What is a Customs Broker? What can a customs broker do for my business?

Strix will explore how a Licensed Customs Broker plays an important role in facilitating the entry, clearance, and movement of imported goods into the United States. We’ll also provide insights in what a customs broker can do for you and your importing needs.

The Basics. What is a Customs Broker?

I’ll be honest, that was the first question I had to ask when I applied for my first international trade job. The job title I was applying for (hint: It wasn’t for a Customs Broker position) looked interesting enough, but I had to wonder, what was a customs broker? What did they mean by filing an ISF or an Entry? What in the world did this company actually do? And so my adventure began…

What I learned right away was that these people are sharp, and I mean, they know their stuff. About what? About a lot things. You see while preparing to become a US Licensed Customs Broker they study for a test that covers the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, the Title 19, Code of Federal Regulations (CRF19), Specified Customs Directives and Customs and Trade Automated Interface Requirements document (CATAIR). With a national pass rate of 29%, passing the broker is no small feat!

Ok, Ok, so they’re smart! But what do they DO??

When goods are imported into the United States, they are subject to certain formalities involving U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In almost all cases, the goods are required to be "entered," that is, declared to CBP, and are subject to detention and examination by CBP officers to ensure compliance with all laws and regulations enforced or administered by CBP.

When a formal "entry of merchandise" is made, the required documentation or information is required to be filed or electronically transmitted by the "importer of record" (IOR). The IOR is either the owner or purchaser of the merchandise or when appropriately designated by the owner, purchaser, or consignee of the merchandise, a person holding a valid license as a customs broker.

As part of the entry process, goods must be "classified" (determined by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States or HTSUS) and their value must be determined. It is the responsibility of the importer of record to use "reasonable care" to "enter," "classify", and "value" the goods, and provide any other information necessary to enable CBP to properly assess duties, collect accurate statistics, and determine whether all other applicable legal requirements are met.

These requirements can be complex. In order to assist importers in meeting their responsibilities, importers may employ experts within their organizations or seek advice or services from outside experts such as customs brokers. Customs brokers prepare and file entry documentation because the preparation and filing of entry documentation constitute "customs business" which, by statute, may be performed on behalf of others only by a licensed customs broker.

Customs Brokers are experts in navigating the sea of changing customs regulations and understand import specifics related to particular commodities. Simply put, customs brokers help businesses and individuals clear shipments into the US at the border with the goal of saving their customers time, money and avoiding penalties.

What can a Customs Broker do for you and your importing needs?

Now we know a little bit about what they do and how they are qualified to help. Why should you use the services of a customs broker

Knowledge – Customs brokers are keen to stay up to date with policy and regulation changes set forth by CBP. They utilize the necessary software and technology needed to manage and clear your company’s shipments.

Skills – Yeah, we got skills! Customs brokers make sure your shipments cross the border and reach their intended destination safely. They have the skills to facilitate the entire customs clearance process, regardless of the port of entry.

Correctly Classifying Goods – Customs brokers are well versed in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule – a compilation of duties or taxes levied on goods as they enter a country. Each good receives a specific classification number and they are divided into major groups and sub-groups to allow correct and easy identification for the purposes of charging customs duty.

Time Savings – Nobody likes paperwork! But we do! And although you are not required by law to use a customs broker, most companies prefer to use a broker to entrust all the paperwork and communication with relevant agencies to an expert. Using an expert customs broker can save you time and more importantly, costly mistakes you might make trying to juggle all the paperwork on top of running your business.

Reduce Costs – Besides submitting the necessary paperwork to have your goods cleared, customs brokers can reduce your company’s costs, improve efficiency, and mitigate risks issues related to engaging in international trade. Rules and regulations in cross-border transactions keep changing. As experts in the requirements for each type of goods, customs brokers can help you avoid costly delays, fines, confiscation of the merchandise and other penalties.

Here at Strix, we offer all of this and more. Let us help you navigate the ever-changing seas of customs business and importing.

Connect with us today!

Strix has experienced Licensed Customs Brokers that can assist you in ISF Filing and any other Entry related questions you might have. Strix also offers ISF Self-Filing and Entry Self-Filing ACE software for experienced importers who seek to reduce costs and increase compliance. Call us at 406-922-6600 or get a quote today.