How to Avoid UPS Broker Fees From Online Shopping.

Oh good! You must be sick of paying made-up, ridiculous UPS broker fees too! So was I, so I figured out how to legally avoid paying them to scammy courier companies.  It’s easy and all the instructions on how to do it are right here.

Yep. This post is especially for my Canadian readers or anyone else who is subject to UPS  “broker fees” on online items you’ve shopped for and had shipped to your house. 

How to Avoid Paying Broker Fees to Courier Companies

Broker fees are a scam and I want everyone to stop paying them right now.  In this post I’m going to teach you how to avoid paying any and all broker fees.  Legally.  Because I hate them.  And I like you.

Here we go.

(if you’d like the quick cheat sheet so you can see how easy it is, skip to the bottom of the post, then come back up here to read exactly how to do everything)

I’m happy to pay UPS or any other company whatever fee they charge to deliver my package but when they want to randomly charge some arbitrary amount to “broker” my package as it crosses the border I start to get my back up.

And when I get my back up, I get angry and start typing furiously on the computer looking for answers.

in 2015  … I got my back up.

I had ordered (yet another) chicken door opener off of the Internet from a nice man somewhere in The United States.

Before it made it to my door I got this email from UPS.



When I got the email my first thought was I’M NOT PAYING IT. I’ll send the stupid chicken door BACK.  Broker fees are a scam.  A complete scam.

#1.  What the fine folks at UPS don’t tell you is what exactly these broker fees are going to be.  As soon as you allow them to be your “broker” by saying “yes go ahead” in your reply email they can charge you any amount they want.

#2. What the fine folks at UPS also don’t tell you is YOU can broker your own package.  It’s called “self clearing”. And it’s ridiculously easy.

This is how I responded to the UPS email.




The first email I got in return was basically … “Um … I’m not sure about that.  You’re gonna have to call this number”.  I did not call the number.  I emailed them again.  A day later I got what I needed from UPS to “self clear” my package.

  1. Instructions on where and how to self clear the package including phone numbers and fax numbers (cause this is 1982) which has a spot for stamping by customs.
  2. The commercial invoice which also has a place for stamping by customs.
  3. And the regular invoice provided by whoever shipped you the item.

Here’s the email they sent me and all the documents that came with it so you can see what they look like:





UPS self clearing form.


Legally they have to give you this information.  They cannot say no. They cannot claim it can’t be done (although they have done exactly this in the past). In my case after my email got to the right person I got a very prompt and efficient response from UPS. No hassles.

If you get an email like the one I got just copy and paste the body of my email and include your shipment order number.  (I blurred mine out).

If you don’t get an email first and someone from UPS brings your package to your door asking you for the broker fees say no.  SAY NO.  Say you’re going to self clear your package and send them on their way. The second you sign anything, you can’t go back.  You will have agreed (knowingly or not) to UPS acting as your broker.

Once they leave call  UPS and at 1-800-742-5877 and press “3”.  You will be connected to broker services. Tell them you’re going to self clear your item and you’d like the documents you need for that emailed to you. Make sure you have your tracking number handy.


Once you have the documents you need you just take them to your nearest CBSA office.  That’s the Canada Border Services Agency.  You’ve probably never noticed a CBSA office before but they’re all around us in Canada.  We’re filthy with CBSA offices. You just didn’t know it.  What you need is a CBSA office that handles self clearing of items.  Those are Inland offices and they’re fewer and farther between than regular CBSA offices.  They’re usually at airports but can also be found other places.

If you’re lucky there’s an inland office near you.  Mine was at my local small airport, a 20 minute drive away.

Here’s a link that will take you to a map of all the Inland Offices in Canada so you can check right away if one is near you.

How far you want to drive will probably depend on how much money your broker fees with UPS would be.  So let’s talk about that a tiny little bit.

UPS has decided that they will charge you a percentage of whatever the value of your package is.  So if you have a package that’s worth between $40-$60 UPS has randomly decided they will charge you $16.75.   If your item was $40, then you’ll be paying almost 40% in broker fees.  40%!!!!!!!

The higher the value of your package, the lower the percentage you pay for your broker fees BUT they still charge more money based on how much your package is worth.

So you pay $16.75 for a $40 package, $30.40 for a $150 package, $71.80 for a $750 package and so on.  The higher the value of your package, the more money you’ll be paying.


You can see the full list of the UPS broker fees here.


Front door of Canadian Border Services agency.


I took my documents to my local CBSA office and told them I was self clearing an item.  I was one of two people there by the way. No waiting in line, no paying for parking even! I didn’t have to explain what I was doing to them, didn’t have to convince them I was allowed to do this, I just gave them my documents and they said, thank you ma’am, I’ll be back in a second.

And in a second they were back with my forms (now stamped), an additional form,  and a bill for my duty and taxes to pay.   In this case there was no duty because the item was made in the U.S.A. and I just had to pay my Canadian taxes on it. I paid my bill and they brought me my B-15 form.  That’s the form you need to send to UPS to prove you paid your duty and taxes.

Your item is now self cleared.

Self clearing just means you pay the duty and taxes yourself.  That’s all it means.  That’s it.  There’s no brokerage office, no mounds of paperwork, no nothin’.  Instead of UPS paying your duty and taxes ahead of time, you pay them when your item arrives in Canada.


Broker fees.  Scam.

Various documents needed to self clear an item from UPS laid on black background.


When you get home, scan the B-15 form that border services gave you along with the form titled “self accounting procedures” and email it to UPS.

By the next morning my package was delivered.

Is it a pain? A tiny bit but I felt GREAT after doing it.  Suck it UPS.  I’ll self clear my own items.  Also, I’m confident that the Canada Services Border Agency is up to date on when or when not to apply duty.  UPS has been known to apply duty to things they shouldn’t.  Like paper goods.  Instruction manuals, books, concert tickets should all be duty free.

Other online buying tips for Canadians?  If you have the option, don’t use UPS or Fedex.  Instead have your item shipped by USPS which is The United States Postal Service.  No scammy broker fees there.

If you are ordering items under $20 then UPS is fine.  There are no broker fees on items that range in price from $0 – $20.

How to Avoid Broker Fees

How to Avoid Broker Fees

How to avoid the scam UPS broker fees when receiving online shopping orders.


  1. Do NOT agree to UPS acting as your broker. Not through email or when they’re at your door. Just say no and do NOT accept your package.
  2. Email or call UPS and say you are going to self clear your item. Ask them to email you the necessary documents.
  3. Bring those documents to your nearest Canada Border Services Agency (must be Inland offices)
  4. Pay your actual taxes and get your stamped forms back along with the B-15 form they provide.
  5. Email the forms back to UPS to prove you paid your owing taxes.
  6. Wait for your package to arrive free of charge.


UPS will try to avoid doing this. They'll pretend not to know what you're talking about. They'll avoid emailing or calling you back.

PESTER them if you have to because they DO know what you're talking about and they HAVE TO by law give you the information you're asking for.

How to Self Clear an Item

  1.  Do NOT agree to UPS acting as your broker. Not through email or when they’re at your door.
  2. Email or call UPS and say you are going to self clear your item. Ask them to email you the necessary documents.
  3. Bring those documents to your nearest Canada Border Services Agency (must be Inland offices)
  4. Pay your taxes and get your stamped forms back along with the B-15 form they provide.
  5. Email the forms back to UPS to prove you paid your owing taxes.
  6. Wait for your package to arrive free of charge.

Go back to top of post.

I’ve  used this technique several time since this post and I’ve received countless emails from happy Internet searchers who found my post. This isn’t easily found information.  But it is important information as far as sticking it to companies that already make obscene amounts of money goes.

Happy online shopping and everyone say it with me one last time.  UPS can suck it.


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  1. Jennifer says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  2. Karin says:

    Would you mind sharing how much paid in taxes? I’m assuming it was pennies compared to the UPS fee but it would be satisfying to know how much you saved/how much UPS gouged you.

    • Karen says:

      HI Karin. As a Canadian you have to pay the tax and duty on an item received from the States regardless. So if UPS delivered my package I’d have to pay them my duty, taxes AND a broker fee. So self clearing I’m only avoiding the broker fees. People in Ontario pay 13% tax on any items they buy either in the province of have shipped in from the States. But, if a company ships with USPS then it usually ends up getting shipped straight to your door without being held for any fees, duties or taxes at all. I saved $30 or so in broker fees plus whatever other weird fees UPS may have decided they wanted to charge me. ~ karen!

      • Karin says:

        What a rip off! Thanks for the clarification.

      • Jan in Waterdown says:

        Under NAFTA, Canadians definitely should not be paying any customs duties on items manufactured in the USA or Mexico . . . just the appropriate sales tax. I don’t do much buying on-line but I have bought leather goods from Saddleback in Texas which are manufactured in Mexico and a Casper mattress made in the USA and none of them have ever had any custom duties. Amazingly enough, on the UPS delivered mattress, there was no broker fee and shipping was free too!

  3. Debbie says:

    Ugh – I can’t stand UPS.

    What i do is have it shipped right across the border at a business that specializes in this service. which is 40 minute drive from my house – $5 a package to have them receive it. I then move on to get some cheap groceries (even with the exchange) and go to Olive Garden for dinner – usually in the USA for less than 2 hours – i declare everything when crossing the border back into Canada and usually only have to pay duty / taxes 1 out of 10 times crossing – regardless of how much $$$ we have with us.

  4. I kept thinking, holy shit I’d just never order anything ever if I lived in Canada, and then thanked the gods of internet commerce I’m an American, because lazy.

  5. Karen says:

    My sentiments precisely. I never (anymore) order anything via UPS because of this…funny because my husband just did. They actually threatened to sue us because we refused to pay for something they charged us twice on. How he forgets! Thanks for this, Karen as we might be needing it shortly. I really enjoy your blog! Keep ’em coming!

  6. danni says:

    I occasionally have to ship stuff to a business associate in Toronto, and oh… my… sweeeet suffering JESUS!
    I give up and just hand over my firstborn!!!

  7. susan says:

    That’s good info to know, Karen, although I solved the problem by refusing to deal with anyone who insisted on using UPS. My little store is also a retail postal outlet and it’s amazing and amusing to see what gets dinged with customs and what doesn’t. Postal customs agents must be very moody because you can order the same item four times and it might come in with a customs sticker once. I order a lot online and by keeping my total under $100, I very rarely have to pay taxes. A fellow ordered expensive golf clubs and the first club came in free and clear and the second one had a $30 tax and customs fee on it. But clothing – almost always gets hit. LL Bean stuff, no, for some reason, maybe they have a Canadian warehouse, or maybe their clothing is made in the U.S. but all other clothing seems to have extra charges. Because it’s all made in China, perhaps?

  8. Carla says:

    Whoa. That is awesome. Now, what do you do for those websites who have conditions of sale that include the line: “price subject to additional taxes, duties and brokerage fees”? I’ve never been asked to allow a company to be my broker, they’ve always just done it and sent me a bill.

    • Karen says:

      They may not actually ask you Carla. They may just show up saying you owe them money. If you’ve ever had to pay them at the door that means you’re paying for duty and taxes and chances are … broker fees as well. They may not mention it though. If a website says ““price subject to additional taxes, duties and brokerage fees” they’re just warning you that this may happen, they aren’t necessarily saying they’re going to act as your broker. Some OTHER sites on the other hand will ask that you agree to using them as your broker before checking out. Ebay does this I believe and charges a certain flat rate broker fee. When you agree … you’re committed but if you didn’t agree in any way to let them act as your broker, you can do it yourself. ~ karen!

  9. Kathryn says:

    Thank you Karen! I often just don’t order things from the U.S. because I never know what kind of stupid charges they’re going to put on top (and I’ve once ended up paying $50 for a cute collar for my dog) if they don’t allow USPS as a delivery method.

    And UPS always says they tried to deliver but actually just ran up and stuck the note on the door so I have to go to them to be extorted, when I was totally in the house, waiting for the package.

  10. Karen says:

    So glad you figured this out!!!!!! I seem to remember a whole saga of sending one little package to Canada via UPS. They demanded fees of the recipient, who refused. Then they wanted me to pay them. I had already paid to send it. I refused, too, and finally after MANY phone calls to UPS, they gave in and delivered it…a month later. Suck it UPS! :]

    • Karen says:

      That’s another problem with this UPS setup Karen. People who order things think it’s the fault of the shipper because they believe they’ve paid for everything they need to pay for and then BOOM another payment is necessary. It has nothing to do with the shipper really. BUT if you want to avoid this sort of thing as an online retailer just don’t use UPS. ~ karen!

  11. Karen says:

    OMG I cannot wait to try this! I order online all the time and have probably paid $100’s in brokerage fees over the years. I often have items shipped to a pick up depot in the USA but then still have to pay them a small fee. I usually only do that if I know I’ll be crossing the border for more than 48 hours sometime soon. It’s usually worth it because shipping within the states is often free. I just found a CBSA office at the Kitchener airport 15 mins away. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  12. Jack Barr says:

    Hi Karen:
    Thanks for the useful info on broker fees. There is also CBSA office on Dawson Rd. in Guelph, which may be even closer than 20 minutes for you.

    • Karen says:

      That would definitely be further for me but it might be helpful for someone else reading this post. Thx! (also don’t forget it has to be a inland office) ~ karen!

  13. Jenny W says:

    What a timely post! I recently ordered a dress online from the States, for my daughter’s Christmas Formal.
    I paid for the dress, shipping, and applied taxes when I ordered, tracked the parcel, and got both an email and a message left on my phone stating that to clear duty I had to pay another $30 or it would be sent back to sender. I felt like this was some sort of scam, but her friends also ordered from the same dress maker and they received the same notification. Before I had a chance to reply online, a carrier, not U.P.S., one I didn’t recognize, had left a notice on my door stating they tried to deliver the dress. I called them back, they returned and I paid the $30 in cash at my door. The dress is lovely, my daughter is happy, but when you think that everything has been paid for at time of order it’s rather inconvenient. I, too would order much more online, if it wasn’t for these hidden charges.

  14. TucsonPatty says:

    Another reason to frequent the USPS!! They are not doing such a huge business any more, what with all of us writing emails instead of letters. I’m going to try very hard to use only the USPS in solidarity with you all!
    That sounds like a nightmare to me – so glad We don’t have to do that! Maybe keep it quiet, or some nice politician will be trying to raise more taxes this way!!

    • TucsonPatty says:

      And here it is, 2020, and we still love our USPS, but the current administration is trying to kill it. (Plus all of us down here! So sorry, rest of the world – it wasn’t my fault!)
      Karen, you amaze me.
      I now have a question that has been bugging me for a while.
      Why/how are there some sites on the internet that, when asking for your email address, my iPhone gives me a different keyboard – which includes the @ symbol and the period without having to go back and forth between two keyboards?
      Hoping there is a logical answer for this. It seems to be something that should always happen. Thank you in advance, if you can solve my mystery!

  15. Edith says:

    Here in Germany there are no brokers and no fees, so if you order from outside the EU you always have to self clear. And it is the German Customs that holds your order, not the German Post or DHL or DPS or Hermes or etc. Taxes and duty are pretty high, so you always think twice before you order from somewhere else. Plus the people working at customs are extremely weird, strange and peculiar. I know that for fact.
    Luckily the EU has a lot to offer ….

  16. Kate says:

    Here in the UK the scam is run by the government and I don’t think there’s any option at all to avoid paying their ‘handling fee’ on top of customs. In fact companies that do that part for you (what I’m guessing you call brokering) often save you money. I got all excited about this post, but I don’t think it applies here. If it did I’d be doing a very happy dance (currently waiting for an expensive parcel from the US with an almost as expensive charge as the original cost to be levied on it).

  17. Auntiepatch says:

    I’ve never heard of a broker fee either. What a rip off!

  18. Paula says:

    I order stuff online all of the time and I do not remember paying broker fees, however; I will pay more attention and I will feel really good telling UPS to suck it if the occasion presents itself. Thanks Karen – you rock!

  19. Elaine says:

    Thank you, Karen, for this information!! I once wanted a pair of decorative corbeils/brackets. I didn’t care whether they were carved out of fancy wood or a faux resin; just as long as they looked good. I found a pair (a US website) made out of some fake material for about $16.00 (US) but by the time all the duty, taxes, border crossing, etc, were applied, they would have cost more than $65 (US)!! Needless to say, I didn’t buy them.

    When reading the many USA-based decor blogs, I am SO envious of the great deals Americans can enjoy, plus coupons, and the choice of so many online stores (with super prices) and just wish we Canadians could enjoy the same! I’d buy so many items online if it wasn’t for all these fees!!!

    • Wendy says:

      Hi Mom…. I’m SO glad that you have to pay ALL those fees, or else your VISA bill would be even worse each month ;)

      love your daughter xo

  20. Jennie Lee says:

    I, too, have ordered things from Canada without ever hearing of such a thing as broker fees. I, too, have had reason in the last 2 days to remark on the suckiness of UPS. They left four large, heavy packages worth almost $400 outside my house and didn’t bother to ring the doorbell. I discovered the packages over 3 hours later, just after it started to rain on them, and while franticly dragging them inside, tore half of the nail on my right big toe off. (I know, that part’s my fault, but if I’d known the boxes were there 3 hours earlier, I wouldn’t have been hurrying.) And today I discovered that one of the heavy steel parts I received is BENT, and won’t fit. I learned last week that both UPS and FedEx belong to ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Basically, they’re a bunch of corporations that get together and figure out ways to use their money to enact laws that they like, in the U.S. I won’t take up any more time from you lucky Canadians, but curious Americans should at least look up ALEC on Wikipedia. And use the U.S. Mail whenever possible!

  21. Gordy says:

    Karen, thank you for this. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve fallen for this before believing only a broker could do this task. You’ve empowered us all. So suck it UPS. I’m going to order something just so I can say NO! You rock Karen! Cheers Gordy

  22. Ardith says:

    Well done you, Karen. Can’t believe it is still such a pain to do business between our two countries. I’m sorry. I went through this process, shipping and schlepping items to and from, for trade shows years ago. Canadians are just way too cool to have to go through this obstacle course just to get their purchases. Cheers, Ardith

  23. Violet Rose says:

    You are such a great broad! All this helpful info with illustrations and easy to follow instructions. I’m an Aussie, never heard of broker fees before, but if I was Canadian I would be super grateful that you did this fab post. Helpful people rock in a world full of red tape and shenanigans. You rock.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Violet Rose. I was actually worried it seemed a bit confusing in my post, lol. But honestly, it’s easy. ~ karen!

  24. Barbie says:

    Makes me happy I don’t have to do this since I don’t live in Canada …. What a hassle … But I’m proud of you for showing your fellow Canadians how to do it!!! Good on you Karen!!!

  25. Laurinda says:

    We totally order stuff from Canada! It’s just that in this one instance, we have the cool rules. But UPS can still suck it

    • Karen says:

      So you don’t get any broker fees ordering from Canada to the US Laurinda? And thank you for the suck it on behalf of all Canadians! ~ karen

      • Alisa says:

        I’m an American who orders from Canada all the time, and I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous and annoying as broker fees. We order something, it just comes in the mail! And here I had the impression Canada was largely superior to the US…. ;)

      • Karen says:

        I know! I was under that impression too, lol! Not when it comes to broker fees though. But I’m doing my best to help my fellow Canadians with this one. ~ karen!

    • shirley says:

      What a beautiful macaw!

      • Laurinda says:

        Thank you! His name is Caddy, after the car I couldn’t afford because I bought a macaw. He’s a sweet bird, cuddly, funny & ear shatteringly loud <3

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