Our First Time Importers Guide for Small Business Owners |

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Our First Time Importers Guide for Small Business Owners

first time importers guide

Navigating the complexities of international markets may seem like an overwhelming step to take to grow your business, but unlocking a larger market is worth the time and money—if done right.

We’ve put together a quick guide for first time importers to help you get things rolling.

Register your business as an importer

The first step is to get your business licensing and registration in order. This will give you an official Business Number (BN) as well as a GST/HST tax account. Your BN will be your account number for all your federal government affairs such as importing/exporting and taxes.

If you do not register your business as an importer, and import personally, you will be subject to federal and provincial tax. As a registered business that imports commercially, you are only subject to federal tax which will be ultimately refunded through import tax credits.

Determine applicable tariffs & duties

Each shipment that passes through customs needs a Harmonized System Code (HSC), which advises the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) of what the shipped goods are, as well as the payable duty rate. The key here is to make sure that your shipped goods are classified correctly, so as to avoid potential penalties and seizures.

Use Free Trade Agreements (FTA) to your advantage

Free trade agreements allow for reduced trade barriers between participating parties/countries. These FTAs have a significant impact on the international market as they tend to guide people into manufacturing in specific parts of the world. FTAs typically reduce or completely remove duties altogether for certain shipped goods between parties.  

Consult a customs broker

Customs brokers will submit declarations on your behalf. It is the broker’s job to ensure the full completion of required documentation, and ensure that you are in compliance with regulations.

In essence, a good broker is also responsible for helping you reduce shipping costs, boost efficiency, and troubleshoot any issues that may come up during the shipping transaction. Think of an accountant that helps you pay fewer taxes; in helping you navigate the complex world of shipping, customs brokers also helping you make sure you pay the lowest fees possible. Touch base with a customs broker here to find out more.

As an importer, it will be important for you to stay abreast of the regulatory climate, and continually review your processes, documentation, and compliance with requirements.