What You Need to Know to Begin Importing

When you import, you can get cutting-edge products at extremely low prices. It can be complicated, but you don’t have to face it alone. You can find Customs brokers and freight forwards who are experts in getting the documentation and duty payments through Customs for you. Here are a few things you need to know before you begin importing.

  • Find Good Help

    You might want to start by contacting a forwarder when you make the decision to import goods to the US, since most freight forwarders employ brokers to handle any customs issues. You can find a forwarder in the yellow pages or search engines, but it can be very risky. You have no idea who you’re really getting. One problem is sorting through third-party operations. They pose as forwarders, but are really nothing more than middlemen, marking up your end costs. You should go through the trade associations or publications if you’re looking for a safe way to find a reputable forwarder.

    You want to be able to calculate your costs up front so you can determine if you can be competitive with a product. A forwarder can help you do that. Your manufacturer should give you the tariff number for the product you wish to import. Then, your broker will use it to give you the local US duty rate. Once the goods have been cleared in the US, you have 10 days to pay. You’ll probably be best if you pay within eight, to give yourself room, in case of processing errors.

  • Bond Options

    You’re required to buy a bond that acts as insurance with Customs, in the event you should default on duties, when you import. The bond doesn’t, however, relieve you from legal repercussions should that happen.

    You can have the bond company underwrite the value of the shipment plus the duty, with either a single entry or annual bond. A single entry bond is more affordable if you only plan to import once or twice a year. The cost of an annual bond may pay for itself, however, if you’re importing goods on a regular basis. You need to decide based on the number of shipments you’ll be bringing in.

  • A Paper Trail

    Like all businesses, paperwork is involved. Your manufacturer will send you certain papers:

    1. A commercial invoice
    2. A packing list
    3. A detail sheet that breaks down a product’s components and the way they’re manufactured, so Customs can determine the duty classification.
    4. An airway bill or bill of lading

    To prove what you owe, you will need this documentation when you pay duties to Customs. You’re legally responsible for obtaining them as an importer.

  • Arrangements for Delivery

    You will let your forwarder know the goods are ready once you have all your required paperwork. They will take care of contacting the supplier, processing the shipping bill, and booking the shipment for you. Your forwarder should be able to see which arrangements would be most cost-effective. Sometimes people overlook air shipping, because they think it is too expensive. It doesn’t require many of the minimums that ocean freight does, however, and there are far fewer incidental charges involved.

    It is an involved procedure when you bring commercial goods into the US. Don’t let all the details frighten you. It can be a very profitable venture if you have the qualified assistance.


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