The basics of importing your products, with a focus on Canada

There several actors involved in importing goods into a country:

  • The Importer of Record (IoR).
  • The customs agency.  In Canada, it is called the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
  • The customs broker.  This can be the courier company that offer brokerage (DHL, FedEx, UPS), under certain circumstances, or an external customs broker.
  • The ultimate consignee.  This is the person, or entity to whom the product has been sold, or if not sold, the person or entity taking delivery.

In the Canadian, and Amazon context, here is what is needed, and where we can help:

  • The Importer of Record is you, or your company.  To import, you need a Business Number administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and tied with the Canadian GST, or Goods and Services Tax.  If you are going to import shipments of significant value, regulated goods, ship by sea, etc. you need your own BN.
  • A non-resident importer (NRI) is a company or individual who does not reside in Canada, but elects to act as the Importer of Record (IOR) for a shipment, or shipments, imported into Canada. A non-resident importer can register with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for a Canadian GST number which provides certain benefits and, in some cases, is mandatory depending on the type of business being conducted in Canada. For detailed information, please refer to the CRA’s guide.
  • The customs agency is, as previously stated, the CBSA.  In Canada, any shipment of a value superior to CDN$20 is subject to duties, and taxes.  Duties, and taxes, may, or may not be assessed, but assume that they will.  Shipment must be accompanied by a commercial invoice stating the true value of the shipment.  Undervaluing a shipment to lower the duties, and taxes constitutes fraud.
  • The customs broker can be the courier company, if the goods are shipped by courier, below around CDN$2500 in value.  If you import by sea, by train, by truck, you will need a customs broker.  If you use a customs broker, or a courier company acting as your broker above the CDN$2500 value, a Power of Attorney document will need to link you (IoR), and the customs broker.  We can recommend a custom broker but shipping must be, all the way to the ultimate consignee, not just the port of entry.

Did you know that, when you use a courier company as your customs broker, you are charged for the service?  The brokerage fee is just hidden in the shipping cost.  You are likely to pay less with a third party customs broker. Duties, and taxes, stay the same because they are levied by the government.

  • The ultimate consignee can be Amazon, but in that case the shipment must arrive at their door free of all duties, and taxes, or it will be refused.  A third party, like us, can receive the shipment, pay the duties, and taxes, and then forward the product to Amazon immediately, or perform inspection, and preparation services first.

Updated August 8, 2017