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Importers: What to Know About the New Customs Portal

Michelle Auger

Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)

Michelle Auger is a Senior Policy Analyst for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Since joining CFIB in 2015, Michelle has assisted hundreds of small business owners in resolving complex federal issues.

Interview with Michelle Auger, Senior Policy Analyst at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), on Canada’s new system for paying duties and taxes and why it’s important for small businesses to get registered to ensure their goods are not delayed at the border.

What is CARM and what is it meant to do?

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Assessment and Revenue Management System (CARM) will be the official system that all importers must use to pay duties and taxes. Any business importing commercial goods into Canada will need to register and use the portal to do business internationally.

Recently, CARM’s public launch for trade chain partners was rescheduled from May to October 2024. This was a welcome decision given that only a quarter of small- and medium-sized businesses involved in trade are currently registered with CARM. Our data shows that most importers are simply not aware of the portal’s existence, so it’s important to raise awareness and give them more time to get familiar with the system.

Does the frequency of importing matter?

Whether you’re importing only once a year or every week, the portal is mandatory and will be the go-to system used by all importers. Our survey found that nearly half of small businesses don’t import that often, about once or twice a year, so having to learn and use CARM when they’re rarely involved in trade in the first place can be overwhelming and time-consuming.

Small firms should have enough time, help and resources to navigate the new system, so there are no supply chain issues and delays at borders. Otherwise, with a lack of awareness and expertise, they’re also put at a competitive disadvantage and are more likely to make mistakes which could result in hefty penalties and non-compliance.

What should CBSA do to ensure the system’s smooth transition for small importers?

From the onset, we’ve been asking the agency for better communication in a plain language that an average business owner can understand. We’ve also asked for more education so that businesses understand the significant changes and what’s happening once the system kicks in in October 2024. Businesses are not experts in customs procedure, so we would also welcome alternative options, such as allowing a broker to manage all CARM functionalities within the portal on their behalf, especially for those small businesses that do not engage in trade on a regular basis. 

Where can small businesses go to learn more about CARM?

CFIB also hosted a webinar with CBSA on a step-by-step registration process. The webinar can be watched here.

Want to learn more about CARM? Check out CFIB’s webinar with CBSA on a step-by-step registration process.

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