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A Basic Guide to Customs Brokerage Fees Charged by Couriers

I was given an idea to write a post about different shipping methods to Canada by dansmoncorps on Twitter. she has her own blog here with some nice photography. Anyway thanks for the idea.
I must confess that this is not my area of expertise but I thought it was definitely information that people out there want to know and is somewhat related to the Customs Process.

So here is how I see it.

Canada Post – by far the cheapest, with a $5 service charge for regular mail and $8 service charge for EMS. i.e. you order something off ebay and its sent by US postal service then it goes to one of the 3 international mail facilities where Customs will process your mail and if you owe duties and/or tax then you will receive notification from the post office to go collect your parcel. Contrary to what some may think this service charge does not go to Customs or the Government of Canada but to Canada Post. PST, GST, HST and Duty however is collected by Canada Post on behalf of the Federal and Provincial Governments.

Mail under $20 is released duty and tax free under a Postal Importations Remission Order. Over $20 you can be subject to duty and tax.

Over $1600 your mail can be deemed commercial and you may receive a letter in the mail directing you to clear your shipment at a prescribed Customs office offering commercial services. You will have to bring your receipts or invoices and 2 copies of the letter and 2 completed Form B3 to declare your goods commercially. After you present your paperwork to Customs and pay any duties and tax owing you can then fax a release stamped copy of the letter back to Customs at the mail centre and they will allow Canada Post to deliver your package.

The only negative I really see is the length of time it can take to send or recieve your shipment.

For Customs requirements on using Canada Post to send or receive goods in greater detail click here.

Canada Post also has the “Border Free” program that offers “hassle free online cross border shopping”. This actually seems to work quite well from what I have seen. The basic jist of it is that if you shop using participating online retailers like abercombie you get a price that includes all the different costs associated with no suprises and your package delivered to your door. For more info see here

UPS – UPS standard service is definitely faster than regular mail, but be prepared to pay brokerage fees for UPS performing the customs clearance which varies based on the value for duty. If you get UPS Worldwide Express, Saver or Expedited Services the brokering is included for the first 5 line of classification. Basically this mean that you can have to 5 different types of goods in the same shipment cleared free of any brokerage fee.

You can download the UPS Customs Rate guide here. Its actually quite informative and breaks down the charges.
Some have complained about feeling blindsided by UPS standard’s fees for clearing Customs. As many retailers in the US will use their services it is best to be aware of the charges. As I mentioned in a previous post, you always have the option to self clear! Check out my previous post on how to do this.

DHL – Is a another air courier option. If you have not paid Customs fees in advance, DHL charges %2.5 of the value with a starting minimum of $7. Go here to see more details.

Fedex – Now if you’re shipping from the US there is also Fedex Ground which is cheaper but of course takes longer. Fedex Ground will often deliver your package and send you a bill later for brokerage fees. Again if you have not designated them as your broker you have the option to self clear and they have to reverse the charges once you show proof that you have accounted for the goods with Customs.

With regular Federal Express just like UPS the first 5 different commodities are brokered free of charge. After that ancilliary charges apply. Here is the link for more detail on the anciliary fees. Fedex also has a nice page detailing different customs froms you may need. here. Very useful!

Purolator – Their fees for brokering are also invoiced after the fact by Purolator Trade Solutions for a minimum of $5 or %3 of the value for duty whether you owe duties and taxes or not.

Things to be aware of – The $60 gift exemption applies only to gifts being sent by Non-residents to residents and must clearly appear to be a gift. If the package is inspected by Customs and not determined to be in fact a gift (no indication other than the declaration) full duties and taxes will apply. If there is no indication of value, no invoice, or receipt, or bill, then the value may be assessed by the officer. Of course you can always dispute the charges afterwards.

Companies or vendors that regularly import to Canada do not usually declare falsely as this leads to longer delays in the customs process leading to disruntled customers…so don’t ask them to declare it as a Gift.
Undervaluing goods is another pitfall for rookie importers and just as risky as you take the chance of having your shipment seized by customs and retaing a record for the infraction.
I’m sure I’ve missed stuff, but I will keep adding to this post as things come to me…so check back for more info.
Any questions? you can post here or tweet it @customsinfo


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Importing goods to Canada – Personal Shipments

Great Post with tips by Doesitblog on non-commercial importations! here The post covers a lot so I wont go over it so make sure you read it.
Read the comments by LVSfree too…this guy does his homework and is bang on! You always have the option to self-clear goods…
With companies that ship by courier read the blog I linked to at the beginning.

When ordering large items…the cost of a courier may be too high and the Company or store you bought from may also use a customs broker and a freight forwarding company to bring the goods up to Canada. At the time of purchase is the time to request that you want to self clear the goods through customs if you so wish.

Some companies hire a customs broker who like to submit entries as PARS…that is as Prearrival Review System…which speeds up the customs process by allowing the broker to submit the entries for review before the goods arrive in Canada. In this scenario, the company you order from may recommend you not to self clear as the goods may be grouped together with a bunch of other goods heading to central hub to be broken down and then distributed. So to simplify and speed up the customs process they don’t want to have a truck full of precleared goods and one shipment that needs to be cleared. However, this is really your option. With a regular freight forwarding company you should always have the choice to have the goods move up in bond to a bonded warehouse closer to you. But be aware that you may incur warehouse storage and handling fees.

So if you are self-clearing, follow these steps:


1. Once the goods are in Canada and arrive at the warehouse, the shipper or warehouse should notify you and send you the paperwork to present to Customs.

2. You need 2 copies of the Cargo Control Document or manifest…it will say In-bond, arrival notice, or advice note at the top and have your name as the consignee, the exporter’s name, the cargo control number and the location of the goods, description of the shipment, weight, value and piece count. Bring 2 copies (1 that says Long room Copy and 1 that says Customs Delivery Authority Copy).

3. You will need at least 1 piece of government issued ID (be prepared to prove legal status in Canada),

4. You will need the invoice, receipt or proof of purchase like a print out of the paypal receipt. If you don’t have one you complete a Canada Customs Invoice instead. You may need to fill one out anyway if there is missing information required by Customs or if it is not in English or French.

5. The last document you should bring is optional…that is proof of origin of the goods. A certificate of origin, statement from the exporter, or a NAFTA certificate can get you reduced or no duty at all depending on what you are importing and where.

Leave me details  on what the goods are and how much you paid in a comment and I will be happy to let you know if this can help you or not.

6. Then go to the local customs office responsible for the warehouse your goods are being stored at (warehouse should have the address) and declare your importation.

7. Once you have paid any duties or taxes applicable you will receive a release stamped copy of the cargo control document and a form B15 casual goods accounting document. This is your proof that you presented your goods and paid.

8. Then take your released stamped copy of the Cargo Control document back to the warehouse and receive your goods…or if you have arranged for door to door delivery they will deliver once they have received the released stamp copy.

I hope this isn’t too confusing. Again, if you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them, just post and I will get back to you.

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