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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.

Canadian Interpretive Rules – Customs Tariff – Harmonized Code


  1. All the above GRI’s apply to the Tariff Item Level.
  2. Where both a Canadian term and an international term are presented, the international term shall take precedence.
  3. For the purpose of GRI rule 5(b), packing material clearly suitable for repetitive use is to be classified separately. 
Classifying Parts and Accessories
The Harmonized system does not define “Part” or “Accessory”
However the tariff classification unit in Ottawa has developed a policy on classifying parts and accessories
It is outlined in Customs Memorandum D10-0-1 as follows:
…a Part is defined as “an identifiable component of an article, machine, apparatus, equipment, appliance or specific good which is integral to the design & essential to  the function of the product in which it is used.”
…an Accessory is an Article which performs a secondary or subordinate role, not essential to the function, which could improve the effectiveness of the host machine, equipment, apparatus or appliance.


         Articles (parts & accessories) specifically named in a heading or provided for in the tariff.  If provided for, the good should be classified in its respective tariff item.
         When the part is not specifically named or provided for in the tariff, and is for use solely or principally with an article, it is to be classified with that article.


Classification of Parts
Parts are classified into 4 distinct categories
A.         Articles (parts & accessories) specifically named in a heading.
                        Most are classified under GIR #1
40.11    New pneumatic tires, of rubber 
a)         of a heading text 
          40.11             tires
          84.13             pumps
          84.82             ball bearings
          85.32             capacitors
b)  of a legal note:
          Section XVI note 1(h): drill pipe (heading 73.04)
B.  Parts of general use as defined in Section XV, Note 2
                        *This is an application of GIR #1
73.18    Screws, bolts, nuts, etc.
Second Category


PARTS OF GENERAL USE”, as defined in Section XV, Note 2:
Throughout the Nomenclature, the expression “parts of general use” means:
a)      Articles of heading 73.07,73.12,73.15,73.17 or 73.18 and similar articles of other base metal;
b)      Springs and leaves for spring, of base metal 73.20, other than clock or watch springs (91.14); and
c)      Articles of headings 83.01,83.02,83.08,83.10 and frames and mirrors, of base metal, of heading 83.06.
         73.18   STEEL WASHERS
         73.12   STEEL CABLES
         83.08   BUCKLES OF BASE METALS
-Articles of other base metals go to other chapters of Section XV
    e.g. copper cables     74.13
           aluminum nails   76.16
Section XVI  Note 1: Similar articles of plastics go to Chapter 39
   e.g., plastic screws                39.26
C.        Parts suitable for use solely or principally with a particular kind of machine or with machines or the same heading
            *This is an application of GIR# 1
             Applies to parts outlined in:
            Section XVI, Note 2 (b)
            Section XVII, Note 3
            Chapter 90 Note 2 (b)
         A)        in the same heading:
                        84.06               steam turbines and other
                                                vapor turbines
                        8406.90-          parts
                                                (I.E. rotors, stators; rotor or stator blades)
         B)        in a specific heading:
                        84.09   parts suitable for use solely or principally with the engines of  heading 84.07 or 84.08 (I.E. pistons; piston rings; inlet or exhaust valves
D.        Multi-purpose interchangeable parts
            *This is an application of GIR#1
            Applies to parts outlined in:
                        Section XVI, Note 2 (c)
                        Section XVII, Note 3
                        Chapter 90 Note 2 (c)


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