Importing Goods Into Canada

All goods and services acquired for the use of the University of Alberta are defined by Canadian legislation to be commercial goods. This simply means that the goods and services, shipped to, carried to or used in Canada, whether purchased or not, must be reported to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at the point of entry into Canada and applicable duties and taxes must be paid. Import duties and taxes are based on the declared value of the goods in Canadian funds.

It is the responsibility of the importer (the business unit) to ensure imported goods and services are compliant with the Customs Act and its associated regulations. The home unit/department of the employee ordering or taking possession of the imported goods is responsible for any penalties, which can range from $100 to $25,000.

All foreign goods shipped to the UofA are reported to CBSA and are released through the services of a Customs Broker. Customs Services works daily with our broker to ensure our shipments are handled quickly and accurately. Foreign suppliers sending goods to the UofA should include the name of our broker on all customs documents.

University’s Customs Broker

Thompson Ahern Int'l
6299 Airport Road, Suite 305
Mississauga, Ontario, L4V 1N3
Fax: (905) 677-3584

UofA account # - 16213630

Mandatory Information for Goods Entering Canada

When placing an order or requesting a shipment from outside Canada, ensure the foreign supplier/sender encloses a Canada Customs Invoice (or similar document) with all information required to clear Customs. Failure to provide this information will result in delays while Customs Services obtains the information from the vendor/sender or UofA recipient.

  • Name and address of foreign sender
  • Name and address of recipient at UofA
  • Detailed description of the goods
    (including model/serial/catalog number, source of DNA/RNA material)
  • Quantity of the goods
  • Value of the goods
    (actual price paid for purchased goods or retail value of goods provided at no-charge)
  • Country of manufacture (or in the case of books, country of printing)
  • Reason for shipping (e.g. purchase for lab-use, collaborative research sample)
  • UofA Purchase Order number (if applicable)

Services Performed Outside of Canada

Services performed outside of Canada to University owned assets, such as the repair of equipment or the installation of software to a laptop are subject to customs reporting requirements upon return to Canada. Any University owned assets (including items purchased by Professional Expense Allowance) taken out of the country, and then advanced in value (including repair), must be declared to CBSA. Duties and taxes are payable on the value of the work done outside of Canada, once the goods return to Canada.

If repair work to equipment is done under warranty (at no charge), the actual repair value still must be reported to CBSA upon return to Canada, but GST and duty are exempt.

Canadian Duties, Taxes and Brokerage Fees

All goods entering Canada for the UofA are assessed 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) by CBSA. Some types of goods, such as clothing and plastic items, are also assessed duty. Duty rates vary depending upon the commodity and where it was manufactured. Duties and taxes are based on the declared Canadian dollar value of the goods at the time of import and are billed to the UofA by our customs broker who pays on our behalf. In addition, a brokerage fee is charged by the broker for their service of providing customs release.

Clearance Delays

A shipment’s clearance can be delayed for multiple reasons. The most common reasons are:

  • Vague description - Ensure the description on the commercial invoice provides an accurate description (antibody, cell line, tissue sample) and its source (human, mouse, bacteria). 
  • No Purchase Order (PO) number – Foreign goods may only be purchased with a University credit card (PCard) or PO. Goods in excess of $10,000 CAD will not be released until our customs broker confirms with Customs Services that the goods are for import by the UofA and validates the PO number. High value shipments generate larger amounts of GST and duty and are subject to greater scrutiny and audit. 
  • Lack of contact information – Ensure an employee’s name and campus address are included on the customs invoice and courier waybill. Clearance will be delayed until the responsible party can be identified.
  • Undervalued – Suppliers/shippers declare the goods at very low values to ‘help’ goods move through customs. This actually delays things rather than helps. CBSA reviews documents and values of goods. If they feel the value does not match the type of goods, they will reject the entry until proof can be made that the value declared is correct OR the proper value of the goods is determined. In no circumstances is $0 (or “no commercial value”) an acceptable declaration for any type of goods.

Other Government Departments (OGD) - Restricted or controlled goods need to have other government departments provide authorization before CBSA can grant release of the goods. In some instances this can take hours. The most common OGD release is Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for the release of animal or plant biological materials.
See 3. Customs Permit/License for Restricted or Controlled Goods