The U.S. Customs and Border Protection are in charge of regulating and licensing import brokers, also known as customs brokers. Statistics from the CBP reveal that there are approximately 11,000 import brokers in America. Individuals, corporations and partnerships can operate in the capacity of imports brokers, as long as they fulfill all the requirements of CBP. The principle role of an import or customs broker is to act as an agent for an importer, while conducting customs procedures; he facilitates trade.
A broker, in his capacity as an agent, assists the importer to clear his goods with customs authorities. To facilitate this process he needs to prepare and file the entry documents required by the customs authorities. Where there are outstanding payments, for example, taxes broker arranges for their payment. Following the clearance of all payments and procedures required by customs, the brokers secures the goods and ensures their delivery to his client’s custody.
The import broker must have a wide knowledge of the nuances in international trade that affect the clearance of goods with customs authorities. This includes the requirements and procedures of a particular trade, for example, the appropriate rates of duties, grounds for appraisement, and classifications on import cargo. He can therefore, advice his client on appropriate actions to facilitate clearance of cargo. Where a broker has connections in other geographic locations he is in a position to advice his client on emerging markets, impact of global change, suitable carriers, shipping routes, and other modes of transportation.
There are various rules and regulations provided by customs authorities. The customs broker must keep himself updated on any laws affecting import cargo and any related amendments or changes in law. He may also need to liaise with other government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration on rules and regulations governing the health standards on products; U.S. Department of Agriculture on regulations regarding importation of meat and meat products, and the Environmental Protection Agency on regulations on pollution effected by vehicles. This prevents his client from breaking any laws affecting the importation of his goods leading to delays or seizures.
A broker is in charge of maintenance of all records in relation to transactions undertaken for his client. Records of such transactions are vital for future referencing or verification by his client on the duties, taxes, quotas and tariffs levied on his cargo. Customs authorities require a customs broker to avail them with the records of the transaction; they have to give reasonable notice. The customs authorities may use the records for official purposes, for example, inspection, or reproduction.