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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Tariff Classification

The Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) resets its “audit priority areas” twice per year. Essentially, the CBSA designates certain products as priority areas for customs verifications (i.e., “audits”) based on the program areas that the CBSA believes pose a significant risk for import non-compliance in terms of tariff classification, valuation, and/or origin of goods.

The CBSA has now released its January 2024 Trade Compliance Verification priorities, setting the stage for the next six (6) months. While there are no new audit priorities in this round, the CBSA has announced its intention to engage in new rounds of verifications on a number of historic issues, and updated its statistics on existing verifications. As is often the case, most of the focus is on tariff classification!

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There seems to have been an uptick in Canada Border Services Agency audits concerning the tariff classification of gloves, carrying costly consequences to potential importers not based on what their product is, but how it is used by their customers!

This is a function of the wonderful world of tariff classification, some of the complexities of which we tackled in a previous blog, here.  

The chief issue is whether imported gloves will be used “with protective suits in a noxious atmosphere” or whether they will be used in other circumstances/places which CBSA does not consider a “noxious atmosphere” (e.g. nail salons, restaurants, etc.). 

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Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) resets its “audit priority areas” twice per year – designating certain tariff classification codes as priority areas for customs verifications.

Priorities are based on CBSA’s work in certain industries or on CBSA’s view of “significant risk” importations from a tariff classification, valuation, and origin compliance perspective.

With the January 2024 audit priorities around the corner, it is a good time to review the outcomes from the July 2023 update.

Tariff Classification Priorities

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Georgian Bay Leisure Distributors Ltd., 2022 CanLII 139059 (CA CITT) (“Georgian Bay”) is a CITT case highlighting the complexities of tariff classification when importing goods to Canada.!


When importing commercial goods to Canada, there are three things any importer needs to address from a customs compliance perspective:

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Imported goods are identified using Canada’s tariff classification system. Tariff classification is important for two reasons: (1) the duty rate depends on the tariff classification; and (2) tariff classification determines eligibility for preferential duty rates under Canada’s various preferential trade agreements (generally speaking, “Free Trade Agreements” or “FTAs” for short).

Importers can sometimes find themselves in the unfortunate position of facing an enormous increase in duties, or disqualification from preferential FTAs, due to a tariff classification dispute with the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”). As seen in the decision in Canada v. Best Buy Canada Ltd., 2021 FCA 161, classification is not always obvious!

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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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On September 21, 2017 the Canadian-European Union "Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement" or "CETA" came into force.

Some businesses may erroneously believe that this means they can ship anything they want beween Canada and the EU without paying any duties. While the reality is a little more complicated, CETA still represents a tremendous achievement for Canada, and provides Canadians with greater access to the massive EU marketplace of 500 million people!

Read the Statement by the Canadian Minister of International Trade here.

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The Customs Act requires corrections of errors in import declarations – such as a tariff classification, country of origin, or value for duty.  Each correction requires the filing of a form B2 adjustment request, which can be an onerous task when multiple corrections are required. The CBSA has an administrative practice that streamlines the procedure for authorized importers by allowing them to file a single blanket adjustment request - a single form with an attached spreadsheet - to process multiple corrections with one form.  However, the CITT decision in Worldpac Canada (AP-2014-021) shows that administrative practice does not have the force of law and a taxpayer’s reliance thereon involves risk. 

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In AG v. Bri-Chem Supply Ltd. et al. (2016 FCA 257), the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) reproached the Canadian Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) for administrative practices that amounted to an abuse of process.

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