Import tax or import tariffs (also known as import duties) in the United States generally refer to the taxes and fees charged by US Customs when importers bring goods into the country. They are assessed by government employees with US Customs at the port of entry, and are paid by the importer of record.
All goods entering the United States are subject to the same import procedure and the same tariff (tax) assessment, although every product has its own duty rate and some have a duty rate of zero!
Import taxes are the second largest source of revenue for the United States behind the Internal Revenue Service.
In addition to being revenue source, import taxes are used to control domestic market conditions and as a political tool. US Customs and the US International Trade Commission will raise and lower import taxes on particular goods to give domestic producers an edge over foreign imports. To exert political pressure, certain countries may be assigned a higher duty rate on their exports or may be embargoed (locked out) to prevent trade.
The primary criteria for import tariffs and taxes are:
- Country of origin
- Commodity type
- Intended use
and are determined using the US Harmonized Tariff Schedule, a yearly publication listing duty rates for a wide variety of import commodities. The USHTS also includes procedures and guidelines for determining import tax rates.