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Should Small Importing Businesses Invest in Hiring a Customs Broker?

If you're in the business of importing goods, you know just how complex the process can be. That's where customs brokers come in. Customs brokers are well-versed in the regulations and requirements of customs clearance, and they can help expedite the process. However, determining when exactly you need a customs broker can be a bit tricky. Is it worth the investment? How do you know if you truly need their services? In order to answer these questions, it's crucial to have a solid understanding of the customs clearance process and the role that customs brokers play in it.

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What Do Customs Brokers Do?

A customs broker is a licensed professional whose job it is to clear goods through customs using the proper channels or means. They know customs regulations and procedures, and can ensure all shipments are declared properly, and duties and taxes are paid on time. They keep up with changing regulations and can ensure customs compliance.

Customs brokers can communicate on your behalf with various government agencies, classify goods, prepare documentation for clearance, and ensure compliance of regulations. Hiring a customs broker does include additional fees you will be paying the broker, but there are responsibilities they take care of, which can help your shipment move across the border with ease, and without delay or additional fees.

Can I Do My Own Customs Clearance?

Many businesses and individuals do consider doing their own customs clearance, as a way to avoid additional fees in their import process. Regulations vary from country to country, thus some countries do allow you to do your own customs clearance. For instance, in the US, there is no legal requirement to use a customs broker to ship into the United States, so it is a matter of choice.

However, Canada requires a customs broker license to be able to clear shipments or pay duties on behalf of multiple entities, when importing, which is also an extensive application process. While you may consider doing their own clearance,  it is important to understand what the process entails and make sure that you know what there is to know, in order to do the process correctly.

Customs clearance involves a number of complex steps, including the filing of customs documents, paying duties and taxes, and compliance of import or export laws. Any missteps can lead to potential delays or fees, which can end up more expensive in the end, than the amount spent on a customs broker.  In order to understand whether you are ready to do your own customs clearance, it is important to go through a brief checklist and see if you have the tools you need. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Are you able to find the correct tariff number for your shipment?
  • Do you understand classification rules?
  • Do you understand rules of origin?
  • Are you aware of exemptions pertaining to your goods?  
  • What is your understanding of customs valuation?
  • Are you aware of the import laws for the country you are importing to?


The customs clearance process is tedious and does involve a lot of paperwork. If you are not hiring a customs broker, there are ways to simplify the process, including using technology. Zipments Customs Invoice Forms use AI technology to detect the accurate tariff code for you. Our technology simplifies your customs paperwork, and allows you to ensure accuracy each time!


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What Are The Risks of Doing Your Own Customs Clearance?

While you can take the time to learn regulation and familiarize yourself with the process, you may still be taking a risk to import goods without the assistance of a customs broker. There are a number of steps in the clearance process, and mistakes can easily be made. Errors with your customs clearance can lead to a number of consequences that you may need to prepare for, including:

  • Delays 
  • Additional money spent to fix any errors made
  • Fines
  • Added inspections or audits
  • Seizure of goods, in extreme cases

Some of the most common errors include issues with paperwork, and declaring your goods properly. You may accidentally undervalue or overvalue your goods, which can lead to fines and penalties. Customs brokers are better trained to communicate with customs officials, and address any inquiries which may arise, saving you the stress. You may also miss a document or make an error in filling something out, which can lead to delay as the issues get fixed, or your shipment being sent for further inspection.

When Should You Hire a Customs Broker?

The decision of when to hire a customs broker is not one to be taken lightly. By understanding the various facets involved and carefully planning out your import process, you can ensure a smooth and efficient experience. From navigating customs regulations to managing paperwork and logistics, a customs broker can provide invaluable expertise and support. There are a few key instances, in which you may consider hiring a customs broker to take care of your customs clearance for you.

International Imports

Considering a customs broker can be advantageous when moving goods internationally, as they possess knowledge of the regulations in the importing country and can ensure adherence to them. Given that regulations frequently change, staying updated can be challenging. By entrusting a customs broker with the technical aspects of importing, you can concentrate on your business.

First Time Importing

If you find yourself overwhelmed with the multitude of requirements when importing goods for the first time, there is a possibility of encountering issues with customs due to overlooked documents or miscalculations, especially if you haven't thoroughly studied all regulations and processes. There are a lot of complex steps in the import process, and it will take time to get familiar with all of them. Whether you are a business of any size or an individual, it is unlikely that you have the time to fully educate yourself on all the necessary information. Therefore, it may be beneficial to contemplate hiring a professional to assist you

Seeking To Avoid Mistakes

Mistakes made during the customs clearance process can swiftly result in significant costs, that can greatly affect your overall financial performance. It is crucial to steer clear of errors such as miscalculating duties or taxes, improper classification, or overlooking any required documents or regulations. Managing customs clearance independently can become chaotic and expensive, if you are unable to stay on top of all the necessary tasks, particularly if you lack professional training in this field.

Is a Customs Broker Worth It?

For small businesses, a customs broker can simplify your customs process and remove some of the stress. A broker will know the details regarding your goods, tariff classifications, regulation and documentation. A good customs broker possesses the ability to handle various aspects related to goods exemptions, HS codes, required licenses, necessary paperwork, and the admissibility of your goods. For small businesses, it may be challenging to allocate sufficient resources to conduct the extensive research, file paperwork, and complete all the clearance tasks required for a proper customs clearance. In such cases, hiring a customs broker can prove to be a valuable investment.

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Experiencing delays with your customs clearance? Say goodbye to time-consuming searches and hello to efficient solutions!

Zipments offers a hand vetted Customs Broker Directory, so you can get your goods moving faster. You can access all relevant information for any broker in Canada and over 25 U.S. brokers. All in one space! 

✔️Broker Website
✔️Phone/Email/Fax Number
✔️Customs Brokers Agent Used at Each Port
✔️After Hours contact information

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Keeping track of your PARS or PAPS status doesn't have to be a hassle anymore either! With Zipments, you can now effortlessly monitor the progress of your shipments with any broker. Plus, our user-friendly interface allows you to track the clearance status for multiple brokers all in one place. 

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The decision of whether or not to hire a customs broker for your importing business ultimately depends on multiple factors. While it may be tempting to handle the customs clearance process on your own to save costs, it's important to consider the potential risks and complications that may arise.

Customs brokers have a deep understanding of the regulations and requirements involved in customs clearance, which can help expedite the process and minimize the chances of costly mistakes. They can also provide valuable advice and guidance, especially for new or small-sized businesses that may not have the resources or expertise to navigate the complexities of customs procedures. Before making a decision, it's advisable to assess your specific needs and weigh the benefits against the associated costs.