Well, think again.
While it might not seem immediately obvious to you, especially if you’re a small importing company, customs brokers are a valuable piece to the puzzle if you want to run a smooth operation.
Why? Because they’re the people who will take on the responsibility of making sure a shipper meets every condition while engaging in international trade, keep all documents signed and up-to-date, find the cheapest available shipping option and, on a deeper level, grow import businesses in remote areas.
Of course, all of that responsibility could be taken on by the importer themselves, and many choose to do just that. But what if something unexpected comes up? A delay on the rail transport, unforeseen additional duties and tariffs, seizure and destruction of goods due to lengthy stays in rail or sea ports: all of these could cause tremendous trouble for a shipper.
These things can happen, and more often than not if a shipper decides to do it all on their own, they’ll likely run into problems.
Here are a couple of situations where a broker could prove particularly useful:
International trading laws are constantly in flux. They’re changing all of the time and countries can enact changes without shippers ever noticing until it’s too late. Even if a shipper goes into a trade having previously studied all of the laws applicable to their shipment, it’s possible to be blindsided by heavy duties and tariffs — even unexpected fines.
Engaging in a relationship with a customs broker will not only ensure a shipper doesn’t get taken off guard, but it’ll take the pressure of the shipper. They’ll no longer be responsible for understand and dissecting complex international trading laws. Rather, they’ll put that responsibility into the hands of a broker. The money spent on a customs broker pales in comparison to the fines that could be levied by countries that deem a shippers’ goods too dangerous, mishandled or simply violating trade laws.
Another major element where brokers come in handy is the handling of proper documentation. Many shippers are hiring customs brokers because of the mounting headache caused by government regulations and an overwhelming amount of confusing paperwork.
One misfiled document, or, simply, one document indicating the wrong taxes imposed on the traded goods could result in a devastating amount of trouble for a shipper — especially smaller businesses who are just beginning to expand overseas. Engaging with governments in international trade is a tricky business, and understanding your way around the complicated documentation is one way to stay ahead of the competition. Brokers make it their job to study and perfect the handling of international paperwork, as well as build relationships with governments abroad.
One way brokers accomplish this is by learning the harmonized tariff schedule, a complex set of numbers and codes used to identify items in small and large overseas shipments. By removing this task out of the hands of the shipper, brokers give those people in charge of import businesses the freedom to focus on more important day-to-day issues.
Be safe and hire a broker…
The bottom line is that customs brokers remove the hassle, headache and painstaking process of engaging with governments. While it might seem easy enough to monitor every part of the journey, there’s bound to be some hiccups along the way, many of those unforeseen.
A customs broker helps keep all your documentation tidy and prepared for inspection from international governments. The payoff may not be immediate or even apparent, but, ultimately, you’ll be saving money when you aren’t slapped with a dangerous, and potentially industry crushing fine or seizure of goods.