A bicameral effort to facilitate trade of low-value shipments is underway with the introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives of a bill that would raise the minimum value at which customs duties are imposed on imported goods.
Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., reintroduced legislation (H.R. 1020) similar to that last session that would set the threshold at $800 instead of the current $200 for having to declare goods for customs purposes and pay duties and fees. A "de minimus" companion bill was also tendered in the Senate
Schock's bill in the previous session of Congress sought to raise the "de minimus" level to $1,000.
Trade advocates say raising the threshold for going through customs procedures would especially benefit small and midsized enterprises that often ship by parcel carrier, do not have compliance departments to follow all the rules, and often avoid international sales because of the additional cost and complexity. E-commerce retailers and others would gain customers by being able to accept returns without duty and other customs requirements.
The U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB) is requesting the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees include the language in any Customs reauthorization bills that come up for debate during the current two-year session of Congress.
Supporters say that in addition to faster border clearance for low-value shipments, a higher de minimus level would allow customs officers to focus enforcement efforts on shipments with higher risk of duty fraud, safety violations, and intellectual property theft.
The twin bills "represent a concrete step by the United States to reduce barriers to small business commerce, and should be a model for other countries to follow," Brian Bieron, senior director of public policy at eBay Inc., said in a news release issued by the USCIB. - Eric Kulisch