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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Customs Valuation

While there is no specific definition of what constitutes a Foreign Trade Zone (“FTZ”), this terms generally refers to a specific location within a country that is officially designated as eligible for tariff and tax exemptions with respect to the purchase or importation of raw materials, components, or finished goods. These materials and goods can generally be stored, processed or assembled in the FTZ for re-export without having to pay any domestic taxes or duties. If these materials or goods are distributed into the domestic market, duties and taxes will apply, but will generally be deferred until the time of entry into the domestic market.  

Over the past few years, the Canadian government has tried to position Canada as a desirable destination for foreign investment. To this end, tariffs have been eliminated on essentially all manufacturing inputs, including machinery, equipment, and other inputs used in the industrial manufacturing sector.

According to the Canadian government, this initiative has made Canada the first country in the G-20 to offer a tariff-free zone for industrial manufacturers. Furthermore, since this a nationwide initiative, the federal government has promoted this tariff elimination as essentially making Canada one large FTZ for firms importing manufacturing inputs.

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With all of the concerns that businesses engaged in the import/export of products in the United States and Canada face (increased global competition, currency fluctuations and product quality), one of the least considered but most important involves the often confusing world of customs compliance.

While it is inevitable that errors or omissions may occur in customs compliance, errors can be expensive. To avoid customs assessments, and attendant interest and penalties (not to mention potential prosecution), constant vigilance of one's customs obligations is required.

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The Supreme Court of Canada rendered its first decision on the Customs Tariff in Canada v.Igloo Vikski Inc. (2016 SCC 38).  The decision provides guidance on applying the General Rules for the Interpretation of the Harmonized System (“General Rules”), particularly in the context of how the General Rules inform one another.

 

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The recent Federal Court case Saad v CBSA (2016 FC 1382) is a cautionary tale in two respects.

 

In the first place, it is a reminder that travellers who are found not to have properly declared imported goods, risk having their vehicle seized by the Canadian Border Services Agency (“CBSA”), which has a broad range of powers under the Customs Act.

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In Skechers v. CBSA (2015 FCA 58), the Federal Court of Appeal (“FCA”) considered a Canadian International Trade Tribunal (“CITT”) decision which applied a broad interpretation of “price paid or payable” for Customs Act valuation purposes, resulting in a significantly higher value for duty for the imported footwear at issue in the case, and with far-reaching implications for all Canadian goods, especially apparel and footwear items.

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Although importers have regularly been subject to paying additional customs duties on their imports as a result of subsequent upwards price adjustments, importers had been limited in their ability to obtain a refund or reduction in duties where subsequent downward price adjustments were made.  However, a recent change in Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) policy in light of a 2014 Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) decision now provides importers with an expanded ability to claim reductions in duty in the context of downward price adjustments.

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Like many areas of law, in customs valuation there are cases that represent so-called high and low water marks – cases that represent the extremes of possible outcomes, given a set of facts. Every once in a while, a case comes along that moves these marks around – often surprising practitioners. The recent case of Skechers USA Canada Inc. v. CBSA is one of those cases, and the decision of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (the “CITT”) has caught the attention of many practitioners.

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