Consequences of Not Declaring at Customs

Declaring customs is an obligation for all travellers entering Canada, including commercial entities. The CBSA has the authority to apply legal measures if you fail to meet the customs declaration requirements.

Regardless of your status in Canada, or your use of a Trusted Traveller card you possess to expedite the customs procedure at border crossing points, you must declare imported goods and monetary instruments.

Certain goods for personal use, such as alcohol or tobacco in reasonable amounts, as well as currency in an amount less than CAN$10,000, are exempted from customs fees under specific circumstances, but they still need to be declared.


Goods Seizure, Penalties, and Infractions

Failing to do so may result in consequences such as seizure and penalties, as well as a poor traveller’s record since the CBSA maintains a record of infractions for customs offences and can use them to restrict person’s rights and freedoms for future travel.

Commercial importers may end up with infractions such as smuggling or under-valuation on record, but unlawful activities made by individual travellers also poorly affect a traveller record and may be an indication that they can be repeated. Therefore, CBSA will closely monitor your future entries, resulting in many delays.


Loss of NEXUS and CANPASS Privileges

The most common example of giving away your privileges on top of the monetary fines and seizure of goods is losing your eligibility to apply or hold one of the cards with travel privileges, such as NEXUS or CANPASS.

You will need to undergo detailed checks every time you find yourself at a border crossing point due to the fact that your previous unlawful behaviour has been recorded by the CBSA and you may not be able to use the privileges of digitization, such as online customs declaration and e-customs, as well as the convenience of border crossing point kiosks.


How Much Are the Penalties for Falsely Declared or Undeclared Customs?

The same measures apply if you falsely declare for customs. You will not only lose the goods, but you will also need to pay a penalty that ranges from 25% to 80% of the value of the seized goods. The CBSA makes the penalty assessment on the basis of the type of undeclared or falsely declared goods and the circumstances under which the offence took place. Under certain circumstances, you may need to pay additional interest.


Consequences for Failing to Declare Vehicles, Alcohol, and Tobacco

Under the Customs Act, if you imported a vehicle and didn’t meet the customs declaration requirements, the CBSA will seize it and charges a penalty which you must pay before you can take the vehicle back. Alcohol and tobacco are seized permanently.


Goods with Value Acquired Abroad

You must declare goods that have been changed abroad (for instance, jewellery), by indicating the newly acquired value or you may need to undergo the same penalization as for undeclared goods.


Animals, Harmful, or Impractical Goods

The CBSA enact procedures for selling seized goods, such as animals or goods that may deteriorate due to inadequate keeping, so you can also lose them for good if you don’t declare them. If the goods cause damage by keeping them with the CBSA, they may be destroyed.


Disputes and Appeals to Actions Taken by the CBSA

CBSA has an umbrella system for handling complaints undertaken against unlawful activities at border crossing points. Seizure disputes are just a part of the overall procedural system, which you can use for appeals any time:

  • Goods or monetary instruments were seized.
  • You paid duties, taxes or monetary penalties.
  • Your Trusted Traveller privileges were denied.
  • Goods were prohibited from entry.

The CBSA will issue a seizure receipt form for the undeclared/falsely declared goods. You have the right to dispute CBSA actions within 90 days of seizure. Extensions of this period are possible only under specific circumstances and must be specifically asked for. The directions on how to file a dispute are on the seizure receipt form.


Ministerial Review Request

You don’t have to be the traveller to ask for a seizure review. You also have the right to request a ministerial review if you fall under one of the following categories:

  1. Owner of the seized goods or conveyance.
  2. Payee of the money or security to release seized goods or conveyance.
  3. A person who has been served an ascertained forfeiture.

To submit the review, either online or in writing, follow the process below:

  1. For electronic submissions, visit E-Appeals.
  2. For written submissions, include a written request with the enforcement action and the supportive documentation in favor of your case, and mail the request to the:Recourse Directorate
    Canada Border Services Agency
    333 North River Rd, Tower A, 11th Floor
    Ottawa, ON K1A 0L8
    Fax: 343-291-7239


Review Process Aftermath: What Happens Next?

After the submission of your request for a review, you will receive a confirmation that your request has been received and that a file has been opened. An official from the Recourse Directorate will review your case and the documentation you have submitted.

The next step includes informing you about the law enforcement action in an official report and asking you to provide additional information and documents, which could benefit your case.

From the date you receive this letter of information, you have 30 days to submit new supportive documentation. Whenever a new information is disclosed, it must be done in writing by both parties to ensure fairness and transparency in the process, and an opportunity to respond to the newly emerged details.

Further actions follow the typical legislative procedure for review submissions, in which the Recourse Directorate officials will assess all information provided in the exchange and make a decision according to applicable customs regulations and the evidence provided.

The outcome of the decision, which you will receive in a registered letter, can include one of the following:

  • Decision has been maintained.
  • Decision has been cancelled.
  • Decision has been amended.

The letter will also explain the reasons for the decision and provide directions about steps you can undertake if you are not happy with it, which includes submitting an appeal to the Federal Court of Canada. CBSA can no longer deal with the review request.


Rights at the Border as a NEXUS Card Holder

Biljana Ogenenova
Biljana Ogenenova
Articles: 6