Veronique Nguy was caught off guard when a UPS delivery man showed up on her Coquitlam doorstep in December.   She was expecting a gift to be delivered but instead got stuck with paying a huge bill.

A wedding gift sent by a friend in Michigan ended up costing her $84 dollars.

“We were surprised. We didn’t expect that we’d have to pay so much for a gift!” Nguy exclaimed, “I know we have to pay duties and taxes but I wouldn’t expect that I would have to pay so much for a gift.”

The delivery guy presented her with an invoice in order for her to receive the package, so she paid it. 

The glass frame was worth about $230 and had to clear customs and UPS did that for her.  However, no duty was assessed - only GST of about $20.  The extra charges came from the $60 brokerage fee added on by the courier and the GST on that service. 

“Very unfair,” Nguy said.

She immediately contacted McLaughlin on Your Side to warn others about it.

Couriers like UPS and FedEx are part of a government program to help speed up the delivery of low value shipments - goods worth less than $2500.

The brokerage fees generally apply to regular ground shipments and cover the costs of processing the paperwork and paying the taxes and duties to the Canada Border Services Agency. The fees are calculated on the value of the product being shipped and can be as much as $100.

However, there is a way to avoid those extra charges by self- clearing the package and dealing directly with CBSA.

To self-clear

- refuse delivery and advise the courier that you will pay duties and/or taxes directly to CBSA

- write down the unique shipment identification/tracking number.  The shipment will be returned to the courier’s warehouse for a limited period of time

- visit a local CBSA office that offers accounting services to the public. There are six in British Columbia.  Click here for locations 

- You will need the shipment identification/tracking number, the commercial invoice (receipt), and personal identification when you visit the CBSA.

- You will be given an official receipt indicating that you have paid duties and/or taxes paid to the CBSA.

- A copy of this receipt must be presented to the courier, either in person or by fax, at which time receipt or delivery of the shipment may be arranged.

UPS told CTV News that customers do have the option to self-clear and it will provide the email address or fax number if customers call 1-800-PICK-UPS.

If that seems like a lot of work then you may opt to pay the brokerage fee but at least you should know that you have a choice.

Shipping international packages by regular post is another way to avoid high brokerage fees.  Canada Post charges $9.95 on all dutiable or taxable mail and has arrangements with postal services in other countries such as the United State Postal Service for clearing packages.

If you are ordering online you may end up having to accept the package by the shipping method used by the company from which you are ordering.  But remember you have choice to self-clear to avoid extra fees.

And if you are sending a gift a gift to someone you can also prepay the duty and taxes and brokerage fees.  FedEx told CTV News that it offers that service as a courtesy to its customers. 

“Billing the shipper is a very common practice within the industry, particularly for personal shipments, where the shipper does not want those charges to be billed to the consignee,” said FedEx Communications Specialist James Anderson.   

UPS Brokerage fees

FedEx Brokerage fee  

DHL Brokerage fees

Duty and Taxes Estimator