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Trying to understand when a tariff is actually imposed & paid on goods coming into the US.

The Trump administration has announced at various times changes in tariffs to be imposed on certain goods arriving from China. For example the previously announced tariff increases on Chinese electronics that were to be effective September 1 2019 was postponed.

Had those tariffs gone into effect, I am presuming (perhaps incorrectly) that a shipment of such goods that arrived and processed by customs prior to midnight on Aug 31 would have be charged at one level, while another shipment (regardless of arrival date) hat had not yet been processed by customs before midnight Aug 31 would have been charged at a different level. Is this an accurate understanding?

It has been suggested that an importer can pay a tariff in advance of actual arrival at a US port. Is that accurate?

It has also been suggested that importers "can run a tab" with customs, that is not actually pay the tariff at the time of customs clearance, but rather submit payments against invoices presented by the Treasury (on behalf of Customs) on (say) a quarterly basis. (in other words, potentially well after the goods are in country and being distributed). Is that accurate?

  • I don't know about the USA specifically, but my experience as an importer is that customs hold up the entire shipment until all taxes and duties (which would include tariffs) are paid, and all security and bio-security checks are complete and paid for. – Rupert Morrish Aug 19 '19 at 21:08
  • My US experience of this is when I moved to the USA and all my household goods were held up in Baltimore because of some half-empty bottles of whisky. – Rupert Morrish Aug 19 '19 at 21:10
  • Speculation only: either (a) its based on the date that the shipment arrives or (b) its based on when it gets processed. It would be a bureaucratic nightmare to have to retroactively go back to everything that's been paid for, but not picked up, and request additional payment. Someone somewhere has made a call as to what the cutoff is, and that info may not even be public. But odds are its one of the two I mentioned: Imagine the hyperbolic situation of a new $1 tariff every midnight and it takes 2 days to request and receive payments: at some point you have to declare that its paid for. – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Aug 21 '19 at 15:13
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Information regarding process of importing goods into the U.S. can be found here: https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Importing%20into%20the%20U.S.pdf

Liability For Duties

There is no provision under which U.S. duties or taxes may be prepaid in a foreign country before exportation to the United States. This is true even for gifts sent by mail.

In the usual case, liability for the payment of duty becomes fixed at the time an entry for consumption or for warehouse is filed with CBP. The obligation for payment is upon the person or firm in whose name the entry is filed. When goods have been entered for warehouse, liability for paying duties may be transferred to any person who purchases the goods and desires to withdraw them in his or her own name.

Payment of duties is generally due within 10 business days of entry.

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