The world is smaller today than ever before. We wake up and drink coffee from Colombia, eat oranges from Florida, drive to work in cars from Korea, spend the day talking to colleagues in England, India, and Hong Kong and go home to stream television from all over the world. Everyone is connected, everything comes from somewhere else, and someone has to feed the demand.

What if that someone is you?

Getting involved in importing isn’t always easy, but it can be a very rewarding way to make a living. Whether you’re looking to start a new business or add to your existing offering, you might want to consider becoming an importer — let us help you out!

Setting up an import business

Before you can start thinking about what to import, you’ll need to be clear to do any importing at all. Legally, you can’t just order something from a supplier, import it, and sell it. You have to register with the government.

First, you need a Business Number from the Canada Revenue Agency. During the application process, you can also sign up for an import-export account, which is required for importing anything into Canada.

If you already have a Business Number, you’re not off the hook—but you still need an import-export account. The good news is, you can apply to add an import-export account identifier to your existing Business Number. Easy, peasy.

Second… start importing!

Really, that’s it. Once you have a Business Number and an import-export account, you’re free to start importing into Canada.

So, what should you import?

Imports for a Canadian market

If you already own a successful business in Canada, you’re in luck — you have a built-in customer base you can talk to. What do they like? What items can you not keep in stock? Can you incentivize answering a survey so you know what they’d like to see? If you own and operate a kitchenware store, for example, your customer base may be interested in imported Italian olive oils and spices.

What if you don’t own your own business? You’ll need to do a little market research.

In Canada, our top exports outside raw materials are vehicles — a bit of a gamble for just starting out, admittedly — electronics, and pharmaceuticals. Followed shortly after by gems, furniture, and bedding. We also import a lot of toys from China.

But you don’t have to cater to any of those markets — they’re just popular imported goods Canadians like. Ultimately, what you import will be dictated by your customer base.

Some importing tips

When you’re dealing with a government agency like the Canadian Border Services Agency, one wrong piece of paperwork could mean a delay of weeks to months. Importing is rewarding, but make sure you do it right!

Always ensure your tariff codes are correct. Trying to get out of paying extra duty by misclassifying a good as something related will get you in trouble. Mistakenly applying a tariff code might not land you a fine, but it will also slow down your imports.

Import fees are some of the trickiest aspects of importing to work around, and taxes don’t make it easier. When you import something into Canada, you have to pay the GST — but not the PST. If you live in a province that has harmonized their taxes into an HST rate, you still only pay the federal portion.

And finally, if you’ve never imported anything commercially before, you don’t have to go it alone. Customs brokers like Clearit can help with customs consulting, clearing, and any business questions you might have.