Customs Broker Job Description
Customs brokers provide support to businesses involved with international imports and exports by filing and maintaining customs paperwork and ensuring timely payment of taxes and duty. This role requires extensive familiarity with international trade regulations as well as the ability to successfully categorize and classify shipments based on a complex tariff coding system.
In this role, customs brokers serve as liaisons between their clients or employees and the US government, resolving issues related to customs declarations, shipping restrictions, and tax payments. Customs brokers are growing more and more important as international trade continues to rise and tariffs grow in complexity.
Customs Broker Duties and Responsibilities
While customs brokers can work in a variety of industries, most postings that we analyzed shared several responsibilities:
Prepare and File Customs Forms
The foremost duty of a customs broker is preparing and filing customs forms for international shipments. This aspect of the role requires extensive knowledge of the materials being shipped or received, along with a high level of attention to detail to ensure that the business has filled out necessary forms completely and accurately. Customs brokers are also required to file these forms with the proper oversight organizations (generally US Customs and Border Protection, although occasionally other government entities).
Organize and Classify Shipments
In addition to preparing and filing paperwork, customs brokers support shipping and receiving activities by organizing and classifying shipments. This process generally involves examining shipments and utilizing the tariff coding system to classify each one. A customs broker may also advise their employer on more efficient methods of packing and shipping to keep goods under the same code together.
Create Detailed Shipping and Tracking Records
Customs brokers also play a central role in maintaining shipping records and tracking international shipments to ensure that they arrive at their destination. The customs broker also notes delays and provides any information needed to resolve them. The customs broker may also provide assistance with insurance claims for lost shipments by submitting shipment records and tracking data to insurance adjusters.
Determine Tax and Tariff Payments
Another central duty of a customs broker is determining and issuing duty, tax, and tariff payments for their clients’ imports and exports. A customs broker uses the tariff coding system and shipment records to determine the payment amount due and may also submit payment, ensuring that the company and taxing body retains records of completed payments for each shipment. Customs brokers also resolve issues related to over- or underpayment of taxes and duty.
Maintain Trade-Related Knowledge Base
Because international tariffs and trade laws can shift rapidly, customs brokers also need to maintain up-to-date knowledge of current rules and regulations. Customs brokers follow developments in rules and regulations closely, analyzing them to determine their effects. They may also need to provide their clients or employers with periodic updates regarding rules that can impact their business or costs.
Customs Broker Skills and Qualifications
Customs brokers work with companies to ensure that they follow international shipping and customs rules. Most workers in this role have at least a high school diploma, licensure, and the following skills:
- International trade-related knowledge – customs brokers need extensive familiarity with international trade, particularly the laws and regulations related to shipping and receiving goods internationally
- Attention to detail – this role also requires excellent attention to detail to ensure that all customs forms are filled out and filed correctly and promptly to avoid violations or incorrect declarations
- Problem-solving skills – customs brokers should also be strong problem-solvers with the ability to examine issues and circumstances and determine the best way forward for their companies and clients
- Time management – because customs brokers handle many tasks at once, they must be very organized and successfully manage their time to ensure adherence to rules and regulations
- Communication skills – written and verbal communication skills are vital in this role, as customs brokers interact with government officials and business personnel and frequently prepare reports
Customs Broker Education and Training
While there are no formal education requirements for customs brokers, most have at least a high school diploma or a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as business administration, finance, or international business. This role does require a customs broker license, which can be obtained through an examination offered by the US Customs and Border Protection. Because customs brokers need to remain informed about the latest laws and regulations, there are many continuing education and training opportunities in this role.
Customs Broker Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes customs brokers as business operations specialists. According to the BLS, business operations specialists earn a median annual salary of $70,010. The highest-paid 10 percent of workers in these roles earn more than $120,460 per year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent earn less than $38,050.
The BLS expects employment for business operations specialists to grow at a pace of 5 to 9 percent through 2026.
If you’re interested in starting a career as a customs broker, we found a number of helpful resources on the web:
US Customs and Border Protection: Customs Brokers – the US Customs and Border Protection web portal for customs brokers provides exam and licensing information along with the latest rules and guidelines
2018 Customs Broker Exam Study Guide & How to Start Your Own CHB Business – Jon K Sasaki prepares readers for the customs broker examination using real-world examples and analysis of current customs rules
National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America – the NCBFAA is a professional and trade organization for customs brokers offering publications and professional development resources along with conferences and events
Import/Export: How to Take Your Business Across Borders – this guidebook provides information on international trade and distribution as well as advice for building an international business and following customs rules
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