Customs brokers assist individuals or companies with import and export shipments. A broker's objectives include protecting the interests of the United States and ensuring their clients' shipments flow as smoothly as possible as they cross U.S. borders. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the government agency that issues Customs broker licenses and regulates transactions. Brokers who fail to follow Customs regulations risk fines or losing their license. As of September 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports there are around 11,000 active Customs brokers.
Knowledge of Trade Laws
Customs brokers need a comprehensive knowledge of U.S. and international trade laws. It is the broker's job to ensure clients' shipments meet all legal requirements to avoid delays or costly fines and penalties. Brokers must be aware of changes in the law that will affect their customers' shipments. In order to prevent disruptions in the supply chain, the broker conveys information about regulatory changes to clients and helps ensure all parties are in compliance.
Customs broker clients authorize brokers to act on their behalf to conduct Customs business with a signed power of attorney. It is the broker's responsibility to protect their customers' interests by following all Customs procedures during transactions. Brokers may sign Customs documents on behalf of their clients and speak to Customs officials about their shipments. Brokers must relay all relevant communications from Customs back to their customer.
The Customs broker should strive to submit all the required documentation and data to Customs as early as possible to ensure timely clearance. They must be aware of any extra documentation required to take advantage of special trade programs that reduce or eliminate Custom duties. If a shipment contains a community regulated by other government agencies such as the Federal Drug Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency, the broker must ensure the additional documentation requirements are met.
Payment of Customs Duties
Customs brokers use due diligence to ensure that all Customs duties and fees are calculated correctly and payment is made to U.S. Customs and Border Protection on time. The broker carefully determines the proper code from the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States and the country of origin of the goods to figure the duty rate. Brokers can pay the duties for their customers and bill them, or Customs can directly deduct the amount from the importer's account.
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