Navigating Customs Charges When Shipping from the USA to Canada

  • By Nicole Mirabal
    • Nov 01, 2023
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Duty drawback

Custom charges are a critical aspect of shipping goods from the USA to Canada, and understanding how to manage them effectively can save you time and money. In this article, we’ll delve into common questions surrounding custom charges and other taxes when shipping across the border. You’ll discover what taxes and other costs you might incur and how to minimize these charges with the duty drawback program.

Custom Charges: Understanding Canada’s Import Tax System

Canada does not levy a traditional import tax, but it imposes customs duties, taxes, and fees on imported goods. Understanding these charges is crucial to accurately estimate the cost of importing goods to Canada:

  • Customs Duties: In most cases, you’ll need to pay customs duties when importing goods to Canada from the USA. The Harmonized System (HS) code is used to determine the duty rate for various goods, but some exceptions apply.
  • GST: Most imported goods are subject to a 5% GST, with some provinces adding HST.
  • Provincial Sales Tax (PST): Some provinces may also impose a provincial sales tax, ranging from 0% to 10%.

Exploring the Cost of Exporting to Canada

Shipping goods across the border comes with costs that vary depending on multiple factors. To determine the full cost of exporting to Canada, consider the following components:

  • Customs Duties: Custom duties can differ based on the type and value of the goods you’re importing. Accurate classification is vital.
  • Taxes: In addition to customs duties, Canadian authorities impose Goods and Services Tax (GST) and, in certain provinces, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), based on the goods’ value.
  • Brokerage Fees: Many rely on customs brokers, incurring fees for their services. Costs can vary among providers.
  • Shipping Expenses: Shipping costs, encompassing transportation, insurance, and handling, fluctuate with shipment size, weight, method (air, sea, or land), and provider.
  • Compliance Costs: To meet Canadian standards, testing, certification, and labeling might be necessary, incurring extra expenses.
Custom charges

Can You Avoid Paying Custom Charges When Shipping from the USA to Canada?

Custom charges are an integral part of international trade, and many wonder if there are ways to reduce or eliminate them. While it’s challenging to completely avoid custom charges when shipping to Canada, there are strategies to minimize these expenses:

  • Duty Exemptions: Certain items may qualify for duty exemptions, particularly personal goods or gifts under a specific value. More on the duty drawback program below.
  • Leverage Free Trade Agreements: The USMCA and other free trade agreements may help reduce or eliminate duties on specific goods.
  • Accurate Tariff Classification: Ensuring precise tariff classification for your goods is crucial to avoid overpayment.

Minimize Exportation Expenses with the Duty Drawback Program

The Duty Drawback Program offers a way to recover customs duties paid on imported goods. This program can help reduce export costs and boost your international presence. You may be eligible for the program if:

  • Imported goods are exported as is later;
  • The goods are used to produce others for export;
  • Goods will be destroyed as they are obsolete or unused (or which were used in the manufacturing process).

Claims must be made within four years from the date duties were paid.

The Duty Drawback Program provides an opportunity for businesses to recoup some of the customs duties paid on imported goods, offering potential cost savings. If you want to know more about this program, schedule a free session with one of our experts:


Nicole Mirabal
Nicole Mirabal

Brand Content Specialist

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