Here is the legal way to avoid brokerage fee when importing goods from USA into Canada with courier companies like UPS, or FedEx, without driving hundreds of miles to the port of entry. CBSA officially replied that UPS forces customers to pay outrageous customs brokerage fees illegally.
When you want to order some goods for personal use from US into Canada, you want it to be delivered fast and cheap. It can be orders from eBay, and many other stores across US. Many eBay sellers do not deal with UPS anymore because of outrageous customs brokerage fees. Usually buyers face this fee only at the door, when package is delivered.
It is called C.O.D. (collect on delivery) invoice which includes duties and taxes for imported goods, and UPS customs brokerage fees and other UPS fees like collect on delivery fee, bill integrity fee, taxes on the fees and so on. This C.O.D. bill is usually about 50% of the item’s price! Of course duties and taxes must be paid, but it is usually from 5% to 15% for casual goods (no alcohol, or tobacco, or other goods for which duties applied) depending on the province.
When importers see the invoice to pay extra 50% of the item’s price thay order, some of them just refuse to pay, and item is shipped back to the seller. The sellers do not like this as well as importers, and ship items with more expensive and pretty slow USPS mail service. It goes through Canada Post to the addressee in Canada, and they charge $5 for customs clearance. But USPS delivery can take up to 6 weeks, and theirs delivery cost is higher than for UPS Ground.
Depending on the order’s price, UPS Customs Brokerage Fee varies up to 50%. For example, for the order of $40.01 the brokerage fee is $19.45 + tax, according to the table at UPS website.
If you still want to use advantage of pretty fast, guaranteed, and trackable UPS ground service to ship your imported goods from US into Canada,
You do NOT have to pay UPS brokerage fees!
I’m not advising you to use other courier services, like USPS, or driving hundreds of miles to the port of entry in order to clear items by yourself as UPS forces you to do, otherwise paying brokerage fees.
You do NOT have to be in the port of entry to clear your items!
I’ve ordered some auto parts from California, and UPS forced me to pay brokerage fees. They told that there is absolutely no ways to clear items by myself in local CBSA office other than port of entry. I have spent almost two months to investigate and escalate this issue with UPS and CBSA (Canada Borders Service Agency). Finally I got a call with apologies about the incident and official reply from CBSA which indicates the following:
You are allowed to self clear your personal shipments and pay any duty/taxes owing at an office other than where the goods are being held.
UPS SCS (Ground) was also incorrect to inform you that you had to present yourself at the office where the goods were located.
CBSA also advised me that they are going to inform courier company and CBSA offices to ensure they are aware of the proper procedures.
There are local CBSA (Canada Borders Service Agency) offices in GTA (I’m located in Toronto) where you can pay applicable duties and taxes for imported goods. There is absolutely no need to drive into Windsor or Fort Erie to clear your items. There are also a lot of CBSA offices across Canada, so you most likely may choose one which is pretty close to you.
Here is the way how to avoid UPS brokerage fees:
(Important note: this information is outdated, please see update as of October 17, 2010 below for required list of documents, according to which commercial invoice is not required by CBSA. That list is final and allowed to self clear many shipments successfully)
- Place your order at US store with UPS delivery option
- Print out your commercial invoice (PayPal invoice, or e-mail receipt from the store). You may want to make sure that shipper will put the correct price on the package for customs (just send them a note about it)
- Wait for item to be shipped and get your tracking number
- Call UPS, give them tracking number and tell that you want to clear your items by yourself in your local CBSA office. They should instruct you what you will need to do
Note: this mechanism can be only applied for Low Value Shipment program (LVS),when order’s price does not exceed $1600 CAD. In case of more expensive goods you will need to present yourself at the port of entry to clear your goods, or find a broker to do this for you.
If for any reason UPS still tells you that you can not clear items by yourself in local CBSA office, and you must go to the port of entry in order to pay duties/taxes – it is illegal! Insist on your rights. Tell that they violate the law. Mention that there is an official reply from CBSA. If you get the refusal from UPS, write down the name of the person you talked to, time, and phone number you called in. Please describe your case to me and I will forward it to the person in CBSA who investigated my case and replied to my inquiry. I’m not posting his contact information here to avoid spam. He advised to contact him if this issue is repeated again.
I believe that it should be applied not only to UPS, but to all other courier services. For example, FedEx brokerage fees must be avoided in the same way.
Updated information as of October 17, 2010.
Canada Customs (CBSA) officially replied and provided procedure of self clearing process which UPS, CBSA offices, and importers should follow:
How to pay duties and taxes for imported goods
If you are planning to have future shipments sent to you by courier from outside Canada, you do have the option of refusing the accounting services offered by the company, choosing instead to clear the goods yourself through your local CBSA office. If you choose to do this, you will not incur any brokerage fees. The two options available to you are the following:
1. Prior to receiving your shipment, you can contact the courier company and inform them of your wish to self-clear any shipments that are addressed to you and on which brokerage fees are applicable. The company will explain their procedures to you.
2. As an alternative, when a casual shipment is delivered to you, you can refuse delivery and advise the courier company of your intention to self-clear directly with the CBSA. In this case, please ensure that you take note of the unique shipment identifier number on the package, as the shipment will be returned to the courier’s warehouse.
With both options, you will need to visit your local CBSA office and provide them with specific details, including the courier’s name, the unique shipment identifier number, a description of the goods and their value so that the CBSA can correctly assess the goods. This information is usually indicated on the shipment’s invoice, which will be provided to you by the courier company. When you have paid the applicable duties and/or taxes to the CBSA, you will be given an official receipt indicating that the goods have been accounted for. You will need to present this receipt to the courier’s warehouse where your shipment is stored, in order for the courier to release your shipment to you.
Thank you for contacting the CBSA.
Internet: www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca (http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/)
Canada Border Services Agency
Government of Canada – Gouvernement du Canada
(Some personal information has been omitted, and CBSA e-mail address also to avoid spam. Some key phrases has been highlighted by editor, not by CBSA)
We may conclude, that in order to self-clear goods in local CBSA office we need following:
The final and proven way of how to avoid UPS brokerage fees:
- Courier’s name: UPS
- Unique shipment identifier number: UPS must provide
- Shipment’s invoice: UPS must provide
- Place where the package is being held
Let’s stop UPS outrageous behavior and lawlessness, and force them to obey the simple law and allow importers to self-clear without paying brokerage fees!
Tell about this procedure to all people who use UPS (or other couriers with high brokerage fees) to import goods from US into Canada! If UPS will hear about it from importers hundreds/thousands times per day, they will definitely start to use new procedure.
The exact procedure of self-clearing with scanned documents is given here: