Customs brokers must take their duties and resposibilities very seriously.
A licensed Customs broker helps importers and exporters meet federal requirements for international shipments. Licensed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, brokers are responsible for compliance with trade laws and regulations. Duties of a broker include advising clients on proper import-export procedures and transacting Customs business on their behalf. The broker must keep his license current and maintain a Customs permit for each district in which he will transact Customs business. Customs officials can issue fines and penalties for brokers who neglect duties or willfully violate laws.
To conduct Customs business on behalf of another party, the Customs broker must have a valid power of attorney from their client. Most customers issue an unlimited power of attorney giving the broker the authority to perform any lawful act in the course of transacting Customs business. It is up to the broker to verify the identity of the individual issuing the document and confirm she has the authority to sign it. If a partnership issues a power of attorney, it is good for up to two years. Powers of attorney issued by all others are in effect until revoked. (see ref 1) As the client’s representative, the broker explains Customs laws and regulations and reviews transactions to ensure compliance.
The Customs broker submits all necessary documentation to clear goods that enter the United States. Using the commercial invoice, the broker prepares the entry forms that include shipment information such as the classification codes, country of origin, weights and quantities. Brokers usually transmit the information to U.S. Customs electronically via the automated broker interface. The broker also assists clients in securing paperwork needed to qualify imports for trade programs such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. Brokers help with export shipments by providing information on export licenses and submitting information through the automated export system.
Payment of Duties and Fees
Customs duties are due within 10 working days of entry. Brokers may pay the duties directly to Customs and bill their customers. If the importer has an automated clearinghouse account set up, the broker calculates the amount of duties and fees due on the entry and the money comes directly from the account. In the event the importer has overpaid duties or the goods did not remain in the U.S., the broker submits forms to request a refund or a duty drawback. Customs also requires brokers to pay an annual user fee for each permit and a status report fee every three years.
Customs brokers must retain all documents related to Customs transactions in an orderly, itemized manner for at least five years from the date of entry. They must keep copies of all active powers of attorney. Brokers must keep revoked powers of attorney along with letters stating they are revoked for five years. All records are confidential, and the broker may only share information with the client or Customs. The records must always be available for Customs inspections and audits.
- Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Insitute, 19 CFR 141, Subpart C – Powers of Attorney
- Customs and Border Protection: Becoming a Customs Broker
- Customs and Border Protection: Tips for New Importers and Exporters
- Customs and Border Protection: What Every Member of the Trade Community Should Know About Customs Brokers
- Customs and Border Protection: Importing into the United States
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