Free Advice From Your Customs Broker


For the most part, the breed of Customs Brokers love to talk. By the nature of our jobs, we have so much information swimming around in our heads that it has to come out some time! More importantly, we want to make sure that any work we are going to have to do in the future is as smooth as possible. Therefore, we welcome your questions regarding the import or export of your products. The best thing you can do BEFORE starting any process of international trade is to call one of us first. We can help! Here are some questions you should ask and information we will need to know:

1. What can I expect the duty percentage rate of my product to be upon entry?

a. We will need you to describe your product, but not in a generic or too specific way. For example, if your goods are garments, are they knitted/crocheted or not? What material are they made of? Which gender are they made for? We will ask these types of questions in response to your question. We are not avoiding your question, just trying to get all of the required information to give you the correct answer.

b. You will need to tell us where the goods are made. This tells us if your goods qualify for any special trade programs.

2. What do I need to do to file an ISF?

a. ISF, or Importer Security Filing, is a requirement for goods that are going to be imported into the US via Ocean Freight. This requires a bond.

b. We need 48-72 hours prior to the departure of the goods from the port or origin. This gives us plenty of time to assess the situation, secure the bond and make the filing. If you have a continuous bond, however, a separate ISF bond is not necessary.

c. To file anything on your behalf, we will need you to first sign a power of attorney. This is non-negotiable and a requirement by Customs & Border Protection (CBP).

3. How long will it take for my goods to get here?

a. This largely depends on your forwarder and the steamship line, but we can do a quick search for you to find out the details of your freight.

b. Your ISF paperwork also provides the date the ship is expected to arrive in port.

c. With this information, we can give a range of days that your goods should be able to deliver. But remember, ocean freight is NEVER guaranteed to arrive on any certain date.

4. Who can sign the Power of Attorney (POA)?

a. This must be signed by a principal of the company, such as the President or Director. They must be listed on the officer list filed with the state.

5. What can I do to decrease the cost of duty for my product?

a. Duty percentages range considerably and are not only attached to the material that is used, but also to the product itself. As brokers, we are required to use the code that most matches the description of the product.

b. Sometimes, simply changing the type of material used will reduce your duty percentage, but your price from the factory can increase. Other times, there is nothing you can do if your description is so named in the tariff. For example, a cotton shirt has a rate of about 5%, but a polyester shirt has a rate of 17%. A corset, regardless of what it is made of, is always 26.5% of the imported value.

c. Speak with your customs broker, then take their words under advisement to assess your product.

6. What complications can arise from importing this product?

a. Occasionally, the goods may fall under quota. Your broker will be able to look this up for you.

b. Anti-dumping is also a complication, as the duties are much higher. This is why it is adviseable that you first speak with your broker before moving forward with your product.

7. I have been told my goods are FDA regulated. Is this true?

a. FDA monitors certain types of goods, such as food and beverages. You need to speak to your broker about it so that a prior notice can be filed. This will save you some issues in the long run.

8. How do I avoid customs exam?

a. Customs Exams are usually expensive and time consuming. Your best bet is to always ship your goods correctly. Make sure they are correctly manifested and the carton count is accurate. A one-time incorrect count can red flag your shipments for months.

b. Use C-TPAT approved companies, and get your company C-TPAT compliant. This will be like going through the express lane at the grocery store, (or like GOES for you international travelers). The process is much speedier, if exams are assigned, your shipment goes to the front of the queue, and often, there are fewer exams.

9. Do I need a bond?

a. If a formal entry is required, a bond is required.

b. A continuous bond is required for foreign importers.

c. If you plan to import more than 3 times per year, then you need a continuous bond.

d. A continuous bond covers your ISF and your entry, and typically, the 3rd or 4th shipment of single entry bonds is equal to the price of a continuous bond.

10. What is ACH with Customs?

a. Applying for an ACH account with Customs will allow you to pay the duties directly to Customs without the step of giving the money to your broker.

b. This can speed up your customs process.

c. You must have a US bank account for this ability.

If you have any other questions, you should consult with your Customs Broker. They will be able to field almost any customs related question you throw at them. And, f they don't know the answer off the top of their heads, they certainly know where to find it.

If you do not have a Custom Broker, feel free to give us a call. 702-291-8546 or send us an email at customs@mlitinc.com. We are happy to help!


Originally published May 22, 2017 by Kim Daniels

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