We all know that different types of goods mean different rates of duty at the border. What’s not as intuitive is understanding the distinction between similar items and knowing what classification category an item belongs to for the purpose of assigning duty.
The print matters
While almost all goods have words of some sort printed on them, the nature of the good and the prominence and message of the printing will affect the ultimate classification of the good when you import it.
The distinction goes like this:
- If the primary purpose of the good is to send a message – that is, if the print plays a prominent role in the purpose of the good – it is considered “printed matter” and you won’t pay duty on it.
- If the good has printing on it but is considered utilitarian, it will be classified based on its constituent material (e.g. plastic bag, cardboard box, t-shirt, etc.) and duties will be assigned as to other goods made of that material.
Muddying the waters somewhat, however, is a recent court decision that said a utilitarian good that also contains an important message about its use will be classified as printed matter (and, as such, is duty free).
The good in question in that case was a plastic bag used in medical settings for transporting samples and specimens, stamped with the word “BIOHAZARD” and displaying relevant warnings and handling cautions.
What you can do
Communication with your customs broker is key in instances such as this where classification of goods is not a simple black and white matter.
If the good you are importing contains printing:
- Advise your customs broker of this fact and provide a picture or sample of the good, complete with a clear view of the printing.
- Communicate precisely and accurately how integral that printing is to the purpose of the good – ensuring not to overstate its importance.
We can help
Our trade compliance professionals can help you determine the correct classification for goods that contain printing. We can help you apply for refunds of duty already paid on goods that didn’t require it, and help you save money down the road, too.
Information provided by: Canadian Customs Consulting Dept. - Cole International