Whether your company has just entered into the world of international trade, or you are already there and are assessing your options regarding your service providers, you will inevitably have to make some decisions regarding your customs brokerage services. Although this would seem like a fairly simple decision, not all customs brokers provide the same services and they can play a key role in the long term success of your company. While it is true that all customs brokers facilitate the release of your goods through Customs, in many cases this is a very automated function and the extent of the service offering. As the rules and regulations of importing goods are complex and always changing, your company is best served by aligning itself with an international trade expert.
Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection regulations clearly hold the importer of record responsible for the accuracy of their customs declarations, reporting and record keeping. Errors and omissions can be extremely costly and because of this, it is always best to look for a customs broker with expertise in international trade to be your partner. In addition to setting up the clearance/release of your goods through Customs, your customs broker should also provide information and advice relative to proper coding under the Harmonized Tariff, valuation, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and proper record keeping to name just a few.
Guidelines to help you assess the services of a customs broker:
As you conduct your research on a potential customs broker and their service offerings, the following are some guideline questions that will help you assess a professional service provider:
- What are your hours and days of operation and who answers my questions outside of regular work hours?
- Can you provide me with information regarding NAFTA and whether or not my goods can enter duty free?
- Do you advise on how my company can ensure proper compliance with Customs regulations and record keeping requirements?
- Can you assist me with information on new product purchases to determine if there are any additional duties that I may not be aware of and/or report to other government departments?
- Are you able to provide services for importing and exporting?
- Can you arrange transportation for my goods: air, ocean, ground, rail and/or courier?
- Will you review previous customs entries to determine potential exposure to additional duties and/or penalties?
- Can you assist with corrections, duty drawbacks to customs entries?
- How do you communicate with your clients? If I call with questions, will a live person answer or will I reach an automated phone system?
- Do you offer Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and on-line documentation capabilities?
These are just a few key questions that can assist you in selecting the right customs broker for you. Ultimately, you should feel comfortable that your customs broker has the expertise your company needs to be successful in international trade.
Pacific Customs Brokers specializes in Canadian & U.S. customs brokerage. We welcome your questions on this topic in our comments section below. If you are importing or exporting goods into Canada or the USA and need assistance, please contact us.
What questions do you ask when selecting a customs broker? Share your thoughts in our comments section.