by Victor Q. Truong
Anyone who imports products into Canada knows that getting them across the border through Customs can be a challenge fraught with complexity. In fact, the ever-changing rules and regulations of Canada Customs add complexity and risk to the Canadian importer. Without the right advice and counsel, you could be paying excessive or even unnecessary duties on the products you bring into the country. In other cases, with the right representation, importers have won back past duties paid because their goods were inaccurately classified by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and they were able to prove it.
How do you know? What should you look for in a Customs Broker or Consultant?
Unaware and unfamiliar with the complex customs laws and procedures, many importers simply let their logistics partner take care of the cross-border brokerage and they pay the duties assigned to their products without question. Likely, their logistics partner has a person in operations that knows a little about the Customs rules and so they put through the paperwork.
Instead, you should look for a Customs Broker or Consulting team with a depth of knowledge and experience in all types of imported goods. Do they have the wherewithal and expertise to work with the Customs Agency or take your case to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) and fight to maintain a tariff classification or preferential treatment that your products should be entitled to benefit from and therefore lower the duties you pay? Can they possibly recoup past duties once the new classification is established? Only a specialized team can advise you on the best course of action.
Take the example of Elfe Juvenile Products (CITT Case: AP-2011-029). They import the Graco Lovin’ Hug™ infant swing set that CBSA classified as furniture because small children sit on it. In its appeal at the CITT, Elfe argued that the swing set was designed for the amusement of infants and should therefore be categorized as Other Toys and not furniture. They brought in Dr. Jennifer Rosinia as a professional witness and expert in pediatric occupational therapy and neuroscience in the sensory processing of the developing child.
The doctor testified that “the purpose of this product is for the baby to experience movement. If the baby is moving, then . . . it’s a way of playing. Moving through space is a way of playing for babies.” According to Dr. Rosinia, the infant swing was created specifically to amuse babies and to allow them to interact with their sensory systems. Elfe won its appeal and the swing set was properly classified.
This is just one example of many where the deep knowledge and expertise of the Customs Consulting team working on Elfe’s behalf was instrumental in finding the precise tariff category and affecting the change of a product’s classification for the benefit of the importer. It’s strong evidence that importers should only work with qualified, experienced and knowledgeable Customs experts.
Victor Q. Truong, B.A., LL.B. is International Trade Consultant, CCS Customs Compliance & Trade Consulting, DB Schenker of Canada Limited.