Exporting to the USA and Canada: Help and Advice for SMEs

Exporting to the USA and Canada: A Hassle-Free Guide



Exporting goods across the Atlantic is big business. In the 12 months up to November 2018, exports to the United States of America generated £55bn for UK companies; for Canada, that figure is more than £6bn. For SMEs, our hassle-free guide to exporting to the USA and Canada will help you make the most of these lucrative opportunities.


Exporting to the USA

The USA ranks eighth in the world for ease of doing business and is the UK’s most important trading partner (after the European Union). While it will seem like a daunting market to enter when starting out, companies exporting from the UK to the USA can really grow their business.


Challenges of Exporting to the USA

Sending goods to the USA is not without its challenges, but don’t let that deter you. For a start, find out if the items you want to export to the USA are prohibited or restricted. If your goods are listed by US Customs, you could face lengthy delays and additional charges.


Taxes, Duties and Legal Considerations

Anything you export to the USA must clear US Customs. To ensure nothing goes wrong, you’ll need to fill in a customs invoice. This sets out tax and duties owed based on what you’re exporting.

Unlike the UK, the USA has no VAT. Each state to decides its own sales tax, which means it’s a good idea for businesses to seek out advice from someone who knows the complex US tax system. SMEs that are VAT registered can zero-rate VAT on most sales as long as they meet specific conditions.

Business owners should also seek legal advice from a qualified professional familiar with both UK and US law if entering into any agreements with an American company. Check you don’t need an export licence either. If in doubt, consult UK government advice on exporting to the USA.



Exporting to Canada

Canada is the UK’s eighth largest export market outside the EU, but the trade relationship between the two countries is slightly different to the USA. It’s mainly due to the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). This CETA agreement has resulted in fewer restrictions on what businesses can export to Canada. Canada also shares similar legal and business practices with the UK, and it’s an export market that continues to grow each year.


Challenges of Exporting to Canada

If you want to send your goods to Canada, there are some key things to know. Some are similar to the US, but others present different challenges. The structure of the government means businesses and taxation are affected by laws and regulations at federal and local levels, which can be confusing. Fortunately, this helpful Canada Border Services Agency guide will get you up and running.

Don’t forget Canada is officially bilingual, so English won’t always be the default language.


Taxes, Duties and Legal Considerations

CETA eliminated almost all duties on goods exported into Canada from the EU. In fact, tariffs have been ended on 98% of goods. You can also zero-rate your VAT if you meet the set conditions.

Canada is a completely independent country, but English common law is still the basis of the legal system in nine provinces and three territories. If your business wants to export to Québec, French civil law is the basis of the law and there will be some differences that you need to understand.

Under the CETA agreement, you need to include a declaration of origin on your invoice or other commercial document. Remember to check you don’t need any additional export licencing too.


Finding the Right Partners

With the right partners on board, it needn’t be difficult to start exporting to the USA and Canada. TNT can provide SMEs with comprehensive international delivery services to take the stress out of shipping across the Atlantic.


Not only can we help prepare consignments, but our Customs Clearance Service takes care of all necessary documentation so your goods reach their destination with no unnecessary delays.


What is Next for Your Business?

If exporting to the USA and Canada is one of your business aims in 2019, getting the right support is easier than you think. To scope out what business opportunities exist, here are some ideas:



Ultimately, the key to success when exporting to Canada and the USA is preparation. By considering all the various points raised in this guide and our handy checklist below, there’s no reason you can’t make a success of selling your goods across the Atlantic.





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