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Canada import guide

In order to reduce shipping costs, Shipwire has established two facilities in Canada: one in Toronto and one in Vancouver. Use this reference guide to learn about doing business in Canada and refer to the information on the Canadian Border Services Agency for further knowledge.

Canadian customs brokers
Since goods arriving at a Shipwire warehouse must be DDP (Delivered Duty Paid, or free of all import taxes or customs clearance charges), Shipwire recommends working with a customs broker to import your products into Canada. While there is typically no legal requirement to hire a customs broker, it is often the most efficient way to clear customs. A licensed customs broker will fill out paper work and obtain the required documentation to complete the Canada import.

You can find a list of licensed Canadian customs brokers on this page.

On this page


Register your business in Canada

In order to import and ship merchandise into Canada, customs requires the owner of record to have a Canadian Business Number. If you are a merchant using Shipwire to ship merchandise for you, you are the owner of record for anything we receive on your behalf. Merchandise we receive must be free and clear of customs duties in order for us to sign for it.

If you do not yet have a Business Number (BN), you can register for one by completing Form RC1. Requests for a BN can be mailed or faxed to the Canada Revenue Agency. For questions, call 1-800-959-5525.

Ways to obtain a BN from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for an import-export account:

  • Call 1-800-959-5525
  • In certain limited instances, you can complete a business registration online. This is typically not possible if you are a foreign business trying to enter into Canada. However, if you meet the criteria, the process is fast.
  • Read more about registration methods here.


Confirm your goods can be imported

Prior to importing your products, identify any regulations on the goods you plan to import. You must have an accurate description of the goods you plan to import before proceeding. Determine which country the goods are coming from and in which country they are manufactured and make sure the goods are not prohibited from coming into Canada by checking Memoranda series D9. The Canada Border Agency has provided this list of restricted items. You should also confirm that your products are not excluded by the Shipwire Acceptable Use Policy.

Duties, tariffs, and taxes

After learning about goods available for Canada import, research tariff classification, applicable tariff treatment, rates of duty, and tax payable when importing goods. First, you must determine the 10-digit tariff classification number for each item you are importing. These numbers are used to determine the rate of duty payable when importing and to provide statistical data to the Candian government. Tariff classification numbers can be determined in one of the following ways:

  • Consult the most recent Customs Tariff (this follows the outline of the WTO, which 160 countries follow). For more information on the methodology for classifying goods in the Customs Tariff, see Memorandum D10-13-1, Classification of Goods or refer to the Harmonized System (HS) Compliance fact sheet. Once you have a tariff classification number, you must determine the rate of duty, which is also found in the Customs Tariff.
  • Contact the Border Information Service at 1-800-461-9999
  • Visit a CBSA Office
  • Request an advance ruling for tariff classification from your regional CBSA office

Most Favored Nation (MFN) Tarrifs

  • Goods originating from all countries (except North Korea and Libya) are entitled to use the rate of duty specified under this column.
  • Column on Applicable Preferential Tariffs lists reduced rates based on trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), United States Tariff (UST), Mexico Tariff (MT), Mexico-United States Tariff (MUST), Chile Tariff (CT), Canada-Israel Agreement Tariff (CIAT), Canada-Costa Rica Tariff (CRT), and those based on special tariff provisions.
  • The requirements of a particular trade agreement or tariff treatment must be satisfied in order to receive the benefit of a preferential duty rate. This means you need to have the appropriate origin form to match the special preferential tariff for which you are applying. A complete list of countries eligible for the above tariff treatments can be found in the Customs Tariff guide. Regulations on origin are in Memorandum series D11 (D11-4 and D11-5).
  • Check to see if your goods are subject to excise tax (air-conditioners, vehicles, etc.) or excise duties (tobacco, alcohol, etc.). For more information, contact the CRA. Complete references on excise tax and excise duty rates are available from Justice Canada in the Excise Tax Act and the Excise Act, 2001.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

  • GST (5%) is payable on most goods at the time of importation under Part IX, Division III of the Excise Tax Act. Some imports, such as prescription drugs, medical and assistive devices, basic groceries, and agriculture and fishing goods are non-taxable. They are listed under Schedule VI and Schedule VII of the Excise Tax Act. The tax exemption codes to use on Form B3, Canada Customs Coding Form (PDF, 151 KB) are listed in Memorandum D17-1-10, Coding of Customs Accounting Documents, Appendix H, List 4 (GST Status Codes), and List 7 (Excise Tax Exemption Codes).
  • For information on GST/HST, visit the Canada Revenue Agency or contact the CRA GST/HST Rulings Centre nearest you. Calculate duties and taxes: Take the value in the currency indicated on the invoice.
  • Convert the value into Canadian dollars using the exchange rate from the date of direct shipment. To obtain the proper exchange rate, call BIS at 1-800-461-9999.
  • The following is a sample calculation from the Canada Border Service Agency of goods valued at USD 100 and subject to 4% duty and 5% GST:

    US 100 x 1.155 = CAN 115.50 (CAN 115.50 is the value for duty)

    CAN 115.50 (value for duty) x 4% (rate of duty) = 4.62 (customs duty)

    CAN 115.50 (value for duty) + 4.62 (customs duty) = 120.12 (value for tax)

    $120.12 x 5% (GST) = 6.01 (GST)

    Total of duty and tax payable: 4.62 + 6.01 = 10.63

Paying Taxes in Canada
Every business must be individually reviewed to determine tax liability based on what it is selling in Canada and the business nexus with Canada.

Canada has tax conventions and agreements (tax treaties) with many countries. Tax treaties are designed to avoid double taxation for people who would otherwise pay tax on the same income in two countries. Check with Canada’s Department of Finance to see if your home country has a tax treaty with Canada. If so, you can often file a simple form with the CRA so as not to be subject to double taxation. For help, refer to the Canada International Tax Services Office.

Understanding shipping in Canada

For those comfortable with do-it-yourself methods, the Canada Border Services Agency provides information on the import process and you can follow along here. Shipwire does not recommend doing bulk inventory importing on your own, as you may experience delivery delays, customs hassles, and/or unexpected costs. Shipwire cannot free up inventory that is stuck in customs. We recommend working with a customs broker which understands how to import into Canada.

Refer tot he following warehouse guide(s) for shipping capabilities, available carriers, and features:


Understanding pricing

Shipwire has purposely aligned the way it prices its services with the needs of the fast-growing business. Our pricing is designed to be simple and transparent, to not require any management or oversight on your part, and to reward increased order volume. Learn more about pricing:

Shipping fees are denominated in US dollars. Shipping rates may fluctuate as the dollar fluctuates. Please read our terms of service for more information on shipping price quotes.

Handling 1 item from Toronto is the same as shipping 1 item from any other Shipwire location. For example if you ship 50 orders in one month, split evenly between Toronto and Los Angeles. On the 51st order, you upgrade to the next handling level, decreasing your handling price on the following orders for the month.

Storing 1 pallet in Toronto is the same as storing 1 pallet in any other Shipwire location. For example, if your account includes up to 4 pallets of storage. If you store 1 pallet in Toronto, and 1 pallet in the Los Angeles, you have 2 pallets of storage left.

How does Shipwire calculate currency rates?
The most readily available information on currency exchange rates is based on “interbank exchange rates”. Interbank exchange rates are established in the course of currency trading among a global network of over 1000 banks, and are not available through consumer or retail channels. Consumers may use these rates as a reference, but should not expect to use interbank rates in transactions that involve currency conversion. To obtain actual retail rates, contact your local financial institution or currency exchange.

If your transaction involves a currency conversion, it will be completed at a retail foreign exchange rate determined by Shipwire, which is adjusted regularly based on market conditions.

This exchange rate includes a 3% spread above the exchange rate at which Shipwire obtains foreign currency, and the spread is retained by Shipwire.

Other Resources

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