In 2016 alone, the total value of U.S. imports and exports was close to $5 trillion. Some of that value comes from services, but goods account for the lion’s share of both imports and exports.
The thing that all imported or exported cargo have in common is that it passes through customs. Some businesses elect to handle everything related to the customs process in-house. Others choose to use a customs broker.
Brokers specialize in the processes and forms to import or export goods. The question is whether you need to hire one.
Let’s jump in and look at some of the areas that will inform that decision.
There is no legal requirement for importers and exporters to use a customs broker. However, you must still comply with all the relevant laws, which continue to evolve.
The government licenses customs brokers. Brokers must pass an exam that covers everything from broker compliance to foreign trade zones and IP. After that, successful brokers make a point to stay up-to-date on regulation changes.
Keeping track of those changes is more work than most business owners want to invest. It’s a bit like custom woodwork. You can learn to do it yourself, but it’s usually more practical to hire an expert.
Importing or exporting can involve tons of paperwork, depending on what you ship and where you ship it.
Besides standard documents, like a shipping manifest, you may also need numerous other documents, such as:
- a bill of lading
- certificate of origin
- import or export license
The packaging of some products, such as food, must also be labeled with what’s inside.
Brokers handle these documents and labeling issues daily. Using a broker significantly cuts down on the chances of bad paperwork or labeling holding up your shipping.
Keep Costs Down
If everything goes perfectly, using a customs broker can pad your costs a little. If you DIY it and anything goes wrong, those costs can skyrocket.
If you’re shipping perishable goods, delays can damage or destroy the product. If you’re fulfilling a contract, delays can cost you a customer. On the import side, delays of raw materials can halt production or force you to buy costly replacements.
Brokers are like insurance against avoidable problems. By paying them to make sure things get done right, you avoid costly problems that can sink a business.
Brokers also speed up the process because they are hooked into customs data exchange systems.
From a legal standpoint, no one needs to hire a customs broker. Anyone is permitted to fill out the documents and label the cargo.
That said, there are some good reasons why you might want to hire one.
They’re experts in the process. That means your cargo is a lot less likely to get delayed because of a paperwork error or a missing form.
Brokers will probably get your cargo through customs faster than you can by yourself. They will also help you keep down the costs associated with avoidable problems.
Atlanta Customs Brokers has more than three decades of experience. If you’re looking to start importing, exporting or just have questions, contact us today.
Atlanta Customs Brokers is one of the oldest and most trusted customs brokerage and shipping firms in Atlanta. Established in 1985, our company has been a fixture in and around the Atlanta airport and Savannah port for more than 31 years. We enjoy working with our international partners and enjoy what we do. If you are a first time importer or exporter or a large corporations, we can handle your needs.