Many of our customers are curious about the legalities, legwork, costs and paperwork of shipping electronics, like iPhones to and from Canada/the USA. Both countries have long-standing free trade agreements, formerly NAFTA, now USCMA which generally make cross-border shipping easier and cheaper.
Electronics are shipped across borders all the time, sometimes the deals are just better or certain devices are more readily available in one country than the other. However, as electronics tend to carry higher price tags than say, t-shirts, this means their details and declared value in shipping documentation needs to reflect that. Because of USCMA, products with a value of less than $150 CDN are free of duty. No duties or taxes will be applied if the total parcel value is below certain thresholds. For example, the Gift value threshold is $200.
This is called the “duty-free threshold”. Via the CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency), the duty rules are as follows:
Duty and tax exemptions on goods
For a shipment imported by mail, the following still applies:
- $20 and under: duty and tax free when imported from any country
- Above $20: duties and taxes apply when imported from any
country, including the US and Mexico
For a shipment imported by courier (most of our BorderBuddy clients)
- Imported from any country (other than the US and Mexico)
- Up to $20: duty and tax free
- Above $20: duties and taxes apply, excluding the US and Mexico
- Imported from the US and Mexico
- Up to $40: duty and tax free
- Above $40 to $150: duty free, but taxes still apply
- Above $150: duties and taxes apply
Thus – most electronics will not qualify for the duty-free threshold, and will need crystal clear descriptions in their (lading bill? Import doc?). Their value – which will increase the cost of importing/exporting will be higher, but it’s important to be honest, in case your shipment gets lost or damaged in transport.
Via the US Customs Border Protection (CBP), If you are sending a gift to the US then declare the item as an unsolicited gift on the invoice, along with its complete description and value. Make sure to send your gift to a residential address and not a US business address, otherwise, you will have to pay duties and taxes. The Formal Clearance threshold is $2,500. This means that if your shipment is worth over $2,500, it will be subject to delays as it goes through formal clearance.
Electronics – it pays to be precise
The import of electronics is governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). When sending electronics to America, the FCC requires an additional form for customs clearance. This must be completed by the sender and confirms that the electronics being sent abide by the FCC standards of import. The form should be completed and attached with the customs invoice for the parcel. BorderBuddy agents are here to help every step of the way, and we find that especially with sending costly electronics, our customers appreciate having a human agent walk them through the process.
Packaging & labeling your electronics for shipping
Electronics tend to be fragile, and costly. Packaging them securely to mitigate humidity and sudden movements is important. This is a handy checklist for secure packaging:
- Customs Invoice for your shipment. This document will determine how much tax and duties you will need to pay – so ensure it is completed properly and clearly.
- Accurately describe each item included in the package. Include relevant details – for example, if it’s a mobile phone, say the make and model.
- Remove as many parts of the device as possible and place them in a secure (like Ziploc) bag
- Wrap the main body into several layers of bubble wrap and use tape to secure it
- Fill the shipping box with packing material and place the wrapped component inside. For environmentally-conscious packing, you could try balled up old newsprint instead of styrofoam.
- Put the smaller parts of the device you wrapped earlier and use foam or buffering filler to keep them from touching one another and sliding around.
- Tape the box using heavy-duty tape
For all electronics (and packages) destined for Canada, customs entry forms must be made. For express and postal shipments, a “Customs Entry Preparation Fee” must be paid, included and documented. The same applies for parcels shipped by ground to the USA.