How To Avoid Customs Charges From USA to Canada

As international trade continues to grow, more people are purchasing goods from other countries, including buying items from the United States and having them shipped to Canada. It’s an exciting time for consumers, but it can also be a headache when faced with unexpected customs charges. This blog post will explore how to avoid customs charges from the USA to Canada, providing you with valuable tips and tricks to save money and reduce the hassle associated with cross-border shopping.

Understanding Customs Charges

Before diving into how to avoid customs charges, it’s essential to understand what these charges are and why they exist. Customs charges are fees imposed by the Canadian government on imported goods to protect domestic industries, maintain national security, and generate revenue. These charges typically consist of three components:

  1. Duties: Taxes levied on specific products based on their country of origin and the product’s classification under the Harmonized System (HS) code.
  2. Taxes: The federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) and, in some cases, the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) applied to the value of the imported goods, including duties.
  3. Customs brokerage fees: Fees charged by customs brokers or shipping carriers for facilitating the customs clearance process.

With a clear understanding of customs charges, let’s explore ways to avoid or minimize these fees when shipping goods from the USA to Canada.

1. Shop from retailers that prepay duties and taxes

Some online retailers, such as Amazon, offer a “landed cost” or “delivered duty paid” (DDP) option. This means that the retailer calculates and collects the estimated duties and taxes at the time of purchase. By using this option, you can avoid unexpected fees upon delivery, as the retailer takes care of the customs clearance process.

2. Make use of duty-free exemptions

As a Canadian resident, you’re entitled to certain duty-free exemptions when returning from a trip outside of Canada. If you meet specific criteria, you may be able to bring back goods without paying duties and taxes:

  • After a 24-hour absence, you can claim up to CAD 200 worth of goods.
  • After a 48-hour absence, you can claim up to CAD 800 worth of goods.

Keep in mind that these exemptions are only available if you physically bring the items back with you. Shipping the goods separately will not qualify for these exemptions.

3. Utilize the de minimis threshold

Canada has a de minimis threshold, meaning that shipments below a certain value may be exempt from duties and taxes. The current de minimis threshold for Canada is CAD 20 for postal shipments and CAD 40 for courier shipments. If your purchase falls below this threshold, you may not have to pay customs charges. Keep in mind that the de minimis threshold applies to the value of the goods only and does not include shipping and handling fees.

4. Choose products with preferential duty rates

Under certain free trade agreements, like the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), goods produced in the USA may be eligible for preferential duty rates, reducing or eliminating the duties you need to pay. To benefit from these rates, the goods must meet specific rules of origin criteria. Always check the product’s country of origin and HS code to determine if it qualifies for preferential duty rates.

5. Self-clear your shipments

If your shipping carrier or customs broker charges high fees for customs clearance, you can opt to self-clear your shipments. By doing this, you’ll deal directly with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and pay only the duties and taxes owed, without incurring additional brokerage fees. The self-clearance process can be complex, so be prepared for additional paperwork and potential delays.

6. Consolidate your shipments

If you’re purchasing multiple items from different retailers or over an extended period, consider consolidating your shipments into one package. By doing this, you’ll save on shipping costs and potentially reduce the overall customs charges by paying the duties and taxes on a single shipment instead of multiple separate packages.


While it may not always be possible to completely avoid customs charges when shipping goods from the USA to Canada, understanding the system and utilizing the strategies mentioned above can help you minimize these costs. By shopping from retailers that prepay duties and taxes, making use of duty-free exemptions and de minimis thresholds, choosing products with preferential duty rates, self-clearing your shipments, and consolidating your packages, you can save money and reduce the hassle of cross-border shopping.

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