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How to Import – Internet Purchases, Formal Entries

If your goods are valued at more than $2000, or for commercial textile shipments (clothes/materials) regardless of value, you will be required to file a formal entry, which can require extensive paperwork and the filing of a Customs bond. As mentioned above and for various reasons, Customs may require a formal entry for any importation. Customs, however, rarely exercises this right unless there is a particular concern about the circumstances surrounding an importation. Because filing a formal entry can be complicated, the Customs Service recommends importers consider hiring a customs broker to complete the transaction. Lists of brokers can be found on the port pages of Customs web site.

One of the most difficult things about filing formal entries is accurately identifying the correct classification number of the item being imported. The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) lists classification numbers for every conceivable item under the Sun. The HTSUS is the size of an unabridged dictionary, and specialists train for months to learn how to correctly classify goods.

The classification number of an item determines many requirements pertaining to that item’s importation such as it’s duty rate, eligibility for special import programs like the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) or the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and whether or not the item is subject to quota restrictions.

Failure to correctly classify an item can result in fines and/or delays in delivery. You may write to Customs for a binding ruling, and/or contact an import specialist at your local port for help to identify the proper classification number for your imported item.

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