After several years of waiting, the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) opened registration for its online assessment and income management system, known as CARM, on May 25.e. The opening of registration and the launch of the CGRA Customer Portal (the “Portal”) represents the first phase for importers of the multi-year initiative, which the CBSA sees as transforming the import process.
As paper-based processes are eliminated, Canadian importers will need to register for the CARM customer portal. The portal will be the primary channel for importers to transact with the CBSA for customs accounting and reporting purposes. Fortunately, the CBSA recently released some clarity on the registration process.
To register with the Portal, importing entities must have obtained a BN9 business number from the Canada Revenue Agency, as well as an importer / exporter program account identifier. (Learn how to get a BN9 number and an importer / exporter account id here.)
Importers will start by choosing a person to act as their company’s commercial account manager, or “BAM”. BAM will have full access to the Importer Portal account and will be the primary point of contact for the portal. The BAM will also be responsible for granting access to the portal to other members of the business, as well as requesting and accepting third party relationships with a customs broker and other third party service providers. It is generally advisable to choose a person who already takes an active role in business operations to act as the importer’s BAM. Given the centrality of BAM’s role in the operation of an importer’s CARM account, we recommend that companies possibly designate more than one BAM.
The portal registration process
Those who access an importer’s portal (including, of course, the BAM) will create an individual user profile using either GCKey or Connection partner. The BAM will associate their personal user account with the company and answer a series of authentication questions. In order to answer these questions, it will be useful for the BAM to have the following information:
The legal name of the company;
The postal address of the company;
Recent CBSA transaction numbers, including total duties and taxes for the last 5 imports (these numbers can be found on the Canadian Customs B3 Coding Form for each operation);
The last recorded payment amount that was accepted by the CBSA (this can be found on your daily notice); and
The last account balance statement.
The CBSA emphasized that this information must correspond perfectly to the information contained in the CBSA files (punctuation, upper and lower case letters, spaces, etc.) in order to facilitate a successful registration.
Roles and assignees
Once a BAM is authorized for the Importer Portal account, it may delegate certain controls to other users. For example, they can assign a Program Account Manager, or “PAM”, to modify the administrative elements of the company’s CARM account. It is important to note that the BAM will also grant access to a commercial or customs broker as a third-party commercial account manager. This will allow companies to continue to delegate import logistics to their broker, once they are registered and have obtained their BAM access.
Implications for importers
Ultimately, the CGRA Customer Portal has the potential to streamline import processes and generate administrative savings for Canadian importers. While the launch of the portal is only the first important phase of the CARM deployment – with additional substantial changes to customs accounting processes expected over the next 12 months – it is important that companies begin to identify their BAM and launch the registration process. Doing this as early as possible will allow importers to familiarize themselves with the system, learn how to nurture customer relationships through the online platform, and delegate business and account responsibility as they see fit.