What Every SMB Needs to Know About Clearing Customs

What Every SMB Needs to Know About Clearing Customs
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It’s helpful for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to know the rules and regulations for importing goods into the United States.

Doing business in the global market has advantages, but it can also feel overwhelming when dealing with customs and trade regulations. Knowing what to expect and how to make sure your goods clear customs quickly can be the difference between success and failure in your business.  

It’s helpful for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to know the rules and regulations for importing goods into the United States. Hence, they know what documents are required to clear customs and any applicable duties or tariffs imposed on their imports. Additionally, they must ensure compliance with safety guidelines and health regulations to avoid delays or fines when shipping internationally.  

Overview of Customs and What It Entails  

Every country involved in international trade has some sort of customs agency responsible for regulating the flow of goods, including animals, personal effects, and hazardous items, into and out of a country.  

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) manages, controls, and protects the nation’s borders. As part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the mission of CBP is to protect the American public from potential threats while facilitating legitimate trade and travel.  

The primary purpose of customs is to protect the country’s economy, residents, environment, and infrastructure by ensuring all imported goods comply with applicable laws and regulations. The CBP also collects duties and taxes on imported goods.  

Required documentation for clearing customs 

Here is a list of essential documents to have in order when it comes to clearing customs:    

  • Commercial Invoice: It details the products shipped, including their value, weight, quantity, origin, and destination. It helps determine any applicable duties or taxes for the products.   
  • Packing List: It provides a detailed description of the shipment’s contents, including SKU numbers, weights, and measurements.   
  • Bill of Lading: The bill contains all the details required for shipping freight, including all information required by customs and government agencies. It protects all parties involved in the shipment, including carriers, brokers, customs agents, and freight forwarders.   
  • The CBP may also ask for other documents, such as proof of insurance, certificate of origin, and other certificates.    

These documents are essential in the CBP inspection process and in calculating appropriate tariffs and duties. 

Understanding Tariffs and Duties  

A tariff is a tax on goods imported or exported across international borders. The importer of record pays both tariffs and duties and is responsible for all taxes due to customs authorities. An excellent place to start researching tariff information is the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) database or the Harmonized System (HS) Codes, which lists duty rates for virtually all items.  

Customs duties are taxes imposed on goods imported into a country, intending to protect its economy, residents, jobs, and environment by controlling the flow of goods across international borders.   

It’s important to note that tariffs and duties can vary depending on the country of origin, the value of imports, and product type. For example, certain countries may be subject to higher tariffs than others, while some products may be exempt from specific taxes. Additional international shipping fees may also be associated with broker or processing fees.  

The CBP will release a shipment once all tariffs and duties are paid in full.   

How to Avoid Delays at Customs  

To reduce customs clearance time, ensure all customs invoices, packing lists, and detailed descriptions of the goods are ready and filled out legibly ahead of time. Additionally, always comply with customs regulations by country of origin, port of entry, and destination. Compliance will ensure that your freight arrives on time and hassle-free at its destination.  

  • Ensure all customs invoices, packing lists, and detailed descriptions of the goods are ready and filled out legibly.  
  • Comply with customs regulations by country of origin, port of entry, and destination.  
  • Ensure your shipment does not contain any dangerous or prohibited goods that may cause a delay in customs clearance.  
  • Double-check all paperwork for accuracy to avoid errors or missing information that could lead to delays in customs clearance.  
  • Ensure the country of origin is clearly marked on your packages.   
  • Make sure to complete a pre-shipment inspection.   
  • Ensure each package is marked and numbered to correspond with the invoice.  

Importers may seek advice from private-sector professionals such as licensed customs brokers, freight forwarders, attorneys, or consultants specializing in importing.  

Tips and Best Practices for Clearing Customs Quickly  

Clearing customs can be stressful as you navigate the complexities of complying with U.S. laws while keeping your shipment on time. However, a few tips and best practices can help expedite the process and get your products cleared quickly if employed strategically.   

  • Work with a reliable freight forwarder. The right freight forwarder is an expert in international shipping and can provide various services such as timely pickup and delivery, efficient tracking systems, security, cost-effective solutions, accurate documentation, inventory management, and more.  
  • Being organized is vital. Ensure all your forms are in line with CBP regulations and complete and have accurate information regarding the weight and descriptions of items.   
  • Include any extra paperwork for sealed items to accurately reflect that the packages have not been touched or tampered with in transit – this will significantly reduce delays when clearing customs.  

With these simple steps in mind, getting your package through customs without hiccups is easier than ever.  

Benefits of Working with a Freight Forwarder to Clear Customs Faster  

For business owners looking to ship internationally, working with a freight forwarder is an ideal way to get goods across borders and cleared quickly.   

  • Experience matters when it comes to clearing customs, and freight forwarders have years of experience and expertise to ensure that customs are cleared promptly and done according to the country of origin and destination regulations.   
  • They offer resources such as their global network of reliable shipping partners who can handle international cargo efficiently and securely.   
  • They can also manage all of the complexities associated with cross-border transportation.   
  • They know what to do when shipping doesn’t go as planned.   
  • Using a freight forwarder for importing goods into the U.S. benefits SMBs in terms of time savings, cost savings, efficiency gains, and peace of mind.  

Working with a freight forwarder can relieve businesses of the stress of complying with import/export rules and regulations by providing the necessary knowledge, documentation processing, brokerage services, duty calculations, international payment options, and more – all within the expected time frame for customs clearance.  

There is a lot to consider regarding clearing customs in international shipping. Understanding the documents needed, tariffs, and duties is essential for small and medium-sized businesses. There are several ways to avoid delays when entering the U.S. By working with experienced professionals such as Ship4wd, SMBs can gain greater control over their shipping operations and benefit from a wide range of services and solutions.   

With Ship4wd’s team of dedicated professionals, you can let go of the stress associated with customs clearance while ensuring timely delivery. Reach out today to take advantage of their trusted services! 

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