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Beware of duties when buying off the internet!

It’s the holidays, and when we see products that are cheaper online than in stores, it’s easy to be tempted!

These days, ordering online is not only a question of taking advantage of the discounts that are more advantageous on the internet than in stores; it’s a technique often used by big brands to tempt clients into making purchases. However, consumers often buy products out of country and unknowingly fall into the “import by mail” category.

Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) is in charge of processing mail that arrives in Canada.  An agent will assess the package and the declaration made by the sender in order to decide whether they will proceed with further inspections[1].  Either the package is released to Post Canada to be delivered and is exonerated from fees, or the package can be subject to duties, taxes and handling costs.

The amount of duties or taxes that may be owed on a product depends on several criteria[2].

According to section 2 of the Order Respecting the Remission of Customs Duties, Sales and Excise Taxes on Certain Goods Imported by Mail, certain products cannot be exempt from duties and taxes, no matter their value, such as alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, magazines or other similar publications.

For other goods, the value that will determine the applicable rule is $20 CDN[3].   Where the value exceeds $ 20 CDN, the duties, taxes, GST or HST, as well as any PST will apply on the item’s full value. Therefore, any good with a value of $20 CDN or less will be exempt from duties and taxes.

It is important to note that when sending gifts, the exemption amounts are different[4].

Therefore, be sure to watch out before you let yourself be tempted with a price that seems to defy all competition, so that it doesn’t end up costing you more in the end!



[1] http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/import/postal-postale/menu-eng.html

[2] http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/import/postal-postale/duty-droits-eng.html

[3] Section 3 of the  Order Respecting the Remission of Customs Duties, Sales and Excise Taxes on Certain Goods Imported by Mail

[4] Guidelines and General information  in regards to the Order Respecting the Remission of Customs Duties, Sales and Excise Taxes on Certain Goods Imported by Mail

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