Individuals and companies would be spared from filing customs documents and paying import duties and fees for more of their shipments under a proposal by two U.S. senators that would raise the threshold for such requirements from $200 to $800.
The Low Value Shipment Regulatory Modernization Act of 2013, sponsored by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is strongly supported by the express delivery and e-commerce industries, which say it would increase trade by reducing the burden on small businesses, logistics companies and U.S. Customs.
The United States for 20 years has kept the de minimus level at $200. Goods at, or below, that value brought from overseas by a U.S. citizen or commercially shipped are not subject to duties or formal customs procedures.
Supporters say raising the de minimus level makes sense because the administrative cost of collecting duties on low-value shipments outweighs the potential revenue and customs authorities can focus their resources on making sure duties are paid on high-value shipments. Private businesses would also substantially benefit from reduced paperwork, recordkeeping and compliance costs.
The bill, S. 489, also includes a non-binding "Sense of the Senate" that urges the U.S. Trade Representative to encourage other countries to establish similar de minimus thresholds through bilateral, regional and multilateral trade deals. Getting other countries to raise the bar on low-value shipments eligible for duty-free status would have a better chance of success if the United States took the lead, according to trade experts.
"A higher de minimis level will stimulate trade, spur the growth of business across a range of industries, and create jobs,” Mike Mullen, executive director of the Express Association of America, said in a statement. The trade association represents FedEx, UPS, DHL and TNT.
Thune and Wyden introduced their bill during the last session of Congress, but it failed to gain traction, as did a companion measure in the House to raise the de minimus value to $1,000. The House bill did garner 144 co-sponsors. - Eric Kulisch