Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA“) officers at land border crossings are faced with an impossible task. They have to interdict individuals who may be a public or health risk, process hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals and permanent residents who have assorted applications and immigration requirements which must be assessed, and collect taxes. CBSA Officers have to do all of this while somehow maintaining a balance between ensuring compliance with the law and ensuring that wait times at the border are not unnecessarily long. The failure to do either perfectly without disrupting the other will result in negative media scrutiny.
Of all of CBSA’s roles, it is perhaps the enforcement of Canada’s customs laws that is the most difficult to manage. Memorandum R17-1-3, found in People Processing Manual Part 5: Accounting for Casual Importations: Chapter 11: Waiver Policy (the “People’ Processing Manual“), explains the conditions under which the CBSA may waive nominal assessments and accounting requirements on casual goods. In brief, casual goods imported by an individual may be released without assessment when the federal duties and GST/HST owing (as well as any provincial taxes, excluding PST) do not exceed a threshold of $3.00.
The Manual contains the following useful example (paraphrased):
Children’s toys valued at CAN$40 are imported by a resident of Ontario through a CBSA office in Ontario. The goods qualify under the United States Tariff.
The amount of duty is accordingly zero. GST would be $2.00.
Because the amount of the federal duty is less than $3.00, the goods qualify under the wave-through policy, and the individual would not pay the duty.
Officers are only supposed to waive amounts higher than $3.00 in cases where the volume of collections would result in unacceptable delays, when interdiction activities are in progress,Read more ›