You may have been redirected here from our old site, Vancruisers.ca. We've moved this article over to allow continued discussion and because it applies to all kinds of bikes (not just cruisers). I've copied the original comments from Vancruisers as well as they help to answer some questions folks had which are probably going to be asked again otherwise. Enjoy!
First let me start off by explaining the rationale behind Canada's tax laws.
Assembled bicycles and bicycle wheels are taxed at a fairly high rate coming in to Canada. The idea behind this is to help protect Canadian bike manufacturers. You will essentially pay a penalty for NOT having the bike built in Canada, supposedly encouraging you to get a bike built here plus put some other countries (China in particular) on a more even playing field given that they do not pay nearly as much to their workers.
Regardless of what tax category your bike or parts fall in to expect to pay at LEAST GST/HST in addition to any other customs fees or duties.
A complete bike falls under customs tariff #8712.00.00 - this category has a 13% tax rate PLUS GST/HST, pretty heavy especially if it's an older bike. However this rate only applies to "complete' bikes. The subcategories therein are all based on wheel size - if there's no wheels though it's not a complete bike. If you don't want to pay that 13% "complete bike' tax then get the wheels shipped separately or not at all.
Wheels are the next highest taxed category. An assembled bike wheel adds 6.5% plus GST/HST to the cost. However an unassembled wheel has no extra duty, just GST/HST! If you just want the hub anyhow then get the seller to cut out the hub and ditch the rest. Besides avoiding the 6.5% duty your shipping charges will be less since the package is going to be way smaller!
If you're just buying parts the best advice I can give you is have the seller be as specific as possible. The following items do not have anything but GST/HST added:
There are two different categories on the tariff labeled "Other" and I think it's more or less up to the customs agent to determine what category things fall in to. Remember a customs agent doesn't necessarily know anything about bikes and they're probably going to just run down the form until they find the first category labeled 'Other' - this one is "Frames and Forks, and Parts Thereof - Other'. I honestly can't think of ANYTHING that would fall in to this category as practically every part of the frame and fork has already been accounted for.
If you can, get the seller to label things very specifically, ideally with the actual customs tariff item number. Here are the numbers and their tax rates all together:
Remember customs officers are at work just like the rest of us and the more you do to make their job easier the better! Obviously they're still going to check your package but if you save them the time of having to figure out what everything is and what particular category it should fall in to then you'll probably find you can get things through customs with a lot less hassle.
UPS and Fedex-type couriers all charge a fairly hefty 'brokerage fee' for processing your package through customs. This fee is usually $30 or more. The postal service however does NOT charge these fees. If at all possible get your items shipped via the regular postal service. Besides the shipping charge being way less that brokerage fee disappears.
Finally for bikes and parts that were originally made in Canada, make sure you get the seller to label the package with that information! There is NO tax on bikes or bike parts made in Canada even if they've been shipped out of the country and are now coming back.