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I'll be visiting Canada soon and would like to order some used stuff from American sellers on eBay to my AirBnb. Shipping seems to be cheap but I'm a bit confused on how import taxes work at the post office - would I simply pay a fee when retrieving the package or is it a complicated procedure that takes a lot of paperwork?

If it matters I'm planning to buy a tripod and some camera lenses.

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You won't typically pay duty on these packages, but you will pay taxes (federal and provincial - rate can vary from about 5% to 13% depending on what province you're in), plus a brokerage fee from the organization collecting the taxes.

The brokerage fee will depend on the method of sending the package. Canada Post is generally best and most predictable, charging $8 (a package from the US would have to be sent USPS to get delivered by Canada Post). UPS and FedEx charge wildly variable brokerage fees - particularly UPS, where the fees can be tens to hundreds of dollars if the package is valuable. UPS' most expensive overnight shipping does not charge this fee, but of course the shipping fee is less reasonable. FedEx charges more predictable fees, but it will depend on the specific method you use.

Another option is to order from B&H Photo Video, which has made arrangements to pre-collect your Canadian taxes, so the package will arrive without any additional fees.

When the fees are payable, they are collected when the package is delivered. There is minimal bother other than being available to pay.

It is possible to clear your own package through Customs,if you use FedEx or UPS, and I know some people who have done this, but it will add some delay in getting your package, although it will save you the brokerage fee.

With Canada Post, packages valued at under $25 Cdn come in without any charges. Sometimes the package can be significantly more valuable and you will get it tax-free.

One final option: if you will have a rental car, you can have the packages delivered to a package service in a US border town, and go get the packages. Expect to pay federal/provincial tax still, but no brokerage fee (you're the broker). Package services generally have a per-package fee to accept your packages.

Finally, of course, if you buy from a Canadian seller, you won't pay any tax at all unless the seller is a retail establishment.

  • I will order USPS from the eBay sellers and the $8 fee is okay. Do you happen to know how they assess the tax though? Would I first receive an envelope asking for a copy of the payment bill or would they use the information on the package? – JonathanReez Supports Monica Dec 25 '17 at 16:21
  • @JonathanReez They will usually use the information the seller declares, however at times they will open the package and verify that they seem to be sensible given what the seller declared. They then put a printed multi-part carbon form on the package stating the tax and fee due. The letter carrier will collect it from you at dropoff, or if you're not there, put a card so you can pick it up at a nearby postal outlet and pay there. You get your package when you pay. If you disagree with the tax assessment, you can appeal it either by refusing the package for appeal, or paying then mailing. – Jim MacKenzie Dec 25 '17 at 18:42
  • ... cont'd. I've done appeals three times (due to the seller not declaring value and the post office having to guess, or making currency conversion errors). I got cheques back refunding the overpayment within two or three weeks in all three cases, without any questions. (I had ample evidence, e.g. printed out an eBay auction, explained currency error, etc.) – Jim MacKenzie Dec 25 '17 at 18:43
  • For completeness: some items aren't taxable, e.g. I sometimes order looseleaf tea from overseas. It's a grocery item, therefore free of all taxes, and arrives without me needing to pay any fees. – Jim MacKenzie Dec 25 '17 at 18:45

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