What is a customs broker, and do you need one? (Pt 2)
In part two of this discussion, we will explore the possibility of clearing Customs without the use of a broker in Jamaica and highlight the point at which their expertise and experience are required.
A customs broker can be of enormous benefit to you and your business by taking the hassle out of clearing your shipments at the border. However, while a broker is not always needed, at what point does the law require us to engage the services of one?
Section 147 C of the Customs Regulation 1955 states that the services of a customs broker are required where the value of the goods to be cleared exceeds US$5,000 whether the goods are considered commercial or personal items, said Mitzie Gordon Burke-Green, managing director of Jamaica Trading Services Limited. However, some choose to use brokers even when the value is below the threshold, “as it leaves them the time to focus on their core business; knowing that customs brokers do all that is possible to ensure timely delivery to our clients”.
Gordon Burke-Green added that “certain items, such as motor vehicles, even with a value below U$5,000, still need the services of a customs broker”.
When asked if it is possible to clear Customs without a broker, and if she would advise it, the former president of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica said, “Going back to the law, it is possible for importers to clear goods under the value of US$5,000 without the assistance of a customs broker,” but added, “As a customs broker, I will always say to persons to engage the services of a legitimate customs broker. However, it is a personal choice of the client, who will take a number of factors into consideration in order to arrive at such a decision.”
She also said people wishing to import or export should engage the services of a broker at the initial stage “as there are a number of things that need to be done prior to importing – and a customs broker can guide that process – such as ensuring licences and permits are in place, items that need to be registered and approved by the National Compliance Regulatory Authority are also approved”.
Gordon Burke-Green warned, “Also, it is very common for persons to try to beat the system, there is the corruptor and the ‘corruptee’, as Jamaica Customs will tell us, and you can’t have one without the other. So we encourage the importing public to have their imports processed within the law, therefore staying away from some of the nightmare stories we sometimes hear of. Once you have engaged in such activities, you give up your rights to a hearing should something go awry.
“Customs brokers, as a part of their licensing, are required by Jamaica Customs to sign a code of conduct and are required to adhere to the guidelines therein.”
As for the factors to consider when selecting a broker, she said, “Each year, customs brokers renew their licence with Jamaica Customs, effective April 1. Therefore, all customs brokers with a current licence will be on a gazetted list from Jamaica Customs Agency. Outside of that, there are two associations of customs brokers who may be contacted for assistance.”
Gordon Burke-Green said fees for customs brokers will vary, advising that “each broker sets their rates, taking into the consideration the level of work to be completed”.