Customs broking or customs brokerage is a profession that involves the "clearing" of goods through customs barriers for importers and exporters (usually businesses). This involves the preparation of documents and/or electronic submissions, the calculation and payment of taxes, duties and excises, and facilitating communication between government authorities and importers and exporters.
Customs brokers in the United States prepare and submit documentation to notify or obtain clearance from government agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. They also arrange the transhipment (i.e., local delivery) of merchandise via trucking companies. Many customs brokers specialize in certain goods like apparel, perishables, or clearing the crew and manifest of large cargo vessels. Customs brokers can be located at inland ports to clear merchandise sent "in bond", but most are located at major airports and harbors with international traffic.
US Customs broker licenses are issued and overseen by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The requirements governing US Customs broker licenses, including eligibility, are laid out in Title 19, Part 111 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations (19 CFR 111). These regulations permit both individuals and companies to obtain Customs brokers licenses, though the application process and general rules governing each type of license differ from each other.
To be eligible to obtain for a US Customs broker license, an individual applicant must satisfy several requirements: first, he or she must pass the US Customs Broker License Exam (CBLE) with a score of 75% or higher; on or before the date of application, he or she must be a United States citizen, must have attained the age of 21, and must not be a federal employee; and he or she must be of good moral character. The individual must submit his or her license application, along with license application fee, within three years of having passed the CBLE. This three year time limit is calculated from the date of the letter informing the examinee that he or she passed the CBLE.
Upon receipt of a license application package, CBP reviews it on its merits.
License eligibility for non-individuals is different. In order to be eligible to obtain a US Customs broker license, a partnership must have at least one member of the partnership who is a broker. An association or corporation must, first, be empowered under its articles of association or articles of incorporation to transact customs business as a broker, and second, have at least one officer who is a broker.
Customs broker licensees are not government employees and should not be confused with "customs officers" (in other countries, however, the two terms may be interchangeable). Customs brokers need to be familiar with the tariff schedule, a listing of duty rates for imported items, CATAIR, the statutory and regulatory rules governing importations, and other trade related matters. To illustrate, a customs broker may need to advise an importer on the marking requirements of the country of origin, or complete paperwork for a clothing shipment subject to quotas and visa requirements. Knowing the requirements of each type of import can avoid costly delays, merchandise seizures, and fines and penalties that may be levied against the importer and/or broker.
For customs brokers and clearing agents operating within the European Union, there is no licensing system. The onus is firmly on the importer or exporter to ensure that any party acting on their behalf is in possession of the facts to do so.
Article 5 of the current customs code (Council Regulation 2913/1992) deals with representation, a key concept. This provision allows an importer or exporter to appoint a third party to act on their behalf. The importer or exporter can appoint the third party to act in two capacities, i.e., as a direct representative or as an indirect representative. A direct representative will act on behalf of the importer/exporter but will have no responsibility for the customs debt arising from their actions, whereas an indirect representative will have a joint and several liability for the customs debt. In almost all cases, the third party will elect to provide brokerage services on a direct representation basis. As a result, the importer or exporter is fully exposed to the risk or error and omission by the customs broker.
Singapore broadly follows the European Union model in that the importer or exporter of record remains liable for the correct and timely declaration of shipments. It is also however then similar to the US and Australia in requiring the person making the customs declaration to be registered and to have passed competency tests. All declarations are made online through Singapore Customs' Tradenet system using one of the Tradenet Front End applications licensed by Singapore Customs for that purpose.
Whilst there is no Customs Broker role explicitly recognised by Singapore Customs, there is separate recognition for the various service providers within the customs processing chain. These are as follows:
Declaring Entity - The declaring entity is the importer or exporter of record and whose Unique Identifying Number (UEN) is being used to make a declaration for import, export or transshipment.
Declaring Agent - A declaring agent is an organisation appointed by a declaring entity to make a declaration on its behalf. A declaring agent may be a freight forwarder or a specialist customs service provider such as Tradenet Services Pte Ltd (TNETS).
Declarant - A declarant is the individual person making the declaration for the declaring agent. Effective Jan 7, 2013 declarants must be registered with Singapore Customs and have passed Singapore Customs competency tests.
TradeNet Front End Solution Provider - A provider of software through which declarations to Singapore Customs' Tradenet system can be made.
The only service provider which provides an integrated service to declaring entities, and is therefore the most similar in Singapore to a customs broker, is Tradenet Services Pte Ltd (TNETS). TNETS is also the largest declaration service bureau processing more than 1.2 million Tradenet declarations per annum with a trade value of more than SGD100bn.
Customs Brokers are commonly known as Clearing Agents in Pakistan. They are licensed by Customs Authority under VIDE SRO 450(I)/2001 DATED 18-6-2001.
Customs Brokers are licensed by the Commissioner of Customs that has jurisdiction over the area where the applicant intends to carry out their business in India and are governed by the Customs Brokers Licensing Regulations 2013.
Customs broker are authorized by Directorate General of Customs (DGA), university degree requirement is Bachelor of Customs Administration and two years of experience, plus $10,000 bail with the first customs. There are heavy fines in case of error or wrong caculo tariff classification, being one of the more risk into professions in Costa Rica.
Customs broker is a profession which expertise include tariff and customs laws, rules and regulations for the clearance of imported or exported goods or merchandise from customs authority, preparation of import or export documents including computation and payment of duties, taxes and other charges accruing thereon, representing clients before any government agency concerning classification or valuation of imported or exported goods AND is a bona fide holder of a valid license as such by the Professional Regulatory Board for Customs Brokers.
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In Australia, customs brokers are licensed by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and some are members of the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia.
The relationship between a broker and client may begin before the actual importing of goods. A complicated scrutiny of Customs Duty, Tax rates and government trade regulations and Quarantine permission may have to be undertaken first. Brokers are trained and licensed to provide consultancy services of the above nature as accuracy is critical to the importer. Due to the brokers intimate knowledge of the client’s business activities their relationship can be difficult to break. When a broker receives the documents for a job they register it in the company system, then to process a customs entry they must:
- Classify goods in accordance with customs regulations
- Obtain relevant permits from the importer
- Process the customs entry in a ‘compile’ system, and;
- Pay duties and taxes on behalf of the importer
After the above is completed and clearance from customs has been given a complete dispatch is made. The customer must be sent invoices for disbursement then the cargo can be taken from the bonded warehouse and delivered to the customer’s nominated facility.
In Canada customs brokers are licensed by the Canada Border Service Agency (Canada Customs) and most are members of the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers. The customs broker licenses are issued under the Customs Brokers Licensing Regulations (SOR /86-1067) and Section 9 of the Customs Act.
To operate as a customs broker in New Zealand, you need a Unique User Identification (UUI). UUI Accreditation can be achieved by sitting and passing three exams set by the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation of New Zealand Inc (CBAFF).
Customs broker are licensed by customs authority. Customs broker should pass 2 separate exams. 1st test is multiple choice but 2nd test is essay-type. They should memorize major articles in customs law, valuation principles, HS headings with notes and international trade rules. E.g. UCP, CISG..
Roles for customs broker are broader than other country's one. From customs clearance, Customs compliance consulting up to administrative appeal.
- US Customs, Becoming a Customs Broker, What is a Customs broker?
- Canada, What is a Customs Broker & Why Do You Need One?
- US Comtoms, Importers - Who needs a Customs Broker to help clear goods through CBP
- Government of Singapore, Activate Customs Account
- Government of Singapore Customs
- Custom Agent Registration and Licensing in Pakistan
- India, Customs Brokers Licensing Regulations
- Australian Customs Service
- Canada Border Service Agency
- Canadian Society of Customs Brokers
- Customs Brokers Licensing
- New Zealand, Customs careers