Aerial view of shipping containers at port

Why U.S. Customs Brokers Are Essential for Businesses That Rely on Imports

U.S. Customs brokers play a critical role in the supply chain. They’re responsible for ensuring that goods clear through customs without any delays or regulatory setbacks. A customs broker will process all import and export documentation, track your shipments, facilitate tax and duty payments, and ensure that all goods are accounted for when they arrive at customs and when they reach their final destination.

You are not legally required to retain a customs broker for your business, but you should definitely consider it if you deal with imports from overseas. Consider just a few of the reasons why U.S. Customs brokers are so important for businesses.

Customs Brokers Save You Time

One of the main reasons to consider a customs broker is convenience. When you have someone overseeing your imports on your behalf, you have more time to focus on the day-to-day aspects of running your business. The process of clearing your goods through Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can be extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive, especially when you’re not knowledgeable about the international shipping regulations and procedures.

Customs Brokers Are Regulatory Experts

There are complex regulatory requirements associated with clearing customs, and these requirements can vary tremendously depending on the type of goods and the country of origin. If you don’t process the paperwork correctly and follow all appropriate procedures, you run the risk of delaying the clearance process, incurring costly fines, and jeopardizing your relationships with suppliers, your customers, and even your business standing. U.S. Customs brokers are licensed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and they understand the procedures inside and out. It’s better to leave these sensitive transactions in the hands of an expert than to try and figure things out on your own.

Customs Brokers Can Save You Money

U.S. Customs brokers are an investment. However, when you consider the amount of time and labor involved in processing your own imports, a good broker easily pays for itself. This becomes even more apparent when you factor in the potential fines and penalties you might incur if you overlook key regulations. Brokers can also advise you on how to cut your freight costs, choose the right cargo insurance, and reduce the time and labor required for processing shipments.

Do I Need a Customs Broker?

Shipping container being moved by crane

The benefits of a customs broker are clear, but it’s still important to ask the obvious question: Do I need a Customs broker? If your business relies on international imports that are regulated by other governments, the answer is almost always yes. However, there are some exceptions to the rule:

  1. If all of your goods are delivered through an express courier like DHL or FedEx, you won’t need a customs broker. These companies use their own U.S. Customs brokers to process imports. Please note, however, that these types of courier services are generally reserved for personal shipments—and not for business use.
  2. If the vast majority of your goods are domestically manufactured and you only process the occasional import, you might find a customs broker to be an unnecessary expenditure. In these cases, just make sure to follow all regulatory requirements to the letter when you do process your imports. Refer to this importing guide provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  3. You use a third-party logistics company to manage your inventory. A 3PL company can be invaluable for processing your imports, warehousing your goods, and overseeing shipments to customers on your behalf. And if you opt for a company like Partner Trade, which has its own U.S. Customs brokers on staff, you’ll never have to worry about the hassles of clearing customs.

There’s a common misconception that you don’t need a customs broker if you’re sourcing goods from an ecommerce provider like Alibaba. After all, these providers ship to customers all over the world, and they don’t use customs brokers, right? Well, if you’re purchasing on behalf of a business, things are a bit more complicated than that. Even if you’re purchasing raw materials or wholesale products from other ecommerce providers, it’s still highly recommended that you use a customs broker who understands the associated tariff classifications, shipping regulations, and other factors—as the seller typically won’t be much help in this regard.

A Good Broker Is Worth Its Weight in Gold

U.S. Customs brokers are vital for many businesses. Trying to navigate U.S. Customs without a broker is like trying to draw up a business contract without an attorney or process a large business tax return without an accountant.

With so many legal details in play, you don’t want to leave yourself vulnerable. Contact Partner Trade today and make sure your goods don’t get delayed.