Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

The Canada Border Servcies Agency Are "Enforcers" - So Why Do Importers Answer Questions Without Thinking?

Why do importers feel the need to immediately pick up telephone and call the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) when they hear from their customs broker that the CBSA is asking questions about particular import transactions? The reason is that the importer is concerned that the CBSA, Canada's enforcer of customs and border laws, will assess an amount of money or look closely at other transactions. The importer rushes to judge the situation, spin the facts, say what the importer thinks the CBSA wants to hear in order to stop the enforcer from doing something that will negatively affect the importer's bottom line.

Unfortunately, this rush to speak without undertaking a full investigation of the facts and analyze the facts can lead to an assessment in circumstances when an assessment is not justified. The real facts may actually be helpful to the importer. However, if guessed facts are provided to the CBSA (that are wrong) and the correct facts are uncovered later and communicated to the CBSA, the CBSA may not believe the new facts because they are different and more favourable.

I have an example to share. An importer was asked to provide photographs to the CBSA concerning goods that were imported. The importer used old photographs of goods that it had looked at in China, but did not acquire. These good were similar enough thought the importer's clerk. These photos were provided because they existed already. However, there were important differences between the photos and the goods that had actually been acquired and imported. The importer could have gone to he warehouse and taken pictures of boxes to show that the good were imported as a disassembled kit. The importer did not consider that the information of the card board packaging would have relevant information. A picture is worth a thousand words, make sure those words are correct.

The CBSA is an enforcer and is not the importer's friend. The CBSA is not going to take the importer by the hand and help them. That would be the job of an advisor with specialized expertise in customs and antidumping/countervailing duty law.

Take the time to consider what you are being asked. Process that information. Gather the relevant documents, read the documents, analyze the information carefully. If you are unsure of how you should analyze the information, ask a professional to help. Then and only then should you call the CBSA and talk.

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