A Customs Checklist: Must-Knows for Importers & Exporters

Not only do electronics companies have to worry about having the most innovative, competitively priced products, they also need them on the market as quickly and efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, customs delays often hampers getting OEMs from getting products on the shelves quickly.

Knowing current customs laws and regulations can stop you from becoming one of the thousands of businesses facing delays each year. Significant delays not only upset customers, but they also cost importers more money associated with exam costs, fines, and detention fees. The following recommendations can help you avoid setbacks when importing and exporting:

An importer's checklist

  • Understand your role: Importers are required to redeliver merchandise and rectify noncompliance with provisions of admission. Note that importers must exercise reasonable care (such as seeking a customs expert's advice) to complete documents. Please note the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) consider licensed compliant customs brokers as customs experts.
  • Be accurate: It is important to identify the full value that must be declared to the CBP and to validate the declared amount is correct. This can involve comparing the Purchase Order (PO), commercial invoices, and customs entry to ensure all applicable charges are declared, proper currency applied, etc.         
  • State the country of origin: The correct country of origin is where the product was produced.
  • Use the right Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) classifications: A proper HTS classification will determine rate of duties, embargoes, Antidumping and Countervailing Duties (ADD/CVD) and more. You can prevent mistakes by making HTS classification a part of the PO process or by arranging access to expert HTS knowledge.
  • Free Trade Agreement (FTA) regulations and your imports: If applicable, FTAs can qualify you for duty savings. Learn what documentation is needed and how to ensure proper compliance.
  • Follow up: Keep entry records of the past five years, and follow up on any messages from the CBP and other parties. Additionally, set up an audit procedure to verify the accuracy of filed customs entries.

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An exporter's checklist:

  • Obtain a Schedule B or an HTS number:   An exporter must obtain a Schedule B or an HTS number for its goods before exporting. To acquire this number, call the Census Bureau at 1-800-549-0595 and report it in the Automated Export System (AES).
  • Check the value: Remember that, when exporting a commodity that has a value over $2,500, the exporter or agent (such as a freight forwarder) must file the Electronic Export Information (EEI) for each individual Schedule B number. The carrier will receive the Internal Transaction Number (ITN), which confirms that the AES filing for the shipment has been accepted by customs.
  • Ensure that Export Control is addressed: Goods that are exported from the U.S. may need authorization from the government to be exported. This could be because the goods are controlled commodities, the end use may be controlled or the end user may be restricted. These aspects must be addressed prior to export.  Exporting controlled goods without authorization can result in a fine and penalties. 

Take advantage of EDI services

Filing data through Electronic Data Interchange ( EDI) can speed up CBP transaction processes and enable remote location filing for entry summaries.

The EDI system provides standards for exchanging data electronically. Filers can transmit data to the CBP after contacting a CBP client representative. A client representative can help importers and exporters automate all communications with the CBP. Filers are then required to confirm with the CBP that the programming is effective and that their systems can send and receive data from the CBP.

Changes to the ACE

New requirements for Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), a primary system for importing and exporting goods, will be in effect by the end of 2016. ACE is a Web-based, “Single Window” system that automates manual processes and simplifies compliance. The updates to ACE have and will occur after three mandatory use dates: May 1, 2015; November 1, 2015; and October 1, 2016.

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