Use a Customs Broker
We recommend you work with an experienced customs broker when importing goods into the U.S. While there is no legal obligation to hire a customs broker, it is more efficient for two reasons. You can clear customs easily and avoid problems. Done incorrectly, importing goods can have severe consequences including entry refusal, seizure of goods, and fines.
A licensed customs broker can help you navigate complex laws and regulations. They can help you prepare the necessary documentation for importing your goods. For example, how you classify goods can make a real difference in regulation requirements, as well as tariffs. Experienced customs brokers often offer useful counsel.
To find a list of customs brokers, visit the “Locate a Port of Entry” section of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. Select the state you will be importing into, select the city, and then click the Brokers link below the city information.
Still need help? Fulfillrite has some great working relationships with a few customs brokers. Feel free to reach out to us for recommendations.
Federal Tax ID and U.S. Mailing Address
When importing into the United States, you need a U.S. Federal Tax ID and a U.S. mailing address.
While we allow our customers to list our warehouse address as a location of storage for certain documentation, we do not provide our Tax I.D. number for import purposes. As a result, we cannot be listed as the “Ultimate Consignee”. We encourage all customers to have a valid U.S. mailing address and Tax I.D. number before importing goods to the U.S.
How to get a U.S. Mailing Address?
Don’t have a U.S. mailing address? Ask a friend, relative, or business partner if you can receive mail at their address. You can use their address for Customs. If you are unable to do that, there are various online companies that provide U.S. mailing addresses for a fee. Some examples include Opus Virtual Offices, MailBoxForwarding.com, and USAMail1.
Obtaining a U.S. Tax I.D.?
The second thing you will need is a U.S. Tax ID number. A social security number (SSN), or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) can be used for this. Bear in mind that the holder of the SSN or ITIN is legally responsible for all U.S. taxes. If you do not want to use your SSN or ITIN, or if you do not have an SSN/ITIN because you are not a U.S. citizen, you still have two main options:
- If you already have an end-buyer for the goods, which is sometimes the case in B2B transactions, you can ask them to serve as the “Ultimate Consignee” on a case-by-case basis. Your customs broker might also agree to act in that capacity. In both of these scenarios, you would not need to provide your own Tax I.D.Note, however, that not all customs brokers will agree to act as the ultimate consignee. Those that do offer such services usually charge an additional fee for it. Therefore, in most situations, it is highly recommended to use option 2 below, and get EIN for your business.
- Obtain an employment indemnification number (EIN). An EIN is nine-digit taxpayer identification number assigned to entities such as corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies. An EIN may also be assigned to sole proprietors and other entities for tax filing and reporting purposes. You can apply for, and obtain your EIN through one of following methods.
Method 1: Apply for EIN Online
The fastest and easiest way to apply for an EIN is online. You will have the option to view, print, and save your EIN letter immediately at the end of the online session. However, one can apply online only if they have:
- a) legal residency (in case of an individual) or principal place of business in the U.S. (simply having a mailing address in the U.S is not sufficient), and
- b) the person applying online (e.g., the principal officer, general partner, owner) on behalf of the applicant must already have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (SSN, ITIN or EIN).
If you do meet those conditions, go to the IRS website at www.irs.gov/businesses and click on Employer ID Numbers. If you don’t meet the above conditions, you will not be able to use the online application to obtain an EIN. In that case, you would need to fill out a form called SS-4, described below, to obtain an EIN.
Form SS-4. Form SS-4, and the underlying instructions can be found on the IRS website. You can also apply by either fax or mail, both of which can take much longer. From our experience, calling the international bureau of IRS and coordinating the submission of the form by fax significantly facilitates and expedites the process.
Method 2: Call the IRS
Call 267-941-1099 for the international bureau of IRS registrations (not a toll-free number). Their hours are 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (Eastern Time), Monday through Friday. Follow their instructions to obtain an EIN. The EIN can usually be issued the same day if you talk to an agent and then fax in your signature. The person making the call must be authorized to receive the EIN and answer questions concerning the SS-4 Form.
In case you choose to specify a non-U.S. mailing address in the SS-4 form, it is highly recommended to verify in advance with the IRS’s representative that they will mail the EIN letter internationally or send it via email to avoid miscommunication.
Please note that these guidelines are provided to you for your convenience for general information only, are not intended to constitute legal advice, and cannot be cited or relied on as legal authority. Anyone considering importing goods to the U.S. is strongly encouraged to seek specialized legal counsel given the complexity of this field and the specific rapidly changing requirements which vary on a case to case basis.
We hope you find the information above helpful and look forward to working with you.
It is Fulfillrite’s policy that all our customers are responsible to ensure that all customs, taxes and duty charges related to their inbound inventory are be paid in full (Delivered Duty Paid (DDP)) prior to arrival of the goods to our warehouse. Also, Fulfillrite will not serve as Ultimate Consignee on imported goods.