Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


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U.S. Customs Brokerage FAQ

What is a customs broker?

A customs broker is licensed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to conduct CBP business on behalf of importers who give the broker power of attorney to act as an agent for their commercial businesses importing product into the USA. This includes, but is not limited to, government agencies such as FDA, Agriculture and Fish & Wildlife. All required documents and forms must be supplied to these agencies with a Harmonized System Tariff classification number for each product imported. This code determines the rate of duties and taxes that must be paid to the U.S. Treasury department through U.S. Customs. With all the changing rules and regulations in cross-border transactions, it makes good business sense to use a customs broker.

What is the advantage of using a customs broker?
  1. Risk Management:
    • A customs broker will ensure that the importer is meeting the ever-changing requirements of the CBP and Homeland Security. Customs and Border Protection have embarked on an aggressive method of checking compliance, targeting all importers taking advantage of NAFTA, duty reductions, and other duty relief programs.
    • A customs broker will assist the importer with the increased complexity of NAFTA regulations, enabling him to take advantage of NAFTA and other trade agreement opportunities that can have a significant impact on the firm's bottom line in reducing duties and taxes
    • A customs broker stays abreast of the growing number of rules, regulations, and conditions that allow the importer to qualify for NAFTA.
    • A customs broker provides the timely delivery of goods, which is critical for good client service.
  2. Flexible staffing
    • Customs brokers alleviate the need for importers to have staff with specialized customs knowledge and so frees up the importer to concentrate on revenue-generating core competencies.
    • Customs brokers manage peaks and valleys of importing volumes, creating automated entry documents from previously classified goods. This work is generally clerical in nature with some demand for knowledge of customs entry regulations.
    • Customs brokers provide post-entry work that may take the form of a refund or other payment amendment request to the CBP. Changes in information regarding the description, value, quantity or origin of the imported goods often requires further research and processing.
    • Customs brokers provide shipping advice, monitoring and tracking of goods.
  3. Decreases the importer's fixed costs
    Customs brokers provide:
    • IT support
    • Hardware
    • Software
    • Hardware/Software maintenance costs
    • Personnel and associated overheads
  4. Passive Control
    New technology on the part of the customs broker gives importers the ability to gain control over importing information without taking on the function (e.g. web-based trade information management solutions).
  5. Brokerage Fees
    Customs broker fees are usually only a small portion of the your companies overall importing cost.
Can we import our goods without the services of a customs broker?

You can import up to $2000.00 without the assistance of a customs broker however, it is always up to the discretion of the officer whether they accept your declaration or request that you obtain the services of a broker.

Do I need a customs broker for personal goods?

No, you are not required to have a customs broker to assist you in clearing your goods through Customs. You may choose to clear them on your own but, it will always be up to the discretion of the attending officer if he / she requires you to present a formal Customs entry.

What does it cost to use a customs broker?

A brokerage fee is usually determined by the total value of the shipment being imported. In some cases, a set rate or fee is agreed upon between the broker and client.

If our company uses the services of a competing customs broker, what steps are involved with switching to use Pacific Customs Brokers?

Changing customs brokers to use the services of Pacific Customs Brokers is fairly simple. You would have to forward Pacific a completed and valid General Agency Agreement (Power of Attorney), an Account information Sheet, set up an account and make payment arrangements. A Client Services Representative at Pacific Customs Brokers would assist in notifying carriers and the previous customs broker.

What paperwork is required?

When importing to the USA, a Commercial Invoice can be used. The following information must be noted on the invoice: total value of goods, currency of purchase, country of origin (of manufacture), shipper and consignee full name and address as well as a piece count, detailed description of the product(s) and the Federal ID for the Consignee of the product in the USA. A North American Free Trade Certificate (NAFTA) is required to take advantage of preferential duty rates when applicable. Pacific Customs Brokers has developed an On-line Forms Management System called FORMLINK. All required forms necessary for importation and freight movement are supplied here. FORMLINK also provides the user with the ability to complete and submit the forms via the internet.

How do I pay duties and taxes?

Once credit has been established, an account is created for your company with a line of credit. Pacific Customs Brokers can then pay U.S. Customs and Border Protection on your behalf for any monies owing related to the duties and taxes applicable to each shipment processed. Pacific Customs Brokers will issue your company an invoice covering all duties, taxes and fees incurred for that shipment. All invoices are required to be paid in full, within 15 days of clearance.

What makes Pacific Customs Brokers stand above other customs brokers?

Pacific Customs Brokers has assembled an experienced service-oriented staff who do not view working with the clients as an inconvenience. Our 24/7 LIVE Reception Team is ALWAYS available to answer your calls and we at Pacific Customs Brokers do not believe in "voice mail". We understand that your shipment is a priority to your business.

Can a shipper/exporter from Canada take responsibility for all the fees associated when goods are exported from Canada?

Yes, the exporter out of Canada may be the "Importer of Record" for product entering the USA. A bond will be applied and a Customs assigned number requested identifying the foreign-based company to CBP as doing business in the USA. The "Importer of Record" is liable and responsible for all declarations and penalties. As there are many rules and regulations that apply, it can become very tedious keeping track of all the necessary forms. It makes good business sense to have professionals like Pacific Customs Brokers Ltd. to handle this for you.

Should our company use several different customs brokers, depending on the mode of transportation or the location of entry?

This practice is definitely NOT recommended. We recommend that a company only use a single customs broker, and build a rapport with a client service representative who becomes familiar with your imported goods. Using the services of more than one customs broker, can expose a company to potential errors and therefore a potential CBP audit. CBP views an importer as a single "account", and all shipments regardless of the Customs port of entry, mode of transportation, or carrier are applied to the account associated with the company's business.

When shipping goods by courier, is it recommended that we use the customs brokerage services provided by that of a courier even though we use a different customs broker for our truck, air and sea freight shipments?

This practice is definitely NOT recommended. We recommend that a company only use a single customs broker, and build a rapport with a client service representative who becomes familiar with your imported goods. Using the services of more than one customs broker can expose a company to potential errors and compliance issues.

At which Customs ports can Pacific Customs Brokers clear goods?

Pacific Customs Brokers can and does provide customs brokerage services at any United States or a Canada Customs port of entry. In today's electronic world, local agents are rarely required; a central operations business model is more beneficial to a client.

Are there restrictions on what items can be imported into the United States?

Yes, there are many things to take into account with CBP and Homeland Security enforcing regulations that are governed by all government agencies. Many different items can be prohibited from entering the USA if they do not meet the necessary criteria.

Can Pacific Customs Brokers review my entries done by other customs brokers to ensure compliance?

Pacific's experienced staff can thoroughly review your previous customs entries and provide solutions and suggestions. Of course, you will need to supply copies of your U.S. Customs Invoices, or Commercial Invoices, as well as the supporting CBP Forms and the other customs broker's paperwork.

What if my current customs broker mis-classifies my goods?

Harmonized Tariff Classification is the ultimate responsibility of the Importer of Record, and it is expected by Customs that reasonable care will be used in this endeavor. There are potential consequences in reporting the incorrect tariff information to Customs, including overpayments or underpayments of duty, potential penalties and interest charges, further scrutiny and delays of your shipments, and the possibility of full Customs audits. The experts at Pacific Customs Brokers are pleased to assist you in the proper classification and reporting of your goods, with the necessary information given regarding the product.

Is Pacific Customs Brokers able to assist with the exporting of goods out of the United States?

Pacific Customs Brokers has the expertise on staff to assist with the preparation of documentation and transportation when shipping out of the United States.

Can Pacific assist in making transportation arrangements for our goods?

Pacific works with many of our clients to assist in making import, export and domestic transportation arrangements for goods moving by truck, air, sea or rail. We employ a dedicated team of experts to assist you in transporting your goods to meet both your required timelines and budget.

Can Pacific Customs Brokers educate my staff and I on responsibilities, documentation requirements and regulations of customs procedures?

Pacific Customs Brokers hosts regularly scheduled educational seminars and workshops on various U.S. & Canadian Customs topics. In addition, Pacific Customs Brokers can build individually tailored seminars and send a presentation team to your offices.