Many importers in Canada want to minimize the risk of an
assessment of customs duties for getting a tariff classification
incorrect. If an importer or exporter or foreign producer of goods
cannot figure out how the Canada Border Services Agency
("CBSA") would classify a good for customs duty tariff
classification purposes, sometimes the best thing to do is to ask
The process by which an importer would request the CBSA's
views is by way of an advance tariff classification ruling. An
advance tariff classification ruling provides certainty to the
importer as to how the CBSA would a classify the good. However, it
should be noted that asking the question of the CBSA opens the
importer to the possibility receiving an answer with a higher rate
of duty – that is, an answer the importer does not like.
That being said, when an importer applies for an advance tariff
classification ruling, the importer is in a position to provide the
CBSA with all the good evidence in support of the importer's
best case scenario (that is, the classification that leads to the
lower duty rate). The importer has the opportunity to tell the CBSA
what it should think. In the context of an audit or verification,
the CBSA may get ideas in their own minds and it can be more
difficult to change their point of view. In the context on an
advance tariff classification ruling, the importer may have a
better opportunity to persuade the CBSA (unless the CBSA has
considered the issue before and is known to have a different point
The following persons may apply for an advance tariff
classification ruling from the CBSA:
An importer in Canada;
A non-resident exporter;
A non-resident producer of the goods
in question; or
A person who is authorized to account
for the imported goods in question, e.g. a customs lawyer or
An advance tariff classification ruling request can be prepared
in letter format (that is, there isn't a prescribed form to
compete). The CBSA asks that the advance ruling request
include the following information:
Your name and address;
Your business number (if
A statement that you are the
importer, exporter, producer or authorized representative;
The name and telephone number of a
contact person who has full knowledge of the request;
The principal ports of entry through
which the goods will be imported;
A statement noting whether the item
is, or has been, the subject of a verification of tariff
classification, an administrative review or appeal, a judicial or
quasi-judicial review, a request for a national customs ruling or
other advice, or a request for an advance ruling;
Whether the goods have previously
been imported into Canada;
A full description of the goods,
including trade names, or their commercial, common or technical
The composition of the goods;
The process by which the goods are
A description of the packaging;
The anticipated use of the
The manufacturer's product
Drawings and/or photographs;
The tariff classification you
consider appropriate and your rationale.
In addition, you can provide any evidence that you feel is
relevant, including expert's reports, test results,
testimonials, U.S. classification rulings, information from
government standards bodies, information from other government
bodies who enforce laws governing the goods, statements from the
For more information about what the CBSA expects in an advance
tariff classification ruling request, please refer to D-Memorandum D11-11-3.
As a general rule, the CBSA processes the advance tariff
classification ruling request within 120 calendar days. If
additional information is required, the CBSA will notify you in
writing, and you will be given a period of 30 calendar days to
provide the required information.
Based on our experience, there is benefit to working with a
customs lawyer to prepare the advance ruling request. It costs a
lot more money (and involves more human resources) to appeal an
unfavourable ruling to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.
While this can still happen, the risk of a misunderstanding is
reduced if you carefully prepare the advance tariff classification
ruling request. If you obtain a favourable ruling, the savings of
customs duties can start sooner.
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.
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While that agreement mandated export measures on Canadian softwood lumber exports destined for the United States, it also protected those lumber exports from the potential imposition of onerous import measures by the U.S.
On September 29, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its first tariff classification decision since Canada signed the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System in 1998.
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