How to Import Used Equipment From Canada

Understand customs requirements before importing goods into the U.S.
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Importing any good into the United States requires meticulous paperwork, adherence to regulation, and persistence in following up with government officials to ensure that your shipment clears Customs -- both in the U.S. and Canada -- and any other government agency's requirements. Added to that challenge is the North American Free Trade Agreement, known by its acronym NAFTA; many people assume incorrectly that their item qualifies for duty-free NAFTA treatment. Always do your research and double check your information. Even when you hire a Customs Broker, as the importer you are ultimately responsible for what you tell the government you are importing.

Review your paperwork for accuracy.

Gather all your paperwork together. In particular, you will need all paperwork relating to the purchase of the equipment. At a minimum, include the following:

-Purchaser of goods

-Type of currency that was used for the transaction: U.S. dollars, Canadian dollars, or another currency.

-International commercial terms of shipment

-Complete name and address of the manufacturer

-Country of origin of the shipment, which may or may not be the same as where it was manufactured.

Decide whether you need help. There are many regulations that need to be adhered to when importing goods into the United States. It is strongly advised that you not attempt this on your own; instead hire a licensed Customs Broker. A Customs Broker can assist you with filling out the paperwork, filing it with the Canadian and U.S. governments, acting as a liaison between you and government officials, and possibly assisting with arranging transportation.

A licensed Customs Broker can be your guide through all the international regulations in the import world.

Research Customs Brokers before choosing who to hire. Consider the following factors when deciding on with which Customs Broker to hire:

How much experience does the Customs Broker have with importing goods into the U.S. from Canada?

How familiar is he with NAFTA?

How familiar is he with classifying the equipment, and, as such, determining the correct duty rate and deciding if any other government agencies need to be involved when your shipment arrives at the border?

What other extras can he offer you? For example, can he issue a bond on your behalf, which would act as an insurance on the value of the goods you are importing? Or can he assist with arranging transportation to your city?

Ignorance is not a valid defense in a legal dispute with the government.

Become familiar with export and import laws. Familiarize yourself with the regulations of both the Canadian and U.S. governments regarding exporting and importing.


  • If you don't know something, say that rather than guess. Better to be honest than to lie. If you are found to be wrong, you may be found guilty of intentionally misleading the government.


  • If there are any problems with the paperwork, e.g., missing information or misspellings of any kind, now is the time to make corrections. It's easier to correct things now, than when your items are stuck at the U.S. and Canada border.
  • Even if this is the simplest of transactions -- for example you are importing a small household item of minimal value that you already own -- contacting a Customs Broker can help ensure that everything goes smoothly. Remember, often the penalty for mistakes is three times the value of the shipment.
  • To find a customs broker near you, go to the "Ports of Entry" link in the "Resources" section of this article. Click on your state, and then click on the city that has the words "Service Port" next to it. Under the "Port Information" section will be a link to the brokers with offices in your state.
  • Don't assume that just because your item is leaving Canada and coming into the U.S. that it automatically qualifies for duty-free treatment under NAFTA.
  • Put everything in writing. Customs Brokers and government officials are human and may forget something you've told them. Creating an email trail will help you in proving your case.

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