easterJoin Now
HomeeCommerce BlogImporting Goods to USA

Importing Goods and Wholesale Products into United States

Importing Goods and Wholesale Products into United States

Most people would agree that the most difficult part of importing merchandise is the bureaucratic nightmare that goes with it. We’ve all heard the horror stories of outrageous duties being charged, goods being confiscated and so on. So, in this post, we’re going to try and clear up some of the mystery by de-jargonizing the requirements.

Remember that if you don’t want to handle customs yourself, you can use a Customs broker who will clear goods through customs on your behalf and take care of all the technicalities.

Do I need to meet any requirements before I can import goods into the US?

You don’t need a license to act as an importer but you will need a business tax number, which you’ll have to get through the IRS. This is the number you put on all customs paperwork that requires an ‘importer number’.

Note that there are some items that require a license or permit from various government agencies in order to be imported, e.g. plant, animal or dairy products, medications, trademarked and copyrighted material and so on. See the customs website for more information.

What does the US Customs procedure involve?

Customs is a two-part process: (1) filing the documents necessary to have your products deemed able to be released and (2) filing the documents that contain information for duty assessment. Both of these processes can be completed electronically via the Automated Broker Interface program of the Automated Commercial Systems.

When your documentation is presented, customs officials decide whether or not it is necessary to examine the shipment. If your goods are examined, officials will check that no legal or regulatory violations have occurred and then release your goods.

What are Customs officials looking for when they examine my shipment?

  • The value of the goods for customs purposes and to check whether duties apply.
  • Whether the goods need to be marked with country of origin or require special marking. If this is lacking, they are then marked to meet regulations.
  • Whether the shipment contains prohibited articles.
  • Whether the goods are correctly invoiced.
  • Whether the goods are in excess of the invoiced quantities or a shortage exists.
  • Whether the shipment contains illegal narcotics.

Goods are cleared much faster if:

  1. Invoices are clear and contain the information that would be shown on a well-prepared packing slip.
  2. Each package is marked and numbered so it can easily be identified against the invoice.
  3. A detailed description of the merchandise in each package is on the invoice.
  4. The country of origin is clearly marked.
  5. Any special laws that apply are complied with. Merchandise such as food, drugs, cosmetics, alcohol and so on will usually fall into this category.
  6. Your supplier maintains good security, reducing the risk that narcotics smugglers are able to introduce narcotics into your shipment.

Duties, Tariffs and all the rest….

All goods imported into the United States are subject to duty or duty-free entry depending on their classification in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. The full tariff schedule is quite a hefty document about the size of a dictionary! You can purchase an annotated loose-leaf edition of the tariff schedule from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.

The easiest way to find out what you may be charged is by searching for tariffs online at http://dataweb.usitc.gov/. You’ll need to create an account before you can search, but it’s totally free to do so.

There are three types of duties that may be charged: ad valorem, specific, or compound rates. An ad valorem rate is a percentage of the value of the merchandise, such as 5% ad valorem. This is the rate most commonly applied. A specific rate is a specified amount per unit of weight or other quantity, such as 5.9 cents per dozen. A compound rate is a combination of both an ad valorem rate and a specific rate, such as 0.7 cents per kilo plus 10% ad valorem.

Rates of duty for imported merchandise can also depend on the country of origin. When referring to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, you’ll notice two different columns: General and Statutory. Most goods are covered by the General column (column 1) if they are from what is known as ‘most favored nations’, that is, countries with a trade agreement with the US. Goods from countries to which these rates have not been extended are dutiable at the full or ‘statutory’ rates (column 2).

So am I likely to have to dig deep?

Generally, importing costs from China to US are very reasonable. While the figures always look frightening in documents such as the HTS, you’ll usually find that the tax is very low unless your item is unusual or restricted in some way. Another tip is to stay away from designer replicas as these are subject to more scrutiny and may cause Trade marking and Copyright issues.

If you are particularly worried about getting started, I suggest only importing small lots until you feel more confident with the process. Customs are primarily interested in very large orders and small parcels valued under $1,000 are usually waved on through.

Do you want more free expert tips on how to import successfully and resell your items for a profit? Become a free member of SaleHoo today. 

26 Comments Add your comment
More a question than a comment. Do you have any tips about importing to the Caribbean and more specifically, into Trinidad? Reply
Not currently but thanks for the suggestion :) We'll consider adding some info about this to our resource area. Reply
Good article! What do you think the average cost would be for importing from Thailand to the US? Thanks, Lisa Reply
what are the costs involved and procedures to follow to ship from southwest china to usa? Reply
Thanks for sharing such info with us! USA tariff plan has changed, do you think it will affect the import export or not? www.wholesalepages.co.uk Reply
Site Admin
@Lisa: It would difficult to say. Usually shipping charges will depend on the packages size and weight. Plus rates will vary from one shipper to the next. Try searching Google for a shipping calculator just so you can do a sample costing @John: Again the size and weight will play a factor in the shipping cost. I think you'll find this guide fairly useful, http://www.salehoo.com/education/importing-shipping/importing-into-the-us-papers-procedures-duties @Wholesale: a change would generally affect the entire trading scheme may it be import or export. What specific changes are you referring to? Cheers Guys! :) Reply
Thanks for sharing this link, but unfortunately it seems to be offline... Does anybody have a mirror or another source? Please answer to my post if you do! I would appreciate if a staff member here at www.salehoo.com could post it. Thanks, Jules Reply
Site Admin
Hi Jules, Which link are you referring to? Kindly specify so we can assist you accordingly. Cheers :) Reply
Hey Richelle, Thanks for your advice. I have four small quick questions? 1. How much weight in pound can we import as individual, not as business entity. 2. Is there any list of products with amount of duty posed on it or any duty calculator available? Reply
Site Admin
Hi Sam, I can only see two questions :) But I'll try to address them to the best I can. Its hard to say or give you the weight in pounds since it varies on the type of product as well as the type of duty being imposed. The easiest way to find out what you may be charged is by searching for tariffs online at http://dataweb.usitc.gov/. Also, please visit this link for more tips and useful links: http://www.salehoo.com/education/importing-shipping/importing-into-the-us-papers-procedures-duties Hope this helps. Reply
I have a trucking business, how do I get access to the ports? I'm interested in moving containers in and out. Reply
Site Admin
@Blanca: See the list here :) http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/contacts/ports/ Reply
I need to import some goods from China. How do I get a list of custom brokers that can help me with it? The port of entry will be Houston, TX. Reply
Site Admin
@crg: There's a custom brokers' list at http://apps.cbp.gov/brokers/index.asp?portCode=5301 Cheers! Reply
Hi, I want to export clothing, and imitation jewelry from India. What and how much can be hand carried by air into the US? Reply
Hi, any advise on how to import bath and beauty products from Thailand, made form 100% organic herbs. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks! Reply
Site Admin
Hi Tak! I think these links will help. http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/Inspections/InspectionGuides/ucm074952.htm http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/ProductInformation/ucm203078.htm Cheers! Reply
Hi, I have some goods from China and I want to try to use freight by sea. How long does it take and what do I need to do? What are the lists of customs broker in my area since I don't live near the port, i am from Arizona , the closest port would be in California, what are my options ? Thanks. Reply
Site Admin
@bahoombie: Kindly refer to this post http://www.salehoo.com/education/importing-shipping/china-importing-logistics-and-storage The best way to find out how much you have to pay is by visiting your country’s customs website, and for USA - http://www.customs.gov Hope this helps. :) Reply
I am looking to import from China 500-5,000 mobile phone screen cleaners at a time, a few times a month. They are very lightweight. Is there anything on my end that I need to know about? I.e., do I need to contact customs, worry about tariffs, etc.? Thanks, this is a great site! Reply
Hi, I have some goods like textile, fabrics, steel items from India. how can i import them to USA. what is the process to be followed ? What is my first step , whom should I reach out for ? please give me more details... Thanks.. Reply
Site Admin
@Ron: Yes, I believe you need to get as much information as you can before actually importing such bulk orders. :) As mentioned, the easiest way to find out what you may be charged is by searching for tariffs online at http://dataweb.usitc.gov/ and getting in touch with Customs http://www.customs.gov/ Reply
Site Admin
@Param: Same advice as above, check for the tariffs online at http://dataweb.usitc.gov/ and get in touch with Customs at http://www.customs.gov/ Reply
I like because it is useful to understand the tariffs online and the customs procedures. Reply
Thanks for giving useful information about export and import and also reminding us with the shipping charges...Keep sharing.. Reply
I am trying to remember and find out the name of a certain "Act" when importing goods into the US. Is there a place where I can look into the different "Acts" that are involved with importing. Reply
Already a member? Login to comment
Go Back