Importing into Canada?  The CBSA Intends to Actively Target Suspected and Known Non-Compliance

February 28, 2022

The CBSA has been developing new tools to actively target importers and import transactions involving suspected or known non-compliance.  The new tools are effective as of January 1, 2022 and so importers may start to receive “TANs”, “CVLs” or “DCLs” that require action.

Companies importing goods into Canada are aware that the Canada Border Services Agency conducts trade verifications (i.e., “customs audits”) to assess the level of compliance with Canada’s customs laws.  The verification targets by the CBSA are released twice a year.  My previous article entitled “CBSA Issues Verification Targets for 2022” is available here.

In addition to compliance verifications, the CBSA has been working on a Trade Culpability Framework which was referenced in the CBSA Departmental Plan for Fiscal Year 2020-2021.  The Plan describes the Framework as the policy cornerstone that will guide operational efforts to nudge, direct or enforce compliance based on the relative risk that importers and their transactions represent.

As part of the Framework, the CBSA has introduced new tools effective January 1, 2022 that focus on risk-based compliance measures targeting particular importers and/or import transactions.  The new tools include a Trade Advisory Notice, a Compliance Validation Letter, and a Directed Compliance Letter.  Each is described below.

Trade Advisory Notice

A Trade Advisory Notice (TAN) is described as a “nudge” to provide the importing community with guidance where there is a potential for non-compliance.  A TAN could include a letter sent to a particular importer requesting that the importer review its import declaration, and providing references to public resources for guidance.  A TAN is not a detailed adjustment statement, re-determination or a monetary assessment, but could lead to one should the potential non-compliance persist.

Compliance Validation Letter

A Compliance Validation Letter (CVL) targets instances where the CBSA suspects non-compliance has occurred.  A CVL will take the form of a letter to an importer requesting that information be provided to the CBSA concerning the issue, within 30 days for review.

Directed Compliance Letter

A Directed Compliance Letter (DCL) targets instances of known non-compliance.  In this case, the importer will receive a letter accompanied by a monetary assessment.  A DCL may also lead to prosecution in appropriate cases.

Issues and Comments

The CBSA has introduced these new tools to more actively pursue importers suspected of non-compliance.  The CBSA recognizes that trade compliance verifications are not always the most efficient means to address instances of non-compliance, since they assess general compliance over a particular program area (such as tariff classification, valuation, or origin) over a period of time, usually covering the last fiscal year forward when potentially many transactions have already occurred.  These new tools will seek to address issues as they arise and thereby benefit the importer, who can address instances of non-compliance sooner and avoid potential interest and penalties that would otherwise be assessed should the non-compliance persist for long periods of time.

Importers may wonder whether the receipt of a TAN, CVL or DCL will disqualify an importer from being able to make a customs voluntary disclosure.  This shouldn’t be the case, at least when receiving a TAN; however, the issue is not so clear in the case of receiving a CVL and/or DCL.  Therefore, importers should be vigilant in assessing their own levels of trade compliance and acting on any TANs received from the CBSA.

For further information about or assistance with the CBSA’s new tools for trade compliance, please contact Greg Kanargelidis at (416) 624-5182 or

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