Can I change the description of my goods to save on Customs duties?

This post was last updated on 05/04/23

It depends.

You definitely should not simply change the description of your goods on the invoice from your supplier just to save on Customs duties.

However, if you truly feel the new or “changed” description accurately represents your product, then you have a justified case to make the change.

U.S. Customs (CBP) is not interested in having you pay the highest duty rate possible. They are interested, and very serious, that you use the correct HTS code and pay the correct duty rate for your imported product.

Your Customs broker (CHB) can help you determine the correct classification for your shipment if you need assistance.

Use the correct description

There are ways to find out in advance if your new or changed description is accurate according to Customs, for example, as described in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).

See also CBP’s Informed Compliance Publication on the classification process: What Every Member of the Trade Community Should Know About: Tariff Classification.

Use the same description

Because Customs can interpret classifications differently in different ports of entry, we recommend you obtain binding rulings for your imported products. With a binding ruling, you will know in advance what your duty cost will be before you import.

Page 37 of the Informed Compliance Publication above, under the heading “PRE-IMPORTATION (ADVANCE) CLASSIFICATION RULINGS,” explains the process for obtaining this advance, binding ruling based on your detailed description (and often a sample of the item in question).

Sometimes there are gray areas in determining the correct classification, but other times it is very precise where items are very specifically provided for in the HTSUS.

The binding classification “binds” Customs—and you—to use it in all U.S. ports of entry.

Work with a Customs broker

A quality CHB will help advise you on what to do and how to do it; they can (if they have your power of attorney) prepare and submit the request for a binding ruling on your behalf.

If you are a C J client (or even if you’re not), contact Samya (Sam) Murray, LCB, CCS at

Sam is C J’s Compliance Officer and a founding partner in C J; she has been recognized often for her expertise in the import (and export) process. Don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of her expertise!

We strive to be more than just a service vendor. We want to partner in your success.

Our blog posts are for informational purposes only. While we use reasonable efforts to furnish accurate information, C J is not liable or responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any information contained herein.


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