Why Do I Need a Customs Broker?

If your business is planning on importing a product, you’ve probably been told to work with a Customs broker (CHB).

But what is a CHB, and do you really need one?

What is a Customs broker?

A Customs broker is a professional service provider. Licensed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a Customs broker has an expert understanding of:

  • Customs regulations
  • the Harmonized Tariff Schedule
  • Free Trade Agreements currently in effect with 20 countries around the world
  • the many Partner Government Agencies (PGAs) that may have jurisdiction over the importation of your product

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the federal agency responsible for preventing illegal products from entering the country and collecting duties due on legal products entering the country. No product can enter the United States without the permission of CBP.

What does a Customs broker do?

A Customs broker can perform many different services on behalf of a business or individual that imports products into the United States, but the core service is filing the Customs entry.

It is the responsibility of the importer to make a declaration to Customs of what is being imported, where it comes from, and how much it costs.

When Customs is satisfied that all the importer’s obligations are met, Customs releases the product for entry into the territory of the United States. This is referred to as the entry process.

All steps in the entry process must be completed before Customs will “release” your shipment for delivery. During the entry process, duty is calculated and paid. In short, you can’t have your product until Customs is satisfied that all your legal requirements have been met.

Do I need a Customs Broker?

Yes and no.

Importers are not required to work with a Customs broker.

But given the complexities of international trade as well as necessary software for communicating with U.S. Customs, it is highly advisable for importers to work with a knowledgeable, licensed Customs broker.

Unless you are able to purchase Customs software and become thoroughly familiar with all regulations that pertain to your shipments, you will need to work with a Customs broker.

Customs regulations are extremely complicated, with special provisions and exceptions that may or may not apply depending on what you are importing, how it is made, where it comes from, and how it will be used.

Because you are an expert on your business, you rely on your Customs broker to be an expert on Customs regulations, the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, and the relevant Free Trade Agreements.

You also rely on your Customs broker to…

  • understand your business and your product
  • advise you on how to use every means available to minimize your duty liability
  • communicate electronically with Customs and any relevant Partner Government Agencies
  • maintain the most updated communications technology with all the relevant government agencies

Related Articles:

This article was originally published on March 30, 2022 and has been updated to include additional information.

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.


Monthly Supply Chain Newsletter: The CrossDock