New launch date for CBSA’s customs portal a welcome delay for small importers

Toronto, April 24, 2024 – The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) welcomes the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)’s decision to reschedule the public launch of its mandatory portal for trade chain partners from May to October 2024.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Assessment and Revenue Management System (CARM) will come into effect for trade chain partners in October 2024. It will require all importers to use CARM to do business internationally. However, only a quarter (25%) of small- and medium-sized businesses involved in trade are currently registered, reveals a new CFIB survey.

“We're glad to hear small businesses will be given more time to register with CARM, given the learning curve with this new system. The increased compliance burden and complicated registration process are already deterring some businesses from scaling up or getting involved in international trade at all. The government agencies must ensure that businesses have enough time, help and resources to navigate the new system, so there are no supply chain impacts and delays at the borders,” said Corinne Pohlmann, Executive Vice-President of Advocacy at CFIB.

In the past three years, nearly two-thirds (65%) of SMEs imported goods, services or both. Although the smaller the business the less likely it is to import, about half of micro-businesses with one to four employees have been involved in importing.

“Small businesses import goods for a variety of reasons: to expand, meet customer demand or access specialized materials. But nearly half of them don’t import that often, about once or twice a year, so having to learn how to use a new complex platform is overwhelming and time-consuming for them,” Pohlmann added. 

Among those not registered to CARM, about half are just not aware of it, 22% are not sure whether CARM applies to their business, 16% are relying on their brokers and 11% are confused by the registration process. More than half (55%) also felt like they didn’t know if CARM had considered the realities of small businesses mostly because they are unaware of what it is and how it works.

“On top of the daunting and confusing platform, business owners are also concerned about the accuracy and consistency of CARM's assessments,” said Michelle Auger, CFIB’s senior policy analyst. “With limited resources and knowledge in customs procedures, business owners are now put at a competitive disadvantage and are more likely to make mistakes, which could result in costly penalties and non-compliance.”

The CBSA and border agencies should prioritize education and support over penalties during the first few years of CARM’s full implementation, and not just the first 180 days. CFIB also recommends: 

  • Enhancing CARM communications and information by creating tools tailored to SMEs and ensuring that the CBSA website content is in plain language.
  • Ensuring that all regulatory and policy changes include a comprehensive communication plan aimed at small businesses.
  • Providing alternative options to CARM, such as using a broker for all the small firms’ importing needs, especially for those small businesses that do not engage in trade on a regular basis.  

CFIB will host an educational webinar on CARM and how to register to the portal. The English session will take place on Wednesday, April 24, and the French session on Thursday, April 25. Business owners can register to the English webinar here and to the French one here.

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact: 
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, CFIB 

Final results for the International Trade Survey 2024, conducted between Jan. 18-29, 2024, and based on a sample of 2,032 CFIB members. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of +/-2.2%, 19 times out of 20.

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at