Selling to the USA from Canada

New Member
1 0 4

Since starting out with my Shopify Store I have only been selling within Canada, it's not been bad. I have been advertising on Facebook, but only within Canada as I only have shipping options set up for Canada. I starting noticing however that I'm getting people from the USA coming onto my site with the number of visits being slightly lower than Canada where I'm actually advertising. 

I'd like to start shipping across the border, but have never done it and am looking for information. What about broker fees, do I just leave that to my customers? Do I need any International documentation for my producst (Traditional Shaving Products) and is there any advantage to pricing all my product in American Dollars, I post prices in Canadian dollars currently.

Any help would be appreciated.

67 0 13

I sell my own products worldwide from Canada, including to the USA...

> What about broker fees, do I just leave that to my customers?

Do you mean Customs brokerage fees?

When the package enters any country, there may be taxes, duties, and fees for dealing with Customs paperwork due.  It is usual to state that it's the customer's responsibility to pay these, because it may be difficult or impossible for you to know how much they will be and take care of them yourself.  However, customers do hate making such payments.

The taxes and duties are not really something you can change (short of lying on the Customs declaration, which is illegal).  It may be difficult, too, for you to pay them because the authorities charging the fees are not really set up to bill them back to you.  Nonetheless, it is possible to do it by making a special arrangement with the carrier.  I've done this through netParcel (free app) arranging with DHL, on a special promotional shipment where I wanted to make sure the recipient would have nothing to pay.  For ordinary sales, though, it is much more common to leave this for the customer to pay.  You had better make it clear in your terms of sale that customers are responsible for paying taxes and duties, if that is the case. Customers will complain much louder if they think they had a legitimate reason not to expect the fees.

The Customs brokerage fee, if any:  if customers are paying taxes and duties to the government then they may also be asked (by the shipping company) to pay this.  However, if you're careful in your choice of shipping carrier you can have some control over it.  In particular, UPS Express Saver shipping includes brokerage service at no extra charge, and is usually a good choice for cross-border shipping.  I'd never ever use UPS Standard across the border because they charge a large brokerage fee which is often quite a bit more than the taxes and duties themselves, and more than the difference between Standard and the more expensive Express Saver, and even if that's not mine to pay, it will upset customers.  Cheaper to pay for Express Saver up front.  Postal service (USPS, which is where it goes after being sent Canada Post on our end) may involve some brokerage fee but much less than the courier companies charge, and that's usually also a decent choice.

> Do I need any International documentation for my producst (Traditional Shaving Products)

At a minimum you need a Customs declaration, but Shopify's own shipping and various Shopify shipping apps generate that automatically when you generate a shipping label, and I think for the USA it's normally just information printed on the shipping label instead of a separate thing to include in a Customs pouch.

If your product is regulated in some way in the USA or the individual State then there may be additional rules you need to follow to make sure that the authorities are convinced it's safe.  I don't think you can just sell random substances for people to smear on their skin; there may be rules about what ingredients are allowed in cosmetics, safety testing and quality control, and so on.  These might extend as far as requirements on labelling of the product, but they wouldn't usually mean there would be any added documents to include in the package.  Such requirements no doubt exist in Canada, too, and the efforts you're already making to be sure your products are legal to sell in Canada will probably overlap with those needed for the USA and give you some idea of what kind of regulations are likely to be important.

If the US Customs authorities open your package and think the contents might not be legal to import into the USA, they may seize the package, and then the customer will be really upset.  Your terms of sale had better spell out how much responsibility you agree to take for that, and the usual answer is "none."  On a case by case basis, if it did happen I might actually offer to refund the order anyway as a gesture of goodwill.  But much better not to be obligated, and have the chance to impress the customer with my extra effort, than to create a situation where I could be legally required to pay for the unpredictable actions of a foreign bureaucracy.

> is there any advantage to pricing all my product in American Dollars, I post prices in Canadian dollars currently.

I think if you're selling to people in the USA it is absolutely necessary to show them prices in their own currency.  They will assume that is what "$" means unless you spell it out carefully, they aren't accustomed to estimating the conversion in their heads, and if you show them Canadian prices they think are US dollars, then they will think your prices are considerably higher than is really the case, and that costs you sales.  Unfortunately, Shopify doesn't make pricing in US dollars work very well for stores based in Canada.  You can set up a US bank account and make your entire store be based in US dollars, even for Canadian customers; have a separate store for the USA, which means paying Shopify fees for both and making some effort to send each customer to the right one; or (what I do) just have a selectable mode for currency display conversions and warn customers that the final checkout will be in Canadian dollars regardless of that setting.  None of these is perfect.

4 0 0

Hi. Maureen here from Avalara's social media team. We produced a guide for e-commerce sellers about cross-border sales that you may find helpful. This will help you understand landed cost, cross border selling, customs duty, import tax, and learning is always a good thing.  I also hope you'll reach out to a CPA and/or brokerage who should also give you sound advice.  

The Customs Duty & Import Tax for Dummies guide is free to download.

Another resource you might find helpful is our blog, Easier cross-border ecommerce leads to more challenging customs regulations

This is a complicated subject so educating yourself is key to providing a good customer experience. Best of luck to you!


Shopify Partner
555 1 19

It is great news that you have been getting regular customer hits from USA. The Facebook ads are working it seems. Maybe would it be possible for you to give me some guidance on this?


Coming back to your problem, don't bother about broker fees as this is initial stage for you and going with a broker is not a right option as otherwise you will never be exposed to the intricacies of cross border shipping. Slowly as your sales grow and you are looking to expand managing is a big task, then you can think of going with a broker. But even then, that should not be a concern as i will explain below. Shipping to USA from Canada at max requires a commercial invoice which is present for most carriers like Canada Post, UPS, FedEx, DHL. With the Multi Carrier Shipping label app, all information pertaining to the orders are populated in the invoice automatically and you will be able to ship it by yourself without help.  And make sure to change the currency to US$ below starting this as it can result in big time confusion for customers. 

Product Owner @ PluginHive
Shipping Automation | FedEx shipping | Multi-carrier shipping | Shipment Tracking | Australia Post shipping
New Member
1 0 1

I have been online searching for days for some info but I think you might be able to help me. I am based in Canada and have an ecommerce shop that dropships from the US and China. I don't currently have any of my own products yet so I will not be shipping anything from Canada. MY question is about setting up the taxes on shopify. I had hoped to ship worldwide as well but am finding the whole taxes set up so confusing and daunting so I was thinking to ship only to Canada and the US. I read on your post that you ship worldwide. How did you go about setting up all your sales taxes? Can you help point me in the right direction? Is there a special app that can auto calculate based on shipping address? Or is there anything that can help simplify this process? Any help you can provide would be amazing at this point, I'm feeling pretty defeated about it and its the last step before I can launch. Thankyou!

New Member
1 0 0

I’m trying to sell to Canada and the USA setting up taxes is so confusing ? Aswell do I need to pay taxes to USA and then to Canada off my income is this worth it ?