Are you prepared for CARM?

by Sofia Spoltore

If you’re importing into Canada, chances are you’re heard of the Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) Assessment and Revenue Management initiative, better known as CARM. By now importers may be aware this change is coming, but only about 10 percent of required users are currently enrolled in the CARM portal.


Sofia Spoltore is regional director at C.H. Robinson in Canada

With the mandatory change approaching quickly, it’s important for importers to take action soon.

Understanding the basics of CARM

Before we jump into the action items importers need to take, let’s revisit what CARM is.

This new multi-year initiative from the CBSA will drastically impact how Canadian importers conduct business and interact with agency. The initiative was introduced to integrate and automate business processes while offering online self-service tools for imported commercial goods. While the mandatory transition to CARM is happening over three phases, the final deadline for importers to comply is likely to happen October 2023.

The central feature of the initiative is the CARM Portal, which will become the main communications interface between the CBSA and trade chain partners.

Through the portal, shippers can expect a whole new way of interacting with the CBSA. They will gain full visibility and access to their import records – making it easy to submit duty and tax payments directly to the government, as well as streamlining import processes – allowing shippers to file advanced ruling requests, corrections and declarations, all completely online.

Working group

CBSA has been working with a group of businesses and associations in developing CARM. The Trade Chain Partner (TCP) Working Group was established in July 2018, and includes importers, brokers, and service providers who help their clients submit data through Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). It’s divided into four working groups (brokers; carriers; couriers; freight forwarders; warehouses; importers; and customs self-assessment) that focus on issues affecting specific sectors of the trade chain community.

What can importers expect?

Currently, we’re in phase one of the CARM rollout. It will allow importers to create and manage their accounts on the CARM Client Portal; classify goods and estimate duties and taxes; make secure payments online via the portal; delegate access to their service providers; and, submit rulings requests and track their progress.

This included the launch of the CARM Client Portal, so importers, customs brokers, and trade consultants will be able to create an account in the new system. Once registered, users are able to view their transactions and statements of account, request a ruling and pay invoices with new electronic payment options.

Delegated authority

To set up an account, importers will need to acquire a GCKey, a secure unique electronic credential that will allow them to communicate securely with online-enabled government programs and services, or they can use a sign-in partner to enroll.

To import into Canada, shippers will then need to delegate authority to their customs brokers and service providers. Finally, ahead of the final phase, shippers will need to work with a Canadian customs broker or surety company to obtain a direct security bond to establish their payment privileges.

CARM Release 2

The second phase, also the final phase, will expand on the CARM Client Portal. It adds electronic commercial accounting declarations with ability for corrections and adjustments; new requirements related to the Release Prior to Payment (RPP) program; harmonized billing cycles; new offsetting options; and, electronic management of appeals and compliance actions.

Release 2 is when the CBSA will introduce the new electronic commercial accounting declaration (CAD) form, which replaces the existing customs coding (B3) and adjustment request (B2) forms. Importers can also expect a new billing cycle to harmonize payment due dates for all transactions and simplify the ways accounting information can be corrected.

Additionally, the Direct Security Bond mandate will go into effect, so importers will be required to secure commercial imports directly, instead of relying on customs brokers or other service providers. To remain in compliance by the October 2023 deadline, shippers must start by setting up their CARM Client Portal account right away.

Because there are only a few surety bond providers available to issue customs bonds right now, it is urgent for importers to take action immediately. Enrollment cannot happen in just a matter of weeks. Importers are also encouraged to reach out to their brokers early to start the bond application process.

Final thoughts

We know shifting to a new platform can be overwhelming and at times, confusing. CH Robinson and other customs service providers can help you become – and remain – complaint.