Friday, November 25, 2011

Worried about extra shipping charges online??

Did you know Canada...that you can shop online for Christmas presents and pay no Customs Duty?

Many people Canadians complain about the getting hit with Customs Charges when they have something they bought shipped to Canada. Well the truth is that those fees are either avoidable or are not even a Customs charge. Here are some examples:

Shipping Charges - Be sure to read how much your online shopping site is charging you for shipping. *Note many Ebay sellers will list a lower sale price but state an artificially high amount for shipping. i.e. item is listed at $20 but shipping is $20 too, while in fact the shipping is actually $5; so the seller makes $15 off the extra shipping charge.

“Customs Handling fee” - if you order something that comes through Canada Post be aware of the “Customs Handling Fee”. These fees do not come to customs or the Government in anyway. These are fees that Canada Post charges for handling the collection of duty and taxes for the CBSA. As of June 4th 2011, the fee is now $8.50 on top of any duty or taxes owing. In comparison to what a broker or courier company would charge you for customs clearance, this is still quite a bargain.

Customs Brokerage fee - Depending on the level of service selected with various courier companies, the customs brokerage charge is included or extra. Usually if its low value (under $1600), the charge is in the range of $20 per commodity. So check with your vendor and ask them if the customs clearance fees are included in the shipping. If they are extra you always have the choice to self-clear through customs, then the courier company must reverse the charges.

Gifts - Many people receive gifts from friends or family abroad and end up being charged Customs Duty and taxes. Things to keep in mind are that the Gift exemption is $60 CAD per item and the package should clearly appear to be a gift. To better understand customs tariff 9816 read my post here on the gift exemption here in Canada.

So here the top 3 popular categories of items you can buy online and have shipped to Canada and pay no Custom Duty.

1. Toys - yes, that's right, you can buy your kids all their Xmas gifts online and pay no duty.
2. Electronics - For the most part most of the popular electronics like e-readers, tablets, laptops, mp3 players, digital cameras, camcorders and cell phones are all duty free.
3. Books - hardcover, soft cover, magazines....all have no duty.

Just be aware everyone that GST/HST and PST will apply depending on the province of residence/destination. So in Ontario you will not pay duty on the above items but you will pay 13% HST. Alberta on the other hand will pay only GST as they have no provincial sales tax.

Happy Shopping Canada!



C.I. is a Customs Officer or Border Services Officer with the Canada Border Services Agency. He has been running a blog/website as an unofficial online resource for information on all things pertaining to Customs legislation, policy and procedure in order to help people navigate the complex world of Customs. Topics covered span a wide range from Canada Customs Limits to understanding how Canada Customs Duty. Recently, C.I. added a forum to facilitate more discussion and the information more searchable. The motivation behind C.I.’s website is the belief that we are all on this planet to serve one another… Thanks for reading. Connect with C.I on
Twitter @customsinfo
Customs Info Email:


  1. The best is to buy online from a Canadian retailer.

  2. good info, I try to buy inside Canada too if possible.

  3. That's really great to know! Thanks for this info!

    I try to shop online at Canadian retailers, but it's nice to know what the deal is if I do shop from american sites!

  4. Thanks for the great info - I have never heard of "Self-clear" before I will have to check it out.

    I have been hit with huge brokerage fees from UPS before - now I won't shop with companies that use them to ship

  5. Good to know ... I rarely shop online.

  6. Hi Everyone, thanks for the kind words.
    I definitely support buying Canadian but it bothers me when the same product is 20-30% higher in Canada sometimes when the dollar is close to par.

    Little Miss Kate, definitely self clear if you are a frequent shopper. You can totally do this and still use UPS...but I have heard that complaint from many people. I think mostly people are more upset by the shock of extra charges.



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