In most countries, a Customs broker can be loosely defined as a person or entity that is authorized by the Customs authority to make import or export declarations on a trader’s behalf.

Customs brokers can be referred to using many other names such as:

  1. Customs House Agents
  2. Customs agents
  3. Brokers
  4. Declarants

A Customs broker acts as a form of liaison between Customs authorities and traders.

What is the broker supposed to do?

The appointed broker is responsible for preparing documentation that allows a trader to import or export cargo from a country. This usually involves the preparation of a declaration that provides information about the goods that are going to cross the border.

In most countries, this declaration will include:

  1. Importer’s details
  2. Transport information
  3. Origin information
  4. Product description
  5. Product quantity
  6. Product cost
  7. Product HS code
  8. Indication of intent to use any Free Trade Agreements
  9. Country of origin of the products

Based on all the information submitted in the declaration, Customs authorities will determine the correct amount of taxes and duties that need to be paid for the import or export.

In many cases, freight forwarders will also act as Customs brokers. However, freight forwarders may also choose to outsource declaration work to third parties.

Can anybody be a Customs broker?

In most countries, any individual who wants to work as a Customs broker must be licensed to do so. This usually means that the individual must have attended some form of training and have taken a qualifying exam, In some countries, this qualification status has to be reviewed periodically. The degree of difficulty of becoming a licensed Customs broker varies greatly between countries. These license qualification are highly country specific and not transferable, as Customs procedures and laws differ across countries.

Do I need a Customs broker?

In most cases, the answer to this question is – yes, unless you ship almost exclusively by express air-post. If you ship using non express routes, you need to ensure that the freight forwarder you engage to carry your cargo will also provide Customs brokerage services. In most countries, making a declaration to Customs will require access to the Customs portal, preparation of necessary documents and submission of other administrative documents. Traders who attempt to make these arrangements on their own without sufficient expertise will run the risk of shipments getting stuck at ports. Also, it must be noted that Customs broker fees are usually not excessively high.

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