In Mexico, there are approximately 800 active Mexican customs brokers. This is a small number compared to other countries like the United States, which have over 14,000. Generally, a Mexican customs broker is someone authorized by the Tax Administration Service to perform on behalf of importers and exporters the acts and functions required before MX customs necessary for the clearance of goods. He or she is not a government official, but rather a person holding a license (patent) granted by the government that allows him or her to act and represent entities and other people during export processes and import. One of their main tasks is to identify the correct harmonized tariff code of the goods, which is essential to determine the applicable tariff (import duty, value added tax and goods handling charge) and regulations and restrictions non-tariff trade. Some offer additional services such as logistics, cargo consolidation, document filing, freight forwarding, etc.
So how do you choose the best customs broker? Finding a customs broker in Mexico can be relatively simple, but finding the right one can be a complex task. Here are some recommendations that might help you in your decision:
a) The first thing to do is to identify the customs port where your goods will be imported into Mexico. This can help you narrow down your selection. Since customs brokers are limited to operating in one officially licensed customs port, you should seek out a broker licensed to operate in the port where your import will take place. In addition, a customs broker may have additional authorizations to operate in 3 other ports where the broker appoints an agent (a legal representative of the customs broker) assigned to each of the other 3 additional ports. You can see brokers offering their services in more than 4 customs ports, but this does not mean that they are authorized to operate there, but means that they can have alliances with other brokers in these other ports. If it’s an alliance, make sure the fees won’t increase or the quality of service you expect will be affected.
b) Research their academic background. Normally, customs brokers are well-prepared professionals. By law, MX customs brokers must have a university degree, but some of them continue their studies and may even have a doctorate. A customs broker who has invested in additional university education illustrates his interest in providing better service to his clients.
c) Also research their experience and professional background. Although a customs broker can represent any individual or industry, some focus on specific industries and therefore may have more experience in one area than another. This may be relevant as each industry has its own extensive and complex regulations, so having an expert can make your import easier.
d) Ask for references. You can ask other companies or professional associations to recommend you. You can also contact CAAAREM, which is the Confederation of Mexican Customs Brokers Associations, represented by 99% of Mexican customs brokers located at the various border, maritime or interior checkpoints. The website is: www.caaarem.mx. Another association of customs brokers is CLAA, which is the Latin American Confederation of Customs Brokers. Its website is: www.claa.org.mx. Both confederations offer a directory with a list of their affiliated customs brokers that can help you identify the port and/or state where the appropriate broker could act on your behalf.
However, there are two alternative options for entities and individuals whose operations require the services of a Mexican customs broker.
One option is to clear the goods on their own. This is now allowed under Mexican customs law, and in order to do so, companies must appoint a “legal representative” authorized to act on their behalf during customs clearance. Specific requirements must be met by the company and the employee.
The other option is to use a customs brokerage agency. This agency must be authorized by the Tax Administration Service to carry out on behalf of importers and exporters the acts and fees required before MX customs necessary for the clearance of goods. In other words, this agency can perform the same tasks as an individual customs broker. However, this agency must be incorporated in Mexico and one of the partners/shareholders must be an active customs broker.
To conclude, if you need a Mexican customs broker for customs clearance, you have three different options: hire the services of a customs broker, hire the services of a customs broker agency or appoint one of your Mexican employees as legal representative. Making the right choice is important to the integrity of your business, otherwise, your operations could be exposed to breaches and delays, among other adverse scenarios. Therefore, it is recommended that you invest time and effort in order to make informed decisions on which option to choose.