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Oh Canada! Start Importing into Canada

Bridge over Water resembling Importing into Canada

Do you want to start importing goods into Canada? Due to free trade agreements and increased internet sales, more manufacturers around the world want to increase their business into the Canadian marketplace. As is the nature of customs anywhere in the world, Canadian regulations change every day. One thing can always help you through the process. And that is your customs broker. Your customs broker is your intermediary. They know the ropes of importing and can guide you through the entire process—from initial steps to final delivery. Just remember the old saying, “You date your freight forwarder, but you marry your customs broker.”

Getting Started

Whether you’ve chosen a customs broker already or not, that is your first step. Your customs broker will be a Canadian resident who will learn your import behaviors quickly and intimately. Once you’ve chosen a customs broker, they’ll require paperwork to start the importing process, including a power of attorney (POA) to act on your behalf. All businesses that import into Canada must also register with Canada Border Services for an importer account number. This number is referenced on all customs documents and is necessary in the event you must be contacted regarding a shipment. Once you have all documents situated with your customs broker, this account number is typically assigned within 24 hours.

Before You Ship

You’ll need to have a discussion with your customs broker about what you intend to import. Some products have different requirements—especially if you are a non-resident importer. Things like medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural goods (e.g., milk and poultry) are highly regulated and may require additional legislative documents or be prohibited entirely for non-residents. Another factor is taxation. Almost 95% of goods are subject to the goods and service tax when imported into Canada. Resident importers receive this money back but because non-resident importers are not registered in the Canadian tax system, they are ineligible for reimbursement and must add the tax as an additional cost.

Documentation is Essential

Completing your Canada Customs Invoice correctly the first time will not only save your customs broker extra work but will also help you avoid fines. The description of your goods must be accurate. Your customs broker doesn’t have a chance to see your products and must base everything on the documentation you provide. When there are mistakes in your documentation, as in other customs jurisdictions, customs can impose penalties for incorrectly declaring your shipments. If you catch an error after a shipment has cleared, a voluntary correction will need to be filed.

Importing in Canada is similar to many other countries around the world, but also has some unique nuances. Navigating Canadian customs doesn’t have to be difficult if you have a customs broker who has the experience to guide you through the customs bureaucracy and help you pay the appropriate taxes and duties, conform to regulations, and stay compliant with changes. For those of you already shipping into Canada, what are your biggest challenges? For those of you considering it, what’s holding you back? Leave a comment below explaining your situation.