Importing Goods into Canada

Living next door to the world’s largest economy, one can’t be blamed for desiring to take advantage of some of the shopping opportunities enjoyed in the USA.

No matter that it’s still pretty easy to cross the border and that Canada and the USA share a lot of cultural similarities, one has to remember that the countries are separate, which means government regulations are in place for the importation of goods in to Canada.

Luckily it’s easier now than ever to find all the relevant information online. But before I list some links, here are some basic tips:

– Goods may incur duty in addition to GST and PST, if applicable (or HST for some).
– Duties are assessed based on classifications. These classifications can be found online at the Canadian government website (see link below).
– There are three options for importing: personally go to the US (or elsewhere) and drive/fly the goods back to Canada; have goods shipped by mail; have goods shipped by courier.
– If traveling outside Canada in person, one is allowed a personal exemption based on duration outside Canada. 24 hours = $50. But the exemption value cannot be deducted if the value of goods exceed $50. Up to 48 hours = $400 and will be deducted if the value of purchases is greater. Seven days and longer = $750 exemption. There are specific rules about alcohol and tobacco.
– Goods shipped by mail will incur duties, GST and PST (if applicable) based on value and classification plus a small handling fee (not currently sure how much).
– Goods shipped by courier provide shipment tracking/tracing and fall into two general categories: standard and express service. Standard (or ground) service takes many days and is inexpensive for domestic shipments, but for international shipments the receiver/importer will incur a fee called brokerage, in addition to duties, GST and PST (if applicable). Brokerage is the fee charged by the courier to clear a shipment through customs and will scale according to the shipment value. Express/expedited shipments are typically next day or two day service and include brokerage fees, but of course, duties, GST and PST may be assessed.

The general rule for courier shipments is that for a hassle free experience, it’s best to opt for express. But express does not necessarily mean all fees are included. For example, past higher value shipments I’ve received via FedEx incurred a $10 handling fee.

UPS has a number of additional fees:

BOND FEES: Importers are responsible for payment of duties and taxes. When funds are not provided in advance by the customer, and UPS remits the duties and taxes on the importer’s behalf, a fee of 2.7% (minimum $5.85) of the amount advanced by UPS will be charged in additional to Entry Preparation fees.

Duty and Tax Amendment $50.00
Low-Value Shipment Amendment $10.00
Invoice Integrity Fee*** $4.00
Each additional classification line after the first 5 lines $4.50
C.O.D fee for collecting brokerage charges $4.25
Outport entry Fee (for non-UPS-carried shipments only) $10.00 each
Import permits $23.00 each
Other Government Departments (O.G.D.) Processing Fee ** $16.00 each

Additional charges may apply for shipments requiring Governmental Department clearance.

There is no entry preparation fee for routine customs clearance of UPS Express and Expedited shipments including up to five classification lines. Charges may apply for more complex customs clearance procedures.
**This fee applies to all Agriculture Shipments including, but not limited to, those subject to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency import requirements.
***These fee may apply when the included documents are missing critical information and telephone call is required to obtain the correct information. Examples of missing information include poor descriptions, no country of origin, missing quantities, etc.

UPS brokerage fees for standard (ground) shipments into Canada:

$0.00 to $20.00 = Free
$20.01 to $40.00 = $7.00
$40.01 to $100.00 = $19.45
$100.01 to $200.00 = $29.00
$200.01 to $350.00 = $41.50
$350.01 to $500.00 = $46.60
$500.01 to $750.00 = $53.00
$750.01 to $1,000.00 = $59.30
$1,000.01 to $1,250.00 = $65.65
$1,250.01 to $1,600.00 = $69.80
$1,600.01 to $5,000.00 = $73.60
Each additional $1,000.00 = $5.70

The first five classification lines are included in this fee; line charges apply for the sixth line.

For commercial importation, i.e. importing goods for your business, it is highly recommended to register for an Import/Export permit number through the GST office. It will be the same as your GST number but with an RM rather than RT code. The benefit of doing so (at least if you live in Ontario) is that only GST will be levied on an import (in addition to applicable duties) rather than GST and PST. Come July though and the implementation of HST in Ontario, and this will be less of a concern.


Canada Border Services Agency’s “I Declare” document to answer questions for those returning to Canada. Skip down to the Personal Exemptions section for more details to the information noted above.

Canada Post customs clearance info.

FedEx Canada international shipment resources.

UPS Canada’s international tools.

Canada Border Services Agency – info for Canadians and residents (non-commercial)

Canada Border Services Agency – info for commercial sector

Customs Tariffs Photographic equipment is in Section XVIII chapter 90. Generally most photographic equipment, such as cameras, lenses and strobes will be duty free.

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