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Dear Canada

Canadian flag

To our friends to the north: a quick word, since I seem to be getting e-mails about this recently.

If you win a contest on Needcoffee, we send you things via the post. When we send them, apparently you guys have taxes that you pay on stuff you receive from across the border because your government hasn’t taken enough of your money yet. (Our government likes our money way too much, too, BTW.) People have been telling me that if we were to just mark these things down as “gifts” you could circumvent the taxes and get them for less.

Ah, but there’s a snag you see. It’s this.

At that link you’ll see that, true enough, “If you receive an imported gift by mail that is worth CAN$60 or less, you will not have to pay duty or tax on it.” Ah, but if you read further you also see: “Items that do not qualify for the CAN$60 gift exemption include the following:” and in that list, “items sent by a business.” is run by One Tusk Industries LLC, which is a business. Therefore, that page says to me, in pretty plain English, cannot send you a gift.

There is a reason that the rules for our contest state: “Winners shall be responsible and liable for all federal, state and local taxes on the value of their prize.”

Now, let me make two things absolutely clear.

One: this is not our idea. If it were up to me, I would send you stuff and you would get it with no taxes whatsoever. In fact, your government would monogram it for you free of charge and deliver it whilst riding a unicorn. (My dream.) In this case, though, it’s your government that wants more of your money. If you’ve been at this site for long enough, you know that I’m the last person who wants you to give more money to your government. Or any government. Not that anyone’s been really bitchy and accusatory about this–and seriously, thank you guys for that–but it’s really not our fault. And we don’t want to break the law. So we’re kinda stuck.

Two: if somebody can show me something that convinces me there’s a perfectly legal way to send you prizes which won’t cost you tax money, I am willing to entertain that notion. But it has to be 100% bulletproof legal. I’m not going to get fined or have the Royal Mounted Ninjas (or whatever) descend upon me because your government wants to take your money from you and wants me dead because I’m helping you get around that.

As a side note, somebody was already kind enough to send me this about revenue and taxation and prizes and such, but it doesn’t appear to negate the postal code link above.

So I just wanted to be completely up-front and honest about this. If you can help me figure out a way to make this work for everybody, then I’m game. Otherwise, we’re stuck the way we are. Unless you can get your government to let you keep some more of your money just in general. And good luck with that.


  • i have won from lots of contest sites , many from the states or other places in the world and only once did i pay taxes , it was on a laptop so rather large item , not sure why on something as small as a dvd it would be an issue i recently won from motorola which was american and a rather large box and again no tax sad canadian who wanted to win

  • Stacey: If someone would be willing to tell us how they got around the tax issue, we’d be glad to follow suit. (I’m wondering if it’s because they had it shipped from within Canada–Motorola is a big company and probably has a Canadian office, I would assume.) And there’s nothing saying you can’t win…you just have to be prepared to deal with whatever taxes your government imposes on you.

  • I’ve had lots of things shipped from the US (not prizes, stuff that I bought), and from what I can tell, it’s completely random. Sometimes they make you pay, sometimes they don’t. Makes sense when you think about it: they can’t possibly open every package coming from the US and inspect every item to determine its value and levy the proper taxes. So your Canadian winners might get lucky and not have to pay, but I really don’t think that there’s any way to insure this, unfortunately.

  • If the item is coming through by post, a lot of items will get through without being looked at, therefore no tax or $5.00 processing fee. Many don’t. It is a crap shoot.
    It has been this way for years. If it comes into Canada, and is not covered by NAFTA, they have to be prepared to pay. Now if it is not a gift and less than $20CAD, it is also exempt. Contesters from other countries need to be aware of the import and tax laws. I would never expect a company or individual to lie on a customs form!

  • Yeah, the consensus is rapidly becoming it’s a crap shoot and you pays your money and takes your chances. As I will reveal in an upcoming video (hopefully), I try not to take my chances based on previous experience with such chances.

  • I’ve won, and paid the duty. My biggest problem was the condition in which I received the dvd. Obviously Customs takes no care in what they do. No one can blame, as it is purely choice to pay or not. My suggestion is only enter what you really want to have!!!

  • I suggest that you continue as it is. Just send the prizes by USPS. Most of the time we don’t have to pay anything.

  • I think the only way to truly circumvent all the related fees tacked onto items that cross the border, would be to have them shipped from within Canada (as you suggest may have been the case with the afore mentioned Motorola prize). Although fulfillment houses charge for their services, the convenience of not having to worry about upsetting consumers, or getting yourself into legal trouble for not collecting some fee you didn’t even know you were supposed to collect, might make the cost worth while (or not, depending on the cost).
    The other option might be to ship via a company that specializes in shipping small items such as Purolator or FedEx. Their staff is probably far more knowledgeable than the Postal Service’s staff and may be able to advise you of some common method around all this.

    By the way, I love the way you describe things. Your posts tend to be a little biting, a little tongue-in-cheek, and a lot or personal opinion that hits the nail right on the head. As a Canadian, I’ve never taken offence at anything you’ve ever written about us, and I’m still chuckling at the visual of your Royal Mounted Ninjas. Keep up the good work.

  • Thanks guys. I appreciate everybody’s comments…and yes, Lorelei, I’m sure if we had Needcoffee North, so to speak, we could try to get around it that way. Maybe if we can actually hit our membership goal we can look at expanding. For right now, it’s hard enough to keep Needcoffee’s main offices open. :-)

  • i asked the mail delivery guy when he was here, he said UPS was the worst for charges , he said they dont miss a one, but US mail, which then becomes canada post most often dosent charge

  • oh and i am stil not sure about the gift part, i understand you are a business , but a prize is a gift not a purchase, in canada we pay no taxes on prizes ,lotto etc, so not sure how that works , i am hoping someone on here knows the full rules about it , you guys get some really unique , cool prizes

  • I have won things from the US and the sender marks it as a business promo sample with value of 0 and I have paid no tax. Would that work for your company?

  • Di: If you can show me where we can “get away” with that, then yes, it would work. My issue is, it’s not a sample, and hasn’t a value of 0. So that might be falsifying the form unless somebody shows me where it says that’s legal.

  • Only once ever has customs tried to ding me, and that was years ago…and funny thing that time they weren’t supposed to because it was a gift from a friend!
    Definitely I have heard just sending plain ol’ regular mail is the most likely to zip it’s way through without a problem. I have received prizes from the US(including a DVD from here) and no problems. Most of the stuff sent to me is marked as a gift or business promo(like Silver Jewelry where you only pay shipping is marked like that) and I don’t have to pay. I’m pretty sure there is nothing against the DVD’s being marked as either of those things. If you are so concerned you could easily contact Canada Customs and explain you are a contest website and what the prizes are and I’m sure they would find out for you the “legal” way of doing so. Since they don’t question the “gift” and “business promo” labels I’m sure they must be ok since Canada customs definitely is in the business of getting money where ever they can lol, they wouldn’t let it through if they could get money out of it.

  • I asked my friends about this and found some good information!! While a company may not give gifts, they do have promotions and this is the way other sites in your situation handle this.

    On the envelope there is usually a declaration of goods sticker where they have to mark contents and price, Every DVD I have recieved from them just says promotional item or promo. Meaning its a giveaway to promote their company. I have had it delivered from ups, canada post and fedex and never had to pay anything nor do they.

    Sending info about the other sites that do this as I am not sure you want me posting links to other sites with DVD contests here :P

  • Hey bcteagirl, thanks for the info…based on everybody’s feedback we’ve been trying new things to try to legally get past the tax issue. What I have learned is that no matter what we do, if some random postal person wants to charge the recipient, I don’t think there’s any help for that. But we’re doing our best to try to minimize the chances of that happening.

    I appreciate everybody’s help on this–we want to send prizes that make people happy, not cost them money. But sometimes pesky governments get in the way. So thanks to everybody–I hope what we’ve learned will help our northern friends!