Hospitals, universities and other organizations in the Life Sciences field should be aware of the important need for accurate and specific invoice descriptions at the time of import on goods such as human blood or animal blood prepared for therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic uses; antisera and other blood fractions and modified immunological products; vaccines, toxins, cultures of microorganisms, and similar products.
In the last few months we have been experiencing an increasing level of enforcement from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) of the requirement for specific commodity descriptions on invoice documentation at the time of import for goods such as the foregoing where the origin of the material is required (e.g., human, synthetic, bovine, avian, etc.) This information is necessary both to properly classify the goods under the Harmonized System (HS) based Customs Tariff and to determine the applicability of regulations administered by the CFIA or other government agencies such as the Public Health Agency of Canada.
"We've never needed this in the past. So why now?"
This is a response we frequently hear from importers concerning the matter of inadequate invoice descriptions. In fact, nothing in the regulations has changed, but the level of enforcement by the CBSA in terms of noncompliance is a relatively new development. The reason for this is primarily a shift in emphasis by Customs on greater compliance on the part of the trade community combined with a risk assessment model that demands more complete information at earlier stages of the customs clearance process. The fact that the same documentation with minimal descriptions may have been acceptable in the past is no excuse for present inaction. Importers and their foreign suppliers must adapt to changes in the Customs environment or face the consequences of noncompliance.
Enforcement Actions & Consequences
Where the invoice description is found to be insufficient the CBSA is empowered to issue Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPS) in accordance with Contravention C005 (pursuant to section 7.1 of the Customs Act) which states "Person provided information to an officer that is not true, accurate and complete" with respect to "information required to be provided in any permit, certificate, licence, document or declaration in respect of imported or exported goods."
The AMPS penalty amounts are $150 for the first offense, $225 for the second offense, and $450 for each and every contravention thereafter. In addition to the obvious fact that these penalties could rapidly become a costly and thoroughly needless expense, repeated AMPS contraventions also have the effect of harming your organization's profile with the CBSA which can have a number of negative impacts down the road such as limiting your participation in customs initiatives designed to streamline the clearance process and increasing the potential likelihood of an investigative audit by the CBSA.