How to Import to Canada: A Guide to Clearing Customs

If you want to import goods to Canada, there are certain steps you will need to take to maintain compliance and keep the process efficient. The following is a brief guide to help you with imports for commercial goods of various types.

1. Prepare Imports

Before importing, you will need to take some steps to prepare, including:

• Get a Business Number (BN) – Prior to importing, you will need a Business Number from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to open an account.

• Determine which goods to import – You will also need to determine which goods to import, with in-depth descriptions, details about composition, and product samples if possible.

• Decide if you want to work with a customs broker – You have a choice of working with a customs broker or dealing directly with the Canada Border Services Agency, but a customs broker like the experts at Carson International can help ease the process and ensure you avoid costly penalties from Customs.

• Identify the country of origin for your goods

• Make sure the goods you’re importing aren’t prohibited in Canada

• Find out if any permits, regulations, or restrictions apply to your goods

2. Classify Goods

Once you’ve prepared for importing, you will need to determine the appropriate tariff classification number. Canada, along with other countries such as the U.S. and China, uses the Harmonized System (HS) to classify goods. In many cases, you will be able to use the first six digits to identify a specific good across all countries.

3. Figure Out Duties and Taxes 

After determining tariff classification, you will need to determine which tariff treatment and rate of duty apply to your goods. The CBSA’s Customs Tariff Schedule will help you determine which treatment matches your goods prior to determining the rate of duty.

Once you’ve figured out the tariff treatment, you will need to find out if goods are subject to the goods and services tax, excise duty, or excise tax. Some items such as medical products, prescription drugs, agricultural and fishing goods, and basic groceries are non-taxable.

You will then need to calculate the value for duty of the goods you wish to import. Typically, the value for duty will be the total amount that you pay a vendor for your goods, which you should be able to support with an invoice or receipt.

You will also need to determine in advance how much taxes and duty you will need to pay based on the value appearing on the invoice. Convert the value into Canadian currency using the current exchange rate. You can contact the Border Information Service for the proper exchange rate.

If this step seems overwhelming, you’re not alone. Navigating tariff classifications and treatments can be quite challenging if you’re not familiar with the industry. That’s why we recommend reaching out to professional customs brokers like us, so we can do all this heavy lifting for you. 

4. Ship and Report All Goods

The next step will be to place the order with your vendor and choose a shipping method, whether it’s rail, highway, air, marine, courier, or postal service. You will also need to determine the CBSA office where goods will be released.

You will then report your goods to the CBSA regardless of who’s transporting the goods.

What to Do Before and After Releasing Goods

You can get your goods released via either full accounting and payment of duties or the release of goods before paying for duties. You can prepare the release either on your own or work with a customs broker for assistance.

Once the goods are released, adjust for any errors in the information you provided and maintain all records for at least six years after importation. The CBSA may also verify imports and make any adjustments on their own.

Taking all of these steps and considering the aspects involved can help you keep the importation process smooth. If you’re in need of a knowledgeable customs broker to help guide you through the process, the experts at Carson International can provide reliable assistance from start to finish.