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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.

Canada Customs Tips for the Holiday Season

Christmas is around the corner, and many of you will be sending and receiving gifts to and from abroad. Some of you will also be travelling to visit friends and family in other countries. So here are some tips for the holiday season.

1. If your Aunt Hilda wants to send you a gift basket in the mail or via courier from Europe, let her know not to send bottles of alcohol (wine etc), meat products (i.e. sausages) and dairy (i.e. cheese). These items are not allowed and often spoil en route. Also any flammable items such as perfume are also considered non-mailable.

2. If Uncle Hubert wants to send you gift, tell him to declare it as a gift and have him remove tags and wrap it. If your shipment is examined and there is no indication that it is a gift, i.e. no card, no wrapping then the exemption provided by tariff 9816 may not be applied.

3. If Cousin Habib is sending you a care package for Eid, make sure you know what the contents are exactly and how much everything is worth in Canadian dollars. You will have to make a full declaration to Customs as to the contents and the value in order to obtain release of the shipment. Also if you are claiming it is a gift you will need to provide some kind of evidence to have tariff 9816 applied to any of the items. i.e. a letter from your Cousin to that effect.

4. If you travel abroad to visit family or friends for the holiday season and take your brand spanking new Canon digital camera with you, be prepared to show proof of Canadian origin upon your return. This can be done by showing the receipt showing purchased in Canada or by documenting the Camera on Form Y38. Form Y38 can be completed at any inland Customs office or at the airport Customs info counter before you check in. On this form they will document your camera, note the serial number or affix a sticker with a unique number on it. When you return to Canada, and you pass through customs and there is any question just produce the Form Y38 and Bob’s your uncle. 

5. If you despise your extended relatives and decide to go away for the Christmas break somewhere warm and exotic like Thailand and you end up coming across a giant carving of a Buddha you really really like, you can have it shipped home. Then upon your return just let the customs officer now that you have goods you purchased abroad that are not accompanying you and are being shipped. The officer can then issue you a form E24 to apply your personal exemption under tariff 9804 and remove whatever amount is remaining when the buddha arrives. i.e. After being in Thailand for a 10 days you return to Canada and you only bring a bottle of scotch with you in your luggage that you bought from the duty free for $50 CAD. So the remaining $700 on your exemption will noted on form E24 and can be taken off whatever you paid for the statue before duty and taxes are assessed.

6. For all you residents of Canada who will be travelling for the holidays be sure to read my post on Canada Customs Limits, especially the part titled 9 Tips with regards to Canada Customs Limits or Allowances with regards to your Personal Exemption. There is also a post on the $60 gift exemption you might find useful.

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