Canadian Olympians returning home from the Rio Olympics (or any athletic competition for that matter) do not have to pay customs duties and goods and services tax (“GST”) on their medals. No customs duties are payable under Harmonized System (H.S.) Code 98.17, which covers “medals, trophies and other articles (not including usual merchantable products nor medals, trophies or prizes which are regularly presented by organizations or business companies to their members, employees or representatives), which have been bestowed or awarded by persons or organizations abroad as marks of honour or distinction, or which have been won abroad in competitions”.
The importation of any item covered by HS Code 98.17 is also not subject to border GST. It is considered to be a non-taxable importation.
That being said, Canadian athletes must declare the medals on their E311 Declaration Card (the CBSA Form completed on the airplane). Canadian athletes must declare a value for duty for the medals and all other goods received abroad. The exchanges of Olympics uniforms (even if given as a gift) and all purchases abroad and/or goods received abroad must be declared to the CBSA and a combined value for duty provided. Where you do not know the value for duty, you are required to make an accurate statement of value. As a result, it is important to ask a few questions and put a reasonable value on the goods. Don’t forget to convert the value into Canadian dollars. Unfortunately (and to my surprise actually), the Canada Border Services Agency does not have a published D-Memorandum or Customs Notice on this topic. Hint, hint – it is time for the CBSA to write one and post it to aid our athletes.
Many CBSA officers have not been watching the Olympics or other athletic competition. While there is a lot of Canadian pride for the athletes, some people (including CBSA officers) are bad with names. If you wear your medals across the border, it helps the CBSA officers identify the medal winners (although not a requirement). Most CBSA officers will be happy to receive the importation paperwork and process it.
A big thank you to all Canadian athletes.
For more information, please contact Cyndee Todgham Cherniak at 416-307-4168 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.