THE CORRECT WAY
Once submitted on landing, these personal effects will be allowed into Canada duty free if or when you finally decide to ship it.
(Of course there are the usual not allowed stuff, like illegal drugs and deadly weapons.)
I should have completed this Form B4. Bigger equipment such as TVs and computers, I should have recorded with model and serial numbers. All others I would have just lumped together into major buckets — assorted clothes, assorted furniture, dishes and utensils, books, assorted equipment / appliances, miscellaneous. Just lump them into major groups.
I should have made an estimate on the value of each item or bucket, based on an estimate on how much I could actually expect to sell it for, IF I were to sell it today. But that’s so difficult, like how do I place a value on used clothes and used books?
As an alternative, I should have used a rule of thumb for personal effects valuation at about $5 per pound weight. This amount, I was told, is considered “acceptable and works well” with customs. Also bear in mind that since all these stuff are allowed duty free if declared on landing anyway, the actual value you place on your stuff does not really matter.
I should have completed the Form B4 as described above, and given it to the Immigration Officer upon landing.
But I didn’t. I guess because I wasn’t really sure if I will make it here. I mean, what if I decide to go back home? And where would I put it all if I didn’t yet have a house? I guess I was too busy with actually preparing to leave. I guess because the form seemed so … complicated, especially if I had to list down the personal effects in detail, rather than into a few buckets. I guess because I didn’t know how to place a value on it, so I kept on postponing until it was too late as I was already leaving. So many … excuses. :-)
Bottom line, I didn’t. On hindsight, given the above rules of thumb, it shouldn’t be too complicated.
HOW I DID IT INSTEAD
You can also expect the Canadian side movers to deliver and unpack the boxes, AND bring them to exactly where you want them placed within your house. Door to door, and more.
It was professional but expensive. For 12 cubic meters of stuff, I paid almost USD$7,000 including EVAT. Still, I guess you get what you pay for.
My stuff was packed in early April 2014, shipped in early May 2014 and arrived in Calgary in late July 2014. That was fine, I was in no hurry.
I was in Manila at the time so I saw how things were packed. I was given a copy of the inventory list (with a brief description of each of my 58 boxes, including serial numbers for a TV, a karaoke and a PC). I was also instructed to declare to Canadian Customs that I had “goods to follow” when I returned to Canada a few days later.
When my shipment arrived in Calgary about 3 months later, I was emailed some documents by the Calgary office of Crown for presenting to the Customs office. I went to the Customs office and was surprised at the set-up. It was like a bank lobby, clean and air-conditioned, with comfortable chairs. The uniformed Customs officers were behind counters that looked like bank counters.
I was immediately called to a counter, and I presented the documents from Crown, basically an inventory listing plus another shipping document.
I was then asked for the Form B4. Arggghhhh!! Of course I didn’t have it.
“I don’t have one.”
‘You mean you didn’t present one of these … “, showing me a copy of the blank form, “… to immigration when you landed?”
“Well, you should have. Now I will have to assess taxes.”
“I realize that.”
Seeing that I knew taxes were coming and I was cool about it, she then advised;
“Let’s keep this simple”, and she wrote on the back of a piece of paper. “I want you to estimate the value of your shipment broken down into these five categories.”
She had written five categories — clothes, furniture, books, dishes, appliances — and briefly explained what fell under each.
Before going to the Customs Office, I told the Crown rep in Calgary that I didn’t know how to place a value on my personal effects. I was then advised that a personal effects valuation of $5 / pound weight “is acceptable and works well”. Since my shipping documents showed I had about 1,200 pounds of personal effects, I decided to split a CAD$6,000 declaration into the different buckets. (Actually, I didn’t think it was worth $6,000, but I dreaded having to argue valuation with Customs, so … $5/pound it is.)
A few minutes later, I received an assessment for about $600. It’s the price I paid for not preparing my Form B4 when I first landed. I thought it would be higher. I pay for it and get a receipt. The Customs Officer places a copy of my processed documents in a box intended for Crown.
Nice. A simple transaction.
Three days later, all my stuff were delivered at my home, and I’m happy.
Lessons learned? Do your Form B4 and have it ready with you on landing. If not, you will have to pay some taxes at Customs, although paying taxes turned out to be a simple, bank-like transaction in an air-conditioned professional office. No haggling, no fixers, no open drawers, no stress.
And Crown Relocations? Well, I usually try not to endorse a business in this blog, but this time, I will give credit where credit is due.
Yes, call them. They did great work for me.
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