How to Choose the Right Customs Broker for Your Business

A navy blue and red cargo ship carries hundreds of shipping containers

A customs broker can be incredibly valuable to businesses as they assist with navigating the complex legal requirements of customs clearance. What does a customs broker do? Are their services right for your operations? Take the time to understand the role of a customs broker and what benefits they provide so you can make an informed decision for your business.

What Is a Customs Broker?

A customs broker is a licensed professional who liaises with the government and other authorities to ensure the legal import and export of goods. International trade regulations can vary between countries, but all countries require documentation and have regulations for importing and exporting goods. It is a customs broker’s role to stay informed of these legal requirements and submit the necessary documents so goods clear customs upon entry to their destination.

A Custom Broker’s Role Within Your Supply Chain

A customs broker is a key player in supply chain management, ensuring shipments are not delayed due to customs clearance issues.

Boosting Efficiency

Goods that are released from customs on time can move on to the next part of their journey, allowing the transportation process to run smoothly. A customs broker ensures this by:

  • Understanding Harmonized Tariff Schedules to classify and value goods accurately.
  • Preparing and submitting the necessary documents before shipment.
  • Communicating with customs authorities so fees are paid and any issues are handled.
  • Building a reliable and compliant Importer of Record reputation to earn the trust of local authorities.

Reducing Costs

A customs broker can save your business money in a few ways, including:

  • Avoiding fines and penalties by submitting correct paperwork and paying fees on time.
  • Helping businesses analyze their trade routes to look for areas where import duties and tariffs can be reduced legally.
  • Applying for customs duty refunds when goods are damaged or destroyed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Considering the CBP collects between $15 million to $30 million for trade-related penalties every year, a customs broker can save you a lot of money through compliance alone.

Navigating International Trade Regulations With a Customs Broker

International customs brokers specialize in import and export compliance with international trade laws, which constantly change. Customs brokers with international trade experience are crucial to ensuring efficient and timely transportation of large-scale, international shipping cases.


When shipping internationally, a customs broker will help your business remain compliant with the following:

  • Local and foreign taxes.
  • Duties and tariffs.
  • Customs documentation and procedures.
  • Export sanctions.
  • Export and import licenses.
  • Foreign labor laws.

Remaining compliant and having the correct documentation will significantly reduce delays and penalties with international shipments. While you can do your customs compliance work internally, a qualified and licensed customs broker can remove the hassle and stress of changing regulations and customs compliance issues.

The Difference Between a Freight Forwarder and a Customs Broker

Customs broker and freight forwarder services can overlap, but both have different core competencies. As stated, a customs broker focuses solely on the legal regulations of importing and exporting goods.

A freight forwarder organizes the transportation of goods to their target destination on behalf of a business. Freight forwarders offer many services in one bundle, including packaging, delivery, transportation planning, documentation, insurance and storage. They work with carriers and other service providers to make this possible.

Freight forwarders often include custom clearance and shipping documentation as part of their business offerings. They employ or outsource the work to customs brokers to provide this service to clients. By working together, freight forwarders can offer a more holistic service to their clients.

Businesses can choose to work with both a freight forwarder and a customs broker if their freight forwarder doesn’t offer customs broker services. Some businesses may find that they only need the assistance of a customs broker.

Deciding on the Right Customs Broker

Your business could benefit from a customs broker that’s well-versed in the legal requirements of your business. If you are in the process of choosing a customs broker, understand the key factors and qualities of a good customs broker to make a more informed decision.


Key Qualities to Look for in a Customs Broker

A customs broker with the following qualities can meet the needs of your business:

  • Technical expertise and industry knowledge: Experienced customs brokers will have a thorough understanding of the customs clearance process and legal requirements. This level of knowledge ensures limited delays caused by documentation or payment errors. It is also helpful to look for a customs broker with experience in your industry and its specific regulations.
  • Communication skills and customer service: A good customs broker will communicate regularly with the client to provide updates on processes and any potential complications. They will be well-versed in solving problems and honest about shipment delays or issues.
  • Technological savvy: Software and technologies are available to assist with coordinating the customs clearance process. Customs brokers that understand and utilize these tools can increase efficiency and reduce costs. They can also provide you with access to real-time updates and tracking so that you are aware of any changes or delays.

Crucial Factors to Consider

The first factor to consider is the cost of a customs broker and your business’s budget. Customs broker costs vary depending on the broker’s experience and industry knowledge. A customs broker who specializes in your industry can provide better results and may be worth the additional investments.

The second factor is the customs broker’s reputation and reviews. Check that the customs broker has a reliable reputation with both clients and legal authorities. This way, you can ensure they’re legally compliant and offer excellent customer service.

Making an Informed Decision

Whether you need a customs broker depends on your business’s specific needs. A customs broker is not legally required, and small businesses with fewer exports may not require a customs broker’s services.

You should consider a customs broker if your business:

  • Struggles with customs compliance.
  • Has a high volume of imports and exports.
  • Needs to meet complex industry-specific regulations.
  • Requires shipments to meet strict deadlines.

Choose Emo Trans for Global Customs Broker Services

Emo Trans is a global logistics company with more than 50 years of customs compliance experience. We’re committed to compliance and continually educate our customs brokers to remain on top of the ever-evolving customs regulation environment. Our customs brokers can also work with you to optimize your supply chain and reduce shipping delays.


We pride ourselves on our customer service. When you work with our customs brokers, you receive access to our online customer portal, where you can request quotes, view reports and track your shipments.

You shouldn’t have to pay for services you don’t need, which is why we customize all our services to suit your needs and support you through all your business requirements. Take the next step in your compliance journey today by reaching out to us for a quote.