Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

The Canada Border Services Agency May Charge You With Smuggling If You Do Not Declare Goods Acquired Abroad

I receive calls regularly from people who were on vacation or away from Canada visiting relatives or former homes and who buy or acquire/receive goods (including gifts and property they own) outside Canada. I get the telephone call because they failed to report the correct value of what they bought or acquired (including packed to bring to Canada) outside Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has found the goods and seized the goods and imposed a penalty (usually a percentage of the value of the goods that the person failed to declare (e.g., 50%)) that must be paid before the goods will be given back to the individual.

In addition, I get the telephone call when the CBSA has charged the individual with some or all of (1) undervaluing goods, (2) failing to declare goods, (3) providing false information to a CBSA officer (they lied on the Customs Entry forms and to the interviewing officer) and/or (4) smuggling. These quasi-criminal charges mean that the individual will be prosecuted in court. The individual usually receives a summons to appear in court to answer the charges.

The individual will need to take the necessary actions to respond to the quasi-criminal charges. If the individual does nothing, they could see the police at their door or work to take them to court after an arrest warrant is issued. If things get to this point, the likelihood of a plea is greatly diminished. If an individual is convicted of the quasi-criminal offence, he/she will have a criminal record that can affect his/her ability to travel to certain countries (e.g., the United States).

In addition, the individual may be flagged by the CBSA for secondary interviews when returning from future trips outside Canada - The person has a history of lying to the CBSA that is in the computer.

The amount of money that a person must pay to clear their record of a failure to declare the correct value of goods bought or acquired/received abroad far exceeds the amount of money that they would have had to pay if the correct declaration was made in the first place. Fixing problems always costs money.

For more information, please contact Cyndee Todgham Cherniak at 416-307-4168.

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