In comparison to the corporate sector and, because of the range of goods imported and exported, universities are considered to be the most complex of entities when it comes to dealing with customs requirements.  This range of goods varies all the time and includes many one time orders of specialized equipment from numerous suppliers.  Further, many of the goods are controlled substances, agricultural products and biologicals, so there are a host of other regulatory agency compliance issues to consider.  The activities of a university are diverse; goods can be used for teaching, research, manufacturing or retail operations, all of which have an impact on how the goods are ordered and ultimately cleared through the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

The University of Saskatchewan, as the Importer of Record, is responsible for customs clearance of goods crossing the Canadian border.  All goods, including provision of services, destined for the university are reported to CBSA through a customs broker.  Power of attorney to clear customs shipments, prepare customs documentation, and pay duties and taxes on our behalf has been assigned to the university's contracted customs broker - Thompson, Ahern & Co. Ltd. (TACO).  TACO coordinates with university client departments to ensure that university shipments are cleared and released according to regulatory requirements. 

In recent years, both the Canadian and American governments have redefined the relationship between customs and the importers / exporters.  As an importer and exporter, new customs policies have broadened responsibilities regarding the legal obligation to properly account for all imports and exports.  Customs regulations are enforced via the Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS) as a means of ensuring greater border security.

AMPS allows CBSA to penalize not only importers, but also suppliers, exporters, carriers and customs brokers who are not in compliance.  Previous sanctions for customs violations took the form of seizures, ascertained forfeiture and criminal prosecution.  AMPS on the other hand, provides for a system of graduated fines that is meant to be more flexible and fair. 

Clearing your shipments through customs has never been more complex.  Even minor errors and oversights can attract hefty AMPS fines and result in costly shipment delays.

Similarly, goods shipped from the university to destinations outside of Canada may have specific documentation requirements, depending on the country.

Problem Areas

Valuation - Many goods are purposely undervalued by the shipper who think they are doing us a favour or don't know Canadian customs regulations.  These can include books or manuscripts for review, x-rays, gifts, awards, software, samples and unsolicited "free" goods.

Samples and "Free" Goods - These types of goods are difficult to monitor and control, but must be treated the same as any commercial goods.  See Samples and "Free" Goods - Customs Requirements.

Personal shipments - The university is held legally responsible for all shipments originating outside Canada and addressed to the University of Saskatchewan.  Failure to meet customs compliance could result in a suspension of the university's import and export privileges.  See Shipping Personal Goods from Outside Canada to the University of Saskatchewan.

How can you avoid AMPS penalties?

Effective management of the customs process is a shared responsibility.  Listed below are ways in which YOU can help to avoid AMPS penalties:

  • Fair market value of the goods, including samples, stated on customs documentation.
  • ­If the goods are for replacement or repaired items, include a statement indicating whether the repair or replacement is chargeable or under warranty.  A fair market value for chargeable items must be declared.
  • Accurate description of the goods stated on customs documentation.
  • Country of manufacture (origin) is correctly stated.  For example, goods manufactured in Malaysia but shipped from the U.S., means that the country of origin is Malaysia.
  • Samples and "free" goods are treated as commercial goods with proper valuation and a detailed description.
  • Accurate information such as description, classification, valuation, and quantity on purchase orders, PCard orders, and import and export documentation.
  • When using a PCard for purchasing goods from outside of Canada, send the supplier the instruction form Shipments to Canada Instructions for Credit Card Purchases.
  • Send all NAFTA Certificates of Origin to Purchasing Services.  Identify the purchase order number if applicable, or type of goods if purchased via a method other than a purchase order, along with your contact information.
  • Maintain all paperwork relating to imports and exports for a period of seven (7) years for non purchase order / PCard shipments.
  • Samples should be ordered with a purchase order or by using a PCard and checked for appropriate descriptions and valuation.
  • Direct all courier requests for customs clearance privileges to the university customs broker -Thompson, Ahern & Co. Ltd. (TACO).  The university has assigned power of attorney for customs clearance to TACO.
  • Sign only for deliveries of shipments you have ordered or are expecting.  By signing for a parcel, you are accepting total liability for all potential related charges including taxes, duty and brokerage fees.
  • Provide prompt responses to TACO queries as they must meet CBSA timelines for customs clearance.
  • Notify Purchasing Services if you are aware of any supplier that consistently undervalues goods or engages in business processes that causes customs compliance problems for the university.
  • Provide proof of export for goods returning to Canada.  This proof may be in the form of outbound bills of lading, export documents, foreign consumption entries, etc. 

Simply put, CBSA wants to see that what was ordered matches with what was declared and what was received and paid for.  Any discrepancies, including returned goods due to errors or damage, require a customs amendment and should be reported to Purchasing Services.


University of Saskatchewan
Purchasing Services
Gord DeClerq
Tel:  (306) 966-6713
Fax: (306) 966-8342
Email: gord.declerq@usask.ca

Thompson, Ahern & Co. Ltd.
6299 Airport Road, Suite 506
Mississauga, ON L4V 1N3
Tel: 1-866-778-4460
Tax: 1-866-769-4760
Email: usask@taco.ca