Sunday, 13 March 2011

Part 1: The Setup

This is part of an ongoing series of posts starting here.

On February 25th, 2011 my wife ordered a golf practice net from as a birthday present for me. It was sold and shipped from a vendor in the United States. She was given a shipping choice of either UPS Ground or UPS Express. Ground was significantly cheaper but it was also slower.  Since I had just had heart surgery and wasn't planning on swinging a golf club for a few weeks anyways, it was the obvious choice.

A few days later, around March 1st, I decided to look and see what the status of the shipment was. I hadn't seen anything about it at all to this point. All I knew was I was going to have a new golf practice net soon. My wife had forwarded me the Amazon receipt so I opened it to look for a tracking number.

Uh oh, a UPS Ground tracking number and it was being shipped from the US. I hadn't ordered anything from the US in a long time and certainly nothing shipped via UPS but I knew, for some reason, that UPS was bad news in this case. Something to do with customs... It took me a few minutes and a bit of web surfing to remember the specifics of the issue.

The Canadian UPS website confirmed and detailed my worst fear. UPS Ground shipments incur a brokerage fee based on value of the shipment. In my case, it was around $40.

If you take away only one thing from this blog, make it be this:
The UPS brokerage fee IS NOT a tax or duty levied by the government for importation. It is a service charge from UPS for acting as your broker in the customs clearing process. Taxes, duties and other levies charged by the government are on top of that. Oh, and you get to pay GST on that brokerage fee too. If for no other reason, this blog exists to publicize this fact.

Armed with the certainty that the internet would be as upset about this practice as I was, I set to searching the web for a way to either avoid this brokerage fee or somehow reduce it. I found a few pages that seemed to share a core set of instructions that sounded promising and went from there.


This blog is not legal advice. It is a diary of my own experience and research. You cannot avoid paying legal duties and taxes on goods imported into Canada. This is not about avoiding taxes or duties. In fact, part of this process is paying them as required directly to a customs agent. This is about avoiding the UPS brokerage fee which is nothing more than a ridiculously large service charge paid directly to UPS for a service you neither asked for nor necessarily require.

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