Lawmakers seek to raise de minimis
Individuals and companies would be spared from filing customs documents and paying import duties and fees for more of their shipments under House and Senate proposals 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., and a companion bill offered by Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., are strongly supported by the express delivery and e-commerce industries, which say the change 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 minimis 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 minimis 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 Senate 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 minimis 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 Schock’s bill to raise the de minimis value to $1,000. The House bill did garner 144 co-sponsors.
The U.S. Council for International Business requested 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 minimis 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, said in a news release issued by the USCIB.