This year, Canada's Supreme Court ruled as following:

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled unanimously that provinces and territories have the constitutional right to restrict the importation of goods across provincial and territorial borders — as long as the primary aim of the restriction is not to impede trade.

Thursday's ruling will dash the hopes of many Canadians who were hoping to have easier access to cheaper and sought-after products in neighbouring provinces, particularly alcohol and tobacco.

To me this seems to be a bizarre ruling, as it essentially means that Canadian provinces are integrated economically even less than the individual countries of the European Union, since no such restrictions are possible within the EU.

Are there any other countries in the world where a private citizen may not freely move goods between provinces?

  • 3
    since no such restrictions are possible within the EU. Actually, movement of goods subject to excise taxes (alcohol, tobacco, gas) is restricted within the EU, as those excise taxes go to each country(ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/business/…). Cross a border with more than the maximum personal allowance and you will be taxes and probably fined. europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/carry/alcohol-tobacco-cash/…
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 7:47
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    SFAIK the purpose is to let different provinces impose different provincial tax rates, "particularly on alcohol and tobacco". A private citizen can import a certain amount for their own use (see e.g. here or here). I don't know that it affects other goods or "economic integration". Provinces have their own sales taxes.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 8:24
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    What does 'restrict' actually mean here? I'm sure every country that lets provinces/states/etc. set their own taxes on certain goods will have at least one province that restricts trade through extra taxation of goods they don't want imported.
    – Giter
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 13:57
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    @JonathanReez - actually there is an allowance: to determine if the products you have bought are for your own use, EU customs authorities can look at several different elements such as, (..) the quantity of products you are travelling with.
    – Alexei
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 14:23
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    @Alexei yes but there is no hard limit. Plus you can ship alcohol directly to consumers in any other EU country if you pay their local sales tax. Canada doesn't even allow that, AFAIK. Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 15:56

4 Answers 4


Some of the United States (if you consider those "provinces") have restrictions on (and/or would require you to pay state taxes when) transporting alcohol across state lines.

A vehicles from out of state might be impossible to register in California.

And so on.

Note this, from Constitutional Restrictions on State Taxation -- The Prohibition on Discriminating Against Interstate Commerce

[N]o State, consistent with the Commerce Clause, may “impose a tax which discriminates against interstate commerce . . . by providing a direct commercial advantage to a local business.” This antidiscrimination principle “follows inexorably from the basic purpose of the Clause” to prohibit the multiplication of preferential trade areas destructive of the free commerce anticipated by the Constitution.

I think that's saying that:

  • A state is not allowed to say, "You can buy locally-produced beer for 10 cents, but you have to pay a buck of tax on imported beer".
  • They can say, "We want to tax beer, no matter whether it's local or imported."

The latter is similar to what happens in Canada -- i.e. they don't want you able to import goods from a neighbouring province where the tax rate is lower, in order to evade paying local taxes. Also in Canada people are allowed to import a certain amount for personal use (e.g. a few litres of spirits, fwiw). The law protects provincial tax revenues and the provinces' ability to set their own tax rates.

  • Is there a hard limit on how much alcohol you can bring for your own use across state lines in the US? Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 15:57
  • I think it varies from state to state.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 16:09
  • Yes, but is there at least one state that says "only 2 literally per person", like some of Canada's provinces do? Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 16:13
  • E.g. Pennsylvania appears to allow a gallon of liquor from abroad, but forbids any private import of beer from other states. That's state law (not federal law).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 16:16
  • @JonathanReez I was told (by an émigré to Canada) that when the Soviet Union collapsed they stopped collecting taxes. So state employees including the police were no longer paid, the state had no money. So policemen made their living by issuing on-the-spot fines -- which, you had to pay them in cash. IOW if you wish you didn't have to pay taxes, be careful what you're wishing for!
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 16:38

In Australia animals, plants, fire works, drugs, firearms etc. maybe lawful and licenced in one state or a portion of one state, but be unlawful to transport or be unlawful to transport without licensing in both states. The former two are due to agricultural quarantines, the latter due to different laws or licensing regimes.


India, Prior 2018, Flow of goods and services between states was not allowed. Every state had checkpoints and only those with permits were allowed into states. The destination state always levied a percentage of tax on the imported goods/services. Only those, who paid in advance and had the right permit were allowed into the states. Companies used to suffer a lot. However, things changed. This was changed in the last 2 years, with some GST implementation. Still, its work in progress.

I think, this is a common story amongst Asian Countries.

Reason being, States/provinces, where the tax revenue is less will be compensated by the duties levied on these imports. In addition, it would make economic sense and encourage the province citizens to produce these goods locally. More employment? I am not sure to what extent this worked. But in India, it didn't work.


There are a couple of examples in the US. California restricts plant imports (and horses, and perhaps other livestock), with inspection stations on every major highway leading into the state.

Then there's cigarette smuggling, which is apparently thriving on the East Coast. Low-tax cigarettes from southern states are transported to New York & other states with higher taxes: https://nypost.com/2017/11/11/nyc-is-the-cigarette-smuggling-capital-of-the-us-study/

  • Restrictions on imports of plants and animals are common enough around the world. E.g. you can't bring a pet into the UK from the EU without a pet passport. As for cigarettes - is there a hard personal limit on the number of cigarettes you can bring into NYC? Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 16:12

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