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Importing the Gifts from the 12 days of Christmas Song


The other day, PNC Bank issued their annual Christmas Price Index based on the song The12 days of Christmas. According to Wikipedia, “Two pricing charts are created, referred to as the Christmas Price Index and The True Cost of Christmas. The former is an index of the current costs of one set of each of the gifts given by the True Love to the singer of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The latter is the cumulative cost of all the gifts with the repetitions listed in the song. The people mentioned in the song are hired, not purchased.”

For 2011, the Christmas Price Index is up 4.4% from last year in contrast to the US Government’s Consumer Price Index which rose 3.9% over the same period.

The total accumulative price of all the items for 2011 over the 12 days was $101,119 USD.

After reading this I decided that I would put my customs spin on the 12 days of Christmas from an import perspective. For the purposes of this article, all items except the “French Hens” will be imported from the United Kingdom; as the songs was first published in England in 1870. For all the commodities the Most Favoured Nation Tariff Treatment will be applied for the calculation of customs duty. The exchange rate used will be today’s customs rate for Nov 29th 2011 of 1.0327 USD to 1 CAD. For the sake of simplicity and size of population provincial sales taxes will be based on Ontario; please adjust the calculation based on your province of residence. Also the gift exemption provided by tariff 9816 of $60 will be applied.

So for those of you who are don’t remember the lyrics to the song, (keep in mind the song is cumulative in that after every verse another verse is added up to the 12th verse)
Here are the lyrics:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

The second verse:

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

The third verse begins to show some metrical variance, as explained below:

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

…and so forth, until the last verse:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
12 Drummers Drumming
11 Pipers Piping
10 Lords-a-Leaping
9 Ladies Dancing
8 Maids-a-Milking
7 Swans-a-Swimming
6 Geese-a-Laying
5 Gold Rings
4 Calling Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

As to determining the value of each day’s gift, PNC gave this explanation, “This year, the National Aviary in Pittsburgh provided the cost of some of the birds in the song, including the partridge, doves, geese and swans. National pet chain PetSmart provided the price of the calling birds, or canaries. The pear tree price came from Waterloo Gardens, a Philadelphia nursery. Gordon’s Jewelers provided the cost of five 14-carat gold rings, and Philadanco, a modern dance company in Philadelphia, offered the price of ladies dancing. The Pennsylvania Ballet gave the price of the lords a-leaping. Prices for the musicians in the song “the drummers and pipers “were provided by a Pennsylvania musicians union. Lastly, maids a-milking are the only unskilled laborers in the Index, and as such, they reflect the minimum wage. Year after year, the sources for the prices remain the same for the most part to ensure consistency, but they have changed on occasion due to changes in the market or business landscape. “

So here we go,

Partridge in a Pear Tree – A partridge is a type of non- migratory bird in the pheasant family native to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.




In the Customs Tariff, Partridges fall under the Harmonized System code 0106.39.00.90 for Birds, Other, Other. Pear trees fall under HS code 0602.20.00.19 -Trees, shrubs and bushes, grafted or not, of kinds which bear edible fruit or nuts, Fruit or nut trees: Other. Both items are duty free. PNC pegged the value of the bird and a pear tree at $184.99 USD so that would be $191.04 CAD. After applying the $60 exemption under tariff 9816, the value for tax would be $131.04; so HST of $17.04 would be the cost of clearing customs.

 Two Turtle Doves – Streptopelia turtur also known as the European Turtle Dove would also fall under HS code 0106.39.00.90 for Birds, Other, Other with no duty associated.

PNC valued the doves, a member of the bird family Columbidae at $125 USD. That would amount to $129.08 CAD; After applying the gift exemption, value for tax is $69.08 CAD with HST of 13% being $8.98 for the pair upon importation.

Three French Hens – This francophone breed of the chicken is known as Faverolles and was originally bred in France as a utility fowl, used for both eggs and meat. Purportedly the bird was imported to the UK in 1886 for exhibition. This fowl would fall under HS code 0105.11.90.00 for Live poultry, that is to say, fowls of the species Gallus domesticus, ducks, geese, turkeys and guinea fowls;Weighing not more than 185 g, Fowls of the species Gallus domesticus, Other. Once again no duty is applicable. PNC valued 3 of these birds at $150 USD or $154.90 CAD. After the gift exemption of $60 the value for tax is $94.90 and at the border, HST of $12.34 would be due.




Four Calling Birds – For PNC, they took these as Canaries. As per the Customs Tariff, canaries would be under classification 0106.39.00.10 as Birds, Other, Pet or song birds with no duty associated. PNC has the value for this quartet at a hefty $519.96 USD or $536.96 CAD. After the gift exemption, value for tax is $476.96 with HST being $62.00. Canaries were originally wild and native to the Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands then exported to Spain. 





Five Gold Rings – PNC used 14k gold rings as the basis for their calculation and they would incur 6.5% duty if imported from the U.K. They would be classified in the Customs Tariff under HS code 7113.19.90 00 for Articles of jewellery and parts thereof, of precious metal or of metal clad with precious metal, Of precious metal whether or not plated or clad with precious metal: Metal – Other. PNC assessed the value at $645 USD or $666.09 CAD. Duty would therefore be $43.29 giving a value for tax of $709.38. 13% HST would then be $92.22. Total owing at time of import would be $135.51 in duty and taxes. 

Six Geese-a-Laying – These birds were valued at $162 USD or $167.29 CAD by PNC which seems like a quite the deal in comparison to the canaries. These geese belong under HS code 0105.14.10 00 for live poultry, that is to say, fowls of the species Gallus domesticus, ducks, geese, turkeys and guinea fowls; Geese, for breeding purposes; no duty. After applying the exemption for gifts the taxable amount would be $107.29 and HST owing would be $13.95.

Seven Swans-a-Swimming – Swans fall under the same HS code as partridges and doves under 0106.39.00.90 with no duty. PNC assessed the value at a whopping $6300 USD! This would amount to $6506.01 CAD. Even after applying the gift exemption the value for tax is still at $6446.01. HST would be $837.98. 

*Please note all the above live animal gifts must be accompanied by the following documents\registrations – Phytosanitary Certificate, Plant Protection Import Permit and fulfill any other requirements from CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) or CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

Eight Maids-a-Milking – According to PNC, these maids are considered unskilled labour and reflect the minimum wage by being assessed at only $58 USD or $59.90 CAD. Citizen of the U.K. do not require a visa to visit Canada so the only cost to import farm help of this sort is a work permit which is $150 per person to a maximum of $450 for the whole group. But keep in mind a work permit is not just a formality. The employer may need to get a labour market opinion from Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC). A labour market opinion confirms that the employer can fill the job with a foreign worker. Also the application for a work permit would have to be made outside of Canada.

The same goes for the rest of the foreign workers, except 9 Ladies dancing, 10 Lord’s-a-leaping, 11 Pipers Piping and 12 Drummers Drumming are all performers and maybe exempt from requiring a work permit if they fall under the conditions described by Citizen and Immigration Canada as follows:
•They are only performing here for a limited period of time.
•They will not be performing in a bar or restaurant. If they will be performing in a bar or restaurant, performers and their staff each need a work permit.
•They are not entering into an employment relationship with the Canadian group that has contracted for their services.
•They are not performing for the production of a movie, television or radio broadcast.

So for gifts 9, 10, 11 and 12, there is no cost from a Customs import perspective.

So for the entire 12 days of Christmas the cost of importing these gifts would be $9,444.27 CAD….in case you were wondering… lol.

Info for Returning Former Residents of Canada

Are you a returning former resident of Canada? If so, this post is to help with the customs process in bringing your stuff back to Canada.

Tariff 9804 provides an exemption for returning former residents of Canada to import goods duty and tax free up to a value of $10,000 CAD per item so long as they fall under certain criteria:

1. They are former residents that were absent at least 1 year or were resident of another country for at least 1 year.
2. They have owned, possessed and used the goods for at least 6 months. (the only exception for this rule is for former residents who have been away at least 5 years, goods should still be used though)

For any new goods your are entitled to the same exemptions as if you had been out of Canada for at least 7 days. $750 CAD worth of goods duty and tax free, with limitations on Alcohol and tobacco that I wont repeat as many people cover this topic…but for those of you that don’t know here is a link to CBSA’s website post on the subject.

*Please note to qualify for this exemption you do have to prove your former resident status in Canada with Canadian Passport or Permanent Resident Card or landing papers and you have to prove that you were out of the Country for over a year or were a resident of another country.

Some examples of acceptable proof is for residency abroad are a letter from your employer, employment contract, utility bills showing dates, lease/rental agreement, bank statements for the period etc.

Your passport or residence visa or driving licence in another country is not prima facia evidence of residency abroad as passports are not always stamped and some people have more than one,  and visas and driver’s licences can be issued and the person leave that country.

High value goods – Goods over $10,000 CAD will be charged duties applicable and taxes over the $10,000 threshold. I.e. if you bring back a $15,000 CAD vehicle from the US, you will have to pay on $5000 CAD. Jewellery and other high value items should be carefully documented with details, accompanying invoices/receipts if available, gemologist appraisal/certification, serial numbers and photos if possible. Declaring “1 gold watch” is not acceptable, rather 1 rolex submariner watch, 14k gold, serial #6875213, mens value $15000 CAD” is fine.

The first step a returning resident should complete Form B4 linked here in pdf format, if you run out of lines listing your goods you can continue on Form B4a linked here. If not completed in advance, this should then be completed at the time of declaration or arrival back in Canada. The important thing is that a list of goods returning be submitted to customs upon return to be validated (stamped). This indicates that you have delcared these goods. Once you have these lists stamped you can make the actual declaration later on if you wish when the goods actually arrive. Once your declaration has been fully processed, Customs will document this on Form B15 and give you a copy.
Very Important! Do not lose any documents or copies of paperwork Customs gives you! This is your proof that you declared and are entitled to the exemption. People that are not prepared to make this declaration upon arrival back in Canada should report to the nearest Customs office inland that offers commercial services to make their declaration.

Once your goods arrive, by air cargo, courier, sea container, the shipper/warehouse or courier will notify you that your goods have arrived and that you need to clear customs and send you all the documents. The documents need to include 2 copies of the Cargo Control Document. This is the document that Customs stamps to release your goods. Bring these with your B4 and B4a and B15 (if you have one already) and ID and your proof of being away for at least 1 year to the customs office. If all is well your papers will be stamped and you are free to pick up your stuff. Please note that your shipment can be selected for an examination at anytime and there is no time limit as to how long it can take. I would advise that your declaration be truthful and accurate at all times to avoid penalties both civil or criminal.

Customs Brokers cannot do this for you as they are not allowed to clear personal effects. Some freight forwarding services will help you through the process and even accompany you to the Customs office – this service is usually included with the more reputable companies.

If you’re bringing back any animals, plants or food items there may be additional requirements and you will need to check with CFIA Canadian Food Inspection Agency. i.e some dairy products are not admissible. Here is a link to CFIA’s import polices and here is one for food.

Pet dogs and Cats other than the US will have to be inspected by a CFIA vet to certify health and there is a service charge associated. Make sure you have a record of your pets vaccinations. Here is a link to CFIA’s website for importing pets.

FYI. There are other items that are inadmissble such at used mattresses due to health concerns.

If you have any further questions please feel free to post.

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