Canada: Canada Border Services Agency Update: Expecting A Customs Audit?", Focus On Tax, June 2011

Last Updated: August 9 2011
Article by Jaime Seidner

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has recently released its 23 "target" national audit priorities for the coming year. In addition to the national audit priorities listed below, the CBSA is also conducting audits of large file importers and other strategic targets. Importers who do not plan for a potential customs audit do so at their own peril.

The following information will highlight some of the current CBSA audit priorities and give some insight into how to prepare for a CBSA audit and manage potential risk from customs duty, punitive interest and penalty assessments that could arise in the event of a negative CBSA audit finding. Proper planning and the implementation of appropriate compliance measures will assist importers in avoiding these potential customs risks.

The Current CBSA Specific Target Audit Priorities

1. Gloves

2. Cotton yarn

3. Furniture parts

4. Organic surface‐active agents – soap and other than soap

5. Copper and articles thereof

6. Stone vs. articles of stone

7. Tools, implements, cutlery, spoons and forks, of base metal; and parts

8. Juice products

9. Textile bags

10. Ski apparel industry

11. Parts of gas turbines industry

12. Light‐duty automotive goods

13. Bulk shipments of ore

14. Plastic household goods

15. Motor car, bus and lorry tire industry

16. Video recording apparatus

17. Pumps for liquids

18. Articles of jewellery and parts thereof

19. Mattress upholstery

20. Electronic generators

21. Vegetable fats and oils

22. Pumps for liquids

23. Cocoa powder


Are you a "Listed Importer" in the Government of Canada's importer database of significant importers, an importer of goods considered national priority audit targets or other strategic CBSA audit target?

Listed and targeted importers are those businesses that import goods into Canada of significant value levels or are a priority from an audit perspective. Large‐volume or high‐value imports of goods present a greater risk from both a revenue and compliance perspective to the CBSA. In addition to their mandate to protect the borders, the CBSA also has a mandate to "protect the revenue."

What is the risk of being a "Listed Importer" or an importer of goods considered national priority audit targets?

Importers should be aware that Canadian customs law requires importers to be compliant with the tariff classification, declared value for duty and origin declared on imports into Canada, amongst other things. Compliance failures could cost businesses additional duties and taxes not to mention penalties and a disrupted supply chain. Being a "Listed Importer" or importer of national priority goods increases the likelihood of a customs audit, and in some cases the audit is more of a certainty as opposed to a likelihood.

Will your business undergo a CBSA Customs Audit?

The CBSA has stated over the years that its goal is to review the compliance levels of its largest "clients" and specific priority targets.

What are the consequences of a CBSA Customs Audit?

Many importers are not prepared for a CBSA audit and may not be currently meeting their customs compliance requirements. In addition to their compliance objectives, many importers are also paying too much duty. A CBSA audit may result in a finding of non‐compliance with customs rules and a negative audit finding, which may result in:

  • Assessments for additional duty & interest
  • A requirement to correct up to four years of previous import declarations
  • Assessments for punitive interest
  • Assessments for the Goods and Services Tax with punitive interest
  • Penalties
  • Increased examinations
  • Supply chain disruptions resulting in additional operating costs and perhaps lost business

What can importers do?

1. Know your risk level: Importers should review the Government of Canada's listing of large file importers to determine if they are included and review if their imports fall within the current national priority audit targets. An importer that is a "Listed Importer" or imports targeted goods has an increased likelihood of being audited by the CBSA. We can assist importers in determining whether they fall under either of these categories.

2. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: It is important to take steps to correct past or ongoing errors in import declarations before receiving notification of a CBSA audit. We can assist importers in performing import compliance assessments to determine if errors have been made in their import declarations. If an error is discovered before the notification of a CBSA audit, the importer can consider making a voluntary disclosure with the CBSA. The filing of a valid voluntary disclosure will normally eliminate both penalties and punitive interest, resulting in significant savings. The commencement of an audit, however, may preclude the use of the voluntary disclosure procedure. We can work with importers to determine if a voluntary disclosure is permitted in the circumstances and if so, to file and complete voluntary disclosures on their behalf.

3. Look for refund opportunities: In addition to identifying errors, importers should be mindful of duty overpayments. We can assist importers in performing a review to determine if opportunities are present in their import declarations, including the filing of refunds.

4. Handle CBSA audits with care: It is important to address a CBSA audit properly and with the right level of attention. To this end, we can assist importers undergoing audits to work towards an efficient and resolution of their file with the CBSA.

5. Design and implement best practices: Either before (preferably) or after an audit, we can work with importers to identify and implement best practices, which will reduce the overall cost of customs compliance going forward.

About Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC)

FMC is one of Canada's leading business and litigation law firms with more than 500 lawyers in six full-service offices located in the country's key business centres. We focus on providing outstanding service and value to our clients, and we strive to excel as a workplace of choice for our people. Regardless of where you choose to do business in Canada, our strong team of professionals possess knowledge and expertise on regional, national and cross-border matters. FMC's well-earned reputation for consistently delivering the highest quality legal services and counsel to our clients is complemented by an ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion to broaden our insight and perspective on our clients' needs. Visit:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.