Start an Import-Export Business in Canada

In this article, we have discussed about import-export business in Canada. We have also explained about key elements of import-export business in Canada. So let get started.


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    Table of Contents

    Import-Export Business in Canada

    Canada, with its vast landscapes, diverse population, and strategic geographic location, stands as a key player in the realm of international trade. The nation’s strong economy, supported by an abundant supply of natural resources and a thriving industrial sector, positions it as a significant exporter and importer on the global stage. In Canada, the import-export industry represents a dynamic interaction of market trends, technology breakthroughs, and cultural exchanges in addition to the simple act of moving commodities over international borders. If you are an importer or exporter operating in Canada, there are critical aspects you need to master to navigate the ever-evolving landscape successfully. 

    In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key elements that import-export businesses in Canada must have at their fingertips, to ensure smooth operations and regulatory compliance.

    Elements of Import-Export Business in Canada

    Here are Some of the elements of Import-Export Business in Canada are as follows:

    GST/HST Number

    One of the foremost requirements for importers and exporters is a GST/HST (Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax) number. It’s more than simply a number; it’s your ticket to legal operations. You’ll need this number for invoicing, receipts, and various documents required by the CRA, especially when applying for Purchase Tax Credits (ITC). Without it, you risk running afoul of the law.

    The Value of Document Duplication

    Document duplication is more than a precaution in the world of international trade; it is a need. Duplicate invoices, receipts, and other essential documentation must be maintained diligently. These duplicates become your lifeline when you’re claiming GST/HST paid through ITC. It’s all about ensuring transparency and accuracy in your financial records.

    Registering for a Business Number

    When you venture into the import and export realm, obtaining a business number is imperative. The RC1 form is your starting point in this journey. Don’t forget to list all of your business names while filling out this form. The name you provide on customs clearance forms and invoices must align with the one on file. Any discrepancy could lead to your goods being held up at the border, causing substantial delays and potential financial losses.

    Accounting Services Tailored to You

    At OnDemand International, we bring years of experience in serving import and export companies. Our expertise extends to preparing financial statements, filing business taxes, and managing GST/HST returns. Your business relies on accurate financial data, and we excel in providing the best accounting solutions for your unique needs.

    The Pitfalls of Inadequate Knowledge

    One common pitfall in the import-export business is jumping in without proper prior knowledge. Each country has its own set of tax rules, and Canada is no exception. GST/HST regulations can be particularly intricate. As a result, many firms are failing to keep their financial records and meet their CRA tax requirements.

    Meeting GST/HST Obligations

    If your import and export business crosses certain thresholds, you may be required to register for GST/HST. This obligation entails three key responsibilities:

    • Charging, collecting, and remitting GST/HST on Canadian taxable supplies.
    • Submitting GST/HST returns regularly.
    • The ability to claim Input Tax Credits (ITC) on purchases to recoup GST/HST paid or payable.

    To meet these requirements, your GST/HST number must be prominently displayed on invoices and receipts. Thorough record-keeping, including copies of invoices and receipts, is essential for claiming Purchase Tax Credits (ITC).

    Registering for an Import-Export Program Account

    You’ll need an Import-Export Program account to import or export products or services. The CRA uses this account number to process customs documents. Your CRA responsibilities may include reporting shipments, accounting for your goods, paying taxes and customs fees, and more. To get started, fill out Form RC1 – Application for Company Number and Certain Programme Accounts. This form should include all company names that may appear on customs clearance forms and other documents such as invoices. 

    Empowering Your Business with OnDemand International

    At OnDemand International, We specialise in preparing financial statements, corporate tax returns, and GST/HST returns for import and export enterprises. Our commitment goes beyond data entry; we understand the intricacies of import-export processes and the CRA’s import-export account program requirements. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your accounting functions as an import and export business, OnDemand International is your trusted partner to regain control and ensure financial compliance.


    Mastering the art of import-export business in Canada demands meticulous attention to detail, adherence to regulatory requirements, and a deep understanding of the financial aspects of your business. OnDemand International is here to provide you with expert guidance and accounting services that can make a significant difference in your success as an importer or exporter. With our support, you can confidently navigate the complex world of international trade, ensuring your business thrives while staying in full compliance with the CRA. Reach out to us, and let’s embark on this journey together.


     The CBSA is the government agency in charge of implementing Canada's customs and border procedures, including the processing of imports and exports, collecting customs charges, and ensuring that no unlawful or dangerous items enter or leave the country.

    While there is no special licence required to start an import-export firm in Canada, you may need to obtain a business number (BN) from the CBSA if you plan to conduct business as an importer or exporter.

    By enrolling with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), you can get a BN. Once you have a BN, you can open an account with the import-export programme.

    The bill of lading, commercial invoice, and customs declaration are examples of common paperwork. Specific restrictions may differ depending on the nature of commodities and their final destination.