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When to engage a customs broker

We’ve shared with you why to choose a customs broker, but when is the best time to seek the professional support of a customs broker to avoid delays and penalties? We sat down with Jey Sanmuganathan, Cole’s Western Regional Manager of Customs in Canada for a little Q&A to learn more.

Q. When should a company contact a customs broker?

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If you’ve decided to engage in trade with a supplier outside of Canada, the best case scenario is to contact a customs broker before completing a business transaction with the supplier.

This is important because brokers can provide specific information on what types of documentation will be required to import a product or good. And, if a company is importing new products, a broker can also ensure there are no restrictions on the goods, or additional duties or paperwork required, such as permits, certificates, licenses, etc.

Q. What must an importer provide their broker after the business transaction is complete? And what can a broker help with?

At the very minimum, when you hire a broker, they will require a commercial invoice and a bill of lading to prepare a submission to Canada Border Services Agency. Depending on the goods being imported, there may also be special permits or codes required.

A customs broker will prepare and submit an electronic entry to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and pay the sales tax on behalf of the importer. The entry will provide information on the HS code for each of the goods being imported, as well any other information, permits, certificates, licenses, or codes required by other government agencies that regulate the import of goods into Canada.

It’s the customs broker’s role to help the importer maintain a standard level of compliance as outlined by CBSA for the importation of goods into Canada.

Q. What information does a commercial invoice and bill of lading include?

A broker needs the following information found on these documents:

  • Total pieces and weight of the shipment (bill of lading)
  • Vendor information and exporter information (if different)
  • Purchaser and consignee information
  • The price of the goods and the currency of sale
  • Country of manufacture
  • Quantity and unit price of goods purchased

Beyond the commercial invoice and bill of lading, a customs broker will coordinate additional paperwork to ensure they are legally allowed to act on your behalf with CBSA, before importing your goods.

Those documents include:

  • General Agency Agreement (Power of Attorney) with standard trading conditions
  • Credit application
  • Business number application form RC1 (if a new business)
  • Import/export account activation
  • Carrier authority (instructions for carriers)
  • GST direct letter application (if necessary)
  • Bond application (if necessary)

Depending on the goods, an importer may be required to apply for import permits or licenses from other government agencies prior to importing. It’s important to have these documents secured before shipping to avoid delays at the border or at port, and to avoid the potential of storage, demurrage, or detention charges.

An experienced customs broker can handle the details and make the import process easier. We’ve been in the customs brokerage business for more than half a century. We’re ready to help.

Information provided by: Customs Brokerage Dept. - Cole International

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