Do I Need A Broker To Clear Customs When Importing FBA Products?

Posted on 28 October 2021

in Gray Long Sleeve Shirt doing some customs paperwork

When it comes to importing and exporting FBA products across the world, the process can seem daunting. It can leave you wondering if you slept through an entire semester’s worth of “Shipping Things 101” back in school. Surely importing your bespoke hamster wheels can’t be that complicated, right? 

The answer is: it can. The global shipping process is fraught with complicated laws that govern international trade. This is where customs brokers shine.

So if you’re wondering, “Do I need a broker to clear customs?” the short answer is, “technically no.” The long answer is, “no, but they’ll definitely make your life and your shipments easier.” While not legally required to import FBA products, customs brokers give importers a big advantage during the importation process.

What Does A Customs Broker Do?

In a perfect world, global shipping would be as easy as tossing a stamped letter in the mailbox.

However, due to international trade laws and regulation requirements, importing and exporting products often requires the help of an international shipping guru known as a customs broker to help facilitate the exit or entry of international shipments.

Put simply, customs brokerage services are meant to help you get international goods through your country’s borders. Their primary duties include:1

  1. Paperwork – If filling out and filing paperwork haunts your dreams, you’re better off hiring a licensed customs broker during the import process. That’s because customs brokers will take care of the ample paperwork associated with clearing customs. This paperwork includes forms such as commercial invoices, packing lists, and arrival notices.
  2. Legal tasks – As stated above, importing and exporting goods means navigating international trade’s often murky legal waters. Thankfully, customs brokers are well-versed in international trade law. From properly declaring your imports to telling you how much to pay in duties taxes, customs brokers can help you receive your products legally.
  3. Business advice – Although some people import items for personal use, others import items as part of their business. If your business depends on a constant import stream, a licensed broker can advise you on how to best meet your business’s import needs.

Whether you need to file paperwork to import ingredients for your new brand of CBD lollipops or are unsure of the right amount of taxes to pay, a licensed customs broker can make importing FBA products efficient, affordable, and headache-free. 

That said, there are a few things customs brokers are not legally responsible for. These include:

In other words, the customs broker isn’t a product’s legal importer, so they can’t absorb any legal penalties incurred by your products or their shipment. 

To consign the handling of all potential legal liabilities, it’s best to hire an Importer Of Record to ensure your imported goods meet regulation requirements and receive clearance from customs authority.

Customs Broker VS. Importer Of Record

If you’re sorting through the ins, outs, and legalese of shipping products across international borders, you may have stumbled onto another player in the world of cross-customs sales: the Importer Of Record. But, what is an Importer Of Record and how does it compare to a customs broker, you may ask?

 The difference between a customs broker and Importer Of Record (or IOR) is one of the international trade’s most important distinctions.

Put simply, a customs broker represents an FBA importer, whereas the IOR is the importer (at least for legal, record, and financial purposes). This ensures absolutely that should something arise, the actual buyer isn’t held legally responsible. 

In addition, an IOR differs from a customs broker in the following ways:2

  1. An IOR assists with the more “complicated” goods – If you’re a small local business looking to break into new markets, you’ll quickly discover that regulations can vary dramatically depending on the destination of your product. Whether you’re importing highly-regulated goods or just some honest wing nuts, it’s wisest to hire an IOR to help navigate the customs process. They’re better equipped than brokers to handle the intricacies of international trade to make sure your goods meet customs compliance requirements.
  2. An IOR pays taxes and duties on goods – Unlike a customs broker who simply tells you how much to pay in import taxes and duties, an IOR takes care of all payments upfront. This helps to greatly ease the burden of knowing what to pay and when for your imports.
  3. An IOR tracks shipment status – One of the major advantages of hiring an IOR is the peace of mind that comes with knowing when your shipment will arrive. This is because an IOR will give you shipment status updates—an invaluable resource if your business runs on a tight schedule.

For sellers who use FBA, IORs are instrumental for reducing their legal burden, handling FBA compliance complexities, and taking charge of the transit to-do list. Their job is to simplify the shipment process from start to finish so you can focus on what you do best—running your business and offering exceptional products to your customers. 

When it comes to IOR versus customs broker, there is another solution—a service that acts as both, simplifying your legal burden, handling the compliance complexities, and managing all the technicalities of getting your goods from point A to point B. 

Enter Zee. 

Zee: Your One-Stop Shop For The Import Process

Starting a small business can be one of the most stressful (and fulfilling) things to do. This is especially true if your business operates off FBA imports. Not only do you have to worry about your imports arriving on time, but you also have to worry about paying the correct amount in duties and taxes.

You could take on these worries yourself. Or, you could trust Zee—the expert when it comes to all things shipping for FBA sellers, especially those looking to break into international markets.

As Amazon’s IOR, Zee is a full-service shipping partner that takes care of your FBA import needs, helping your goods clear customs while taking the burden off you in the event of any shipping headaches. We can also help facilitate the customs brokerage process so you can rest easy knowing your goods are in capable hands. 

Contact us today to see how we can make importing your FBA products as stress-free as your next hit homemade candle. 

Are you an FBA seller interested in learning more about how to navigate the shipping process? Be sure to check out our blog to get access to all the information you need. From information about DDP shipping terms to how to fix stuck shipments, we have you covered at Zee!


  1. A&A. Customs Brokerage 101: Everything You Need to Know.
  2. M&B. Importer of Record.