Customs debt collection

Paying your debt all at once, and in full, helps you avoid interest and other legal and financial consequences. However, if you cannot pay the full amount now, there are options for you. Ignoring your debt does not make it go away. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will work with you to resolve your debt. 

Debt payment

The CRA collects on behalf of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

You can pay your debt online, at your financial institution, in person at any CBSA port or by mail. 

  • Online (only with an importer's business number (RM account))

    To find out what payee to select for your financial institution:

    From your financial institution’s website:

    • Select the appropriate payee name for your financial institution
    • Add your 9 digit Business Number with your RM identification (for example 123456789 RM0005)

    You can pay by debit or credit card for amounts less than $5,000.

    The CBSA does not accept cash, travellers cheques or wire transfers as forms of payment.

  • By mail
    • Make the cheque or money order payable to the “Receiver General for Canada”
    • Write your business account number or your Importer number on the front of your cheque or money order
    • To direct a payment, write the invoice number on the cheque or include a list of invoices with your payment – do not staple any documents to your cheque
    • Mail your payment to:

    Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Mailroom
    Attention:  Accounts Receivable Management Unit
    333 North River Road, Place Vanier, Tower A
    Ground Floor, Room 1018
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0L8

    Telephone: 343-291-5265 (for courier reference)

    Do not send cash by mail

  • In person
    • at your financial institution

Payment arrangement

If you cannot pay in full, or make the minimum monthly payment on your statement of account, the CRA may agree to a reduced regular payment. Your debt will gain interest until you pay the full balance.  

A payment arrangement is an agreement between you and the CRA to pay your debt over a certain period. The CRA will consider a payment arrangement when you have shown that you have tried to pay your debt in full by either reducing your expenses or borrowing funds. After reviewing your financial details, the CRA will work with you to determine the amount and length of the payment arrangement.

To make a payment arrangement, Contact the CRA.

You must pay as agreed, continue to file all returns on time, and stay up to date with your tax obligations. Payment arrangements may be subject to periodic reviews.

Even if you have a payment arrangement and are making payments, benefits and other credit payments you receive can be used to pay your debt.

If your situation changes and you cannot continue with your payment arrangement, you must Contact the CRA. If you do not, the CRA may proceed with legal actions to collect the balance of your debt. Go to Consequences of not paying for more information.

If you are unable to make a payment or payment arrangement, go to Unable to pay.

Related links:

Unable to pay

If you cannot meet your tax obligations, contact the CRA.

If you do not call or make a payment arrangement, the CRA may take legal action to collect the balance. Go to Consequences of not paying for more information.

Interest and penalty provisions

In some circumstances, you may ask for relief from penalties and interest and reduce the amount you owe.

For interest provisions, contact the CRA.

For penalty provisions, contact your nearest CBSA office.

Insolvency or bankruptcy

If you feel you are insolvent or are considering bankruptcy, visit the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy.

Related links:

Consequences of not paying

If you do not pay your debt or refuse to cooperate, the CRA may take legal action which could result in serious financial or legal consequences for you.

The CRA will normally not start legal action until 90 days after the mailing date of the statement of account.

Before starting legal action, the CRA must do the following:

  • make 3 attempts to give verbal legal warning by phone
  • send 1 written legal warning letter

For more information, go to Collection restrictions and Legal warning about collection of debt.

Once the CRA has started any of the following legal actions, the CRA will not usually withdraw them.

To avoid legal action, go to Debt payment or Unable to pay.

  • Garnishing wages or other income sources

    Requirement to pay (redirecting money owed to you by a third party)

    The CRA can issue a requirement to pay (RTP) to a third party that owes you money or is holding funds for you. A third party can be another individual, your employer, a bank or other sources of funds. The RTP instructs the third party to redirect the funds to the CRA. Redirected funds received by the CRA are applied to your debt. For more information, go to Understanding a requirement to pay.

    Set-off (redirecting money owed to you by the federal government)

    If you are owed money by any federal government department or agency, the CRA can issue a set-off to redirect the funds, and apply these amounts to your debt.

    The CRA can use your federal income, goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credits or any future income tax refunds to reduce your debt.

    Set-offs can be done even if you have a payment arrangement and are making payments.

  • Asset liens and seizures

    The CRA can get a certificate confirming the amount you owe. This will make your debt a matter of public record and allow the CRA to proceed with asset liens and seizures. The CRA will usually notify you by mail that your debt has been certified in Federal Court. The letter advises you that if you do not resolve your account, the CRA may take further legal action to pay the debt.

    In some instances, such as in the case of debts that are at risk of not being collected (in jeopardy), the CRA may advise you verbally that the debt has been certified in Federal Court.

    Lien at the border

    Once the debt is certified, the CRA may:

    • suspend your importation privileges 
    • apply a lien against goods imported by you
    • apply a lien against goods reported for exportation by you

    Applying a lien will secure the amount owing, by establishing creditor priority in the event of a sale. This means, when your goods are sold, the amount owing to the CRA is automatically paid from the proceeds of the sale, before you receive any remaining proceeds.

    Seizing and selling your assets

    If your debt remains outstanding, goods may be detained and sold to satisfy the amount owing.

    If the CRA sells your goods, the CRA will use the proceeds to pay:

    • the debt owing
    • any costs charged to sell the goods  

    The CRA will continue to detain and sell imported and exported goods, and continue other legal action until the amount owing is paid in full, unless other acceptable payment arrangements are made to suspend these legal actions.

  • Third party assessment

    A third party assessment allows the CRA to hold a third party legally responsible to pay another’s CRA debt. The third party can be a financial institution, spouse, business partner, director, an individual or a corporation.

    Below are some examples of third party assessments.

    Non-arm’s length (related) transfer assessment

    If you have a debt with the CRA, then transfer property to an individual or corporation that is non-arm's length, there could be consequences.

    If the asset was tranferred at less than fair market value, the CRA can issue an assessment against the recipient of the property. The amount of the assessment will be for the difference between the fair market value of the property and what the recipient paid for it.

    The assessment will only include debt that was incurred as of the date of transfer and preceding years.

    For more information, see Income Tax Folio S1-F5-C1, Related Persons and Dealing at Arm's Length.

    Non-compliance of a requirement to pay (RTP)

    If you receive an RTP from the CRA, you are legally obligated to comply with it. If you fail to comply, you will become liable for the amount you did not pay and the CRA will take legal action to collect that amount from you.

    As a recipient of an RTP, you become liable if you:

    • do not pay the CRA when you owe money to a taxpayer
    • continue to pay the taxpayer amounts you are legally required to pay to the CRA
    • pay someone else on behalf of the taxpayer, such as a relative or another creditor, instead of the CRA
    • loan or advance money to the taxpayer within 90 days, as specified in the terms of the RTP

Related links:

Contact the CRA
  • For postal code starting with A, B, C, E, G, H, J, R, S, T call 1-866-229-0824
  • For postal code starting with K, L, M, N, P, X, V, Y call 1-866-484-1217

Telephone agents are available Monday to Friday (except holidays) from 8 am to 4:30 pm (Eastern Time).

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