As they drove up to the border check-in station they were asked the usual questions including the length of their stay outside of Canada and if they had anything to declare.

Peter answered that they had bought some gifts and knicknacks on their island vacation but that they only totaled a few hundred dollars per person. Since their legal exemption was $750 per person they figured that they would have no problem with the border crossing. The only questionable item was Mary’s sunglasses since she had paid $2,000 for the spectacular shades.

They had debated whether or not to even mention the sunglasses when crossing the border but smartly decided that attempted smuggling would not be the brightest thing to do. It’s a good thing that they declared the sunglasses since making a false declaration can lead to the seizure of the item as well as the car that was used to transport the illegal item.

They had hoped to combine their exemptions to help reduce the duty that they would have to pay on the $1,250 excess over Mary’s personal exemption. Unfortunately the law does not allow a pooling of personal exemptions on one item. If the item can be separated into a number of individual items, like a set of golf clubs being divided into individual clubs, each person could use their exemption for a couple of the clubs and thereby get the whole set in duty-free. One item, like a pair of sunglasses could not be divided and duty would have to be paid.

Mary was horrified to find out that no amount of duty would allow her sunglasses into the country since they were made from an animal listed as an endangered species and could not be imported into Canada. They were seized at the border and would never be returned to Mary. If she had failed to declare the sunglasses she would have received a fine in addition to the seizure and be given a record that would make her future border crossings very difficult.

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