B3 Forms: What They Are and Why You Need Them

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B3 Forms: What They Are and Why You Need Them

Happy 2019, readers! Welcome back for another year of importing tips to make your lives easier — we hope everyone had a relaxing bit of time off.

That said, since we’re all still somewhat feeling the last lingering effects of the holiday hangover, let’s ease ourselves back in with a single form — to be exact, the standard accounting form importers must submit to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for importing commercial goods: the B3.

What exactly do you need to know about this basic, yet all-encompassing, piece of documentation? Discover the answers in our handy guide:

Speaking the Language of B3

Officially known as the B3-3 (or Canada Customs Coding Form), it’s comprised of 51 fields and, at first glance, what seems like over a hundred different boxes to fill in, all on a single page — but don’t fret! Many boxes are repeats per imported item, meaning you might not need to fill in everything, or you may require more than one form, depending on your situation.

Per CBSA, the B3 breaks down into three classifiable sections:

  • The Header (fields #1–9): Includes contextual information — such as the name, address, and country of origin for both you and your supplier — pertaining to the whole shipment.
  • The Subheader (fields #10–19): Includes information pertaining specifically to the shipment itself and the vendor, seller, or supplier.
  • The Trailer (fields #43–51): Includes final tallies and applies to the whole shipment.

In between all of this, however, are fields #21–42, which is where you’ll need to enter all applicable number values: the cost of each item, taxes and duties, currency conversions, etc. (By the way, if you’re wondering why we left out field #20, it’s because you don’t need to worry about filling it in — more on that in the next section.)

Should your goods be subjected to inspection, certain categories will be scrutinized more heavily than others. While all info needs to be accurate regardless, CBSA tends to focus most closely on:

  • Anything pertaining to value, including:
    • Section 31: VFD (Value for Duty) Code
    • Sections 36, 37 and 41: Values for currency conversation, duty, and tax, respectively
  • Anything pertaining to tariffs, including:
    • Section 14: Tariff treatment
    • Section 28: Tariff code

Filling Out Your B3

Given there are up to 51 fields and many of them call for special codes, considerations, and more (the full list from CBSA can be found here, starting with Part III), we’ve explored some of the highlights of what you can expect when getting your B3 in order:

  • As mentioned earlier, there are a few fields that you yourself don’t need to fill in. This includes fields #6 (Payment code), #20 (Release date), #24 (Previous transaction number), #25 (Previous transaction line), and #44 (Warehouse number).
  • You can also leave other fields blank under certain circumstances, including:
    • Field #5 (GST registration number): Left blank if a business number is entered in field #1 (Importer name and address).
    • Field #16 (Direct shipment date): Left blank if your currency code is Canadian dollars.
    • Fields #29 (Quantity) and #30 (Unit of measure): Left blank if there is no applicable unit of measurement.
    • Fields #34 (Excise tax rate) and #49 (Excise tax): Left blank if there is no excise tax.
    • Field #45 (Cargo control number): Left blank if there is no cargo control number.
    • Field #47 (Customs duties): Left blank if there are no customs duties to be paid.
    • Field #50 (GST): Left blank if there’s no GST to be paid.
  • Meanwhile, certain fields require codes, specifically outlined by CBSA, including:
    • Fields #7 (Mode of transport) and #14 (Tariff treatment), which require special number codes.
    • Fields #12 (Country of origin) and #13 (Place of export) require either a three-letter alphabetic state code on imports from the United States, or a two-letter alphabetic country code on imports from any other country.
    • Field #17 (Currency code) requires a special alphabetic country respective to the currency being used in the transaction.

There are other exceptions — for example, whether or not your shipment totals less than CAN$2,500, whether it’s arriving specifically from the United States, or the method of transport involved — that may trigger some fields to be filled out or left alone, so be sure to take note of any relevant details, and don’t be afraid to hire a customs broker to help with any uncertainties.

Scenarios Involving Your B3

Depending on the details of your shipment, your B3 will, of course, need to be packaged along with any other necessary documentation mandated by CBSA to ensure clearance. However, certain scenarios, like if your goods total less than CAN$2,500 and are considered part of the Courier Low Value Shipment Program, may only require the B3 to be submitted on its own.

If your commercial shipment isn’t below the low-value threshold, the standard forms include:

  • A cargo control document, which informs you of your goods’ arrival and its status awaiting CBSA clearance;
  • A commercial invoice;
  • A recap sheet, including tax rates, total price payable and exchange rates, if any; and
  • An invoice cross-reference, to show the relationship between each invoice line and your B3’s classification lines.

Coloured wrappers must also be applied to your B3 forms to indicate under which category the incoming shipment falls, be it above or below the low-value threshold, a cash-paid shipment, or one that will arrive at a customs-supervised warehouse, among others. Take the time to note which colour applies to you.

Lastly, you may need to submit more than one copy of your B3 dependant on at which stage duties and taxes on your goods are paid:

  • One copy: If payment is done at the border, only one copy is required for the CBSA.
  • Two copies: If your shipment is cleared prior to payment and you’re a frequent importer, you’ll need one copy for CBSA and one for your customs broker
  • Three copies: If your shipment is cleared prior to payment, but your import is a one-time deal, you’ll need one for CBSA, one for your customs broker, and a third along with a request to bond your transaction.

Have you figured out where each item of info belongs on your B3? Do you have the right colour wrapping, accompanying documents and special codes?

Contact us today and our customs brokers will help you start 2019 stress-free with an accurate, efficiently filled-out B3 form!