Customs Duties

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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Tariffs or taxes payable on merchandise imported or exported from one country to another.

Customs laws seek to equalize the charges imposed by other countries, furnish income for the federal government, and preserve the financial stability of domestic industries.

Congress has the exclusive authority to determine the imposition and enforcement of such duties and federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction to resolve controversies involving customs duties.

Customs Service

The U.S. Customs Service has these responsibilities: the proper assessment and collection of customs duties, excise taxes, fees, and penalties owing on imported items; the prohibition and seizure of contraband, including narcotics and illegal drugs; the processing of people, carriers,

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Customs duties are taxes paid on merchandise brought into the United States, including, for example, gifts brought home to another person.


cargo, and mail into and out of the country; the administration of certain navigation laws; the detection and apprehension of individuals engaged in fraudulent activities who intend to circumvent customs; the protection of U.S. business and labor through the enforcement of statutes, regulations, and countervailing duty; the enforcement of COPYRIGHT, patent, and TRADEMARK provisions and quotas; and the setting of requirements for imported merchandise.

Goods and Merchandise Subject to Duties

Federal tariff schedules set forth terms that prescribe those goods that are to be subject to duties. Such schedules specify the items upon which a duty is to be imposed when imported into the United States and the rates at which the items will be taxed based upon the monetary value of each item.

Exemptions Any U.S. resident, including an infant, who returns from a foreign trip is permitted an exemption from being charged duty on specific items that would otherwise be subject to duty, provided the individual was out of the United States for a minimum of 48 hours. The size of the exemption depends upon the reasonable retail value of each item, which is determined by the place of purchase, not by what it would sell for in the United States. Articles must be for personal or household purposes or for use as gifts. Included within the exemption are limited amounts of alcoholic beverages...

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