Three Pieces of Advice for Small Business Importers
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Three Pieces of Advice for Small Business Importers

As a customs broker, I’m asked by small businesses all the time what’s involved in importing products into Canada. 

Unfortunately, as much as I wish I could tell them “it’s as easy as 1-2-3,” importing is a complex puzzle involving multiple pieces – even for small businesses. Every importer’s situation, business type, and type of goods can lead to different answers!

Below I’ve outlined the three most important pieces of advice I give to small business owners when they ask about importing – and I’ve included links to more detailed articles that provide more in-depth answers to your importing questions.

1. Correct, Accurate Documentation Is Critical

I always tell small business owners, incorrect documentation is the number one reason your goods get delayed at the border. The truth is, there’s a lot of paperwork that comes with importing, and mistakes happen – especially if filling out customs documents isn’t something you do every day.

My advice to importers is A) learn the documents you need to complete with every shipment; and B) work with a customs broker to ensure they’re accurate and complete.

Learn more about the required documents and how to complete them in the customs documents simplified guide.

2. Classifying Your Goods Correctly Can save Time and Money

I often find importers don’t realize the impact classification can have on their goods – and it’s not surprising, considering how complex the classification process can be. Applying the correct classification number to whatever you are importing tells Customs the make-up of your goods at first sight and will assist the customs release process. 

Beyond simple classification, though, there are preferential tariff treatments that, when properly applied, can reduce the amount of duty you have to pay on certain imports.

Ultimately, working with a customs broker – one with experience in classification and tariff treatments – is the best way to ensure your goods are classified correctly. 

You can download a tariff classification and preferential treatments guide for more detailed information about each of these.

3. Treat Your Customs Broker as a Business Partner

As a small business owner, you’re focused on running your business; you don’t have the time to learn the ins and outs of customs documentation or tariff classification. That’s where your customs broker comes in.

There are plenty of customs brokers available that offer clearance services and more, but of course, not all brokers are created equal.

As I always remind importers, your broker is a key partner in your supply chain; since getting your goods on time and on budget is vital to the success of your business, it’s important to work with a broker that understands your business, and offers services – or custom solutions – to meet your needs. 

Wondering what questions you need to ask to ensure your broker is meeting your needs? See the five ways to get the best service from your customs broker guide for tips on how to build a solid relationship with your customs broker.

For More Information

For more importing tips, please visit Livingston’s small business center online or call 1-800-837-1063.

About Stéphan Galarneau

Stéphan Galarneau has been with Livingston since 2001, and has been leading the overall management and performance of the company’s small business services group in Canada since 2011. He ensures that the group delivers high-quality client service to small businesses and clients with lower shipment volumes, helping them move their goods quickly, efficiently and compliantly. With more than 20 years of industry experience, Stéphan is well-versed in all aspects of importing, exporting and logistics.

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