International freight forwarding and import-export businesses will be very inefficient without the customs broking industry. All of the goods that enter and exit the territories of sovereign states pass through customs. Depending on the existing international agreements certain goods are usually charged with tariffs, taxes and excises.
Of course, the process of inspection and documentation can be very tedious for those who engage in import-export business. This is where the custom brokerage firms and individual custom brokers come to play. The communication between government authorities and importers/exporters is facilitated by the licensed brokers and brokerage firms.
Most customs brokers work as employees of brokerage firms but a few of them work as freelance brokers. Depending on the jurisdictional laws, professional brokers are also entitled to certain percentage commissions from the revenues collected. This is in addition to the salaries (if employed) and the fees paid by clients.
On average, individual customs brokers earn an average of US$66,000 per year but some of them earn as much as US$500,000 per year. The income of licensed brokers depend on several factors such as the location, the government regulations, the volume and the value of the goods they process, and the fees involved.
Aside from brokerage firms, many accredited brokers are affiliated or directly employed by freight forwarding companies, shipping lines, trade authorities, importers and exporters. Considering the intricacies of government policies and the wide range of goods that pass through customs, customs brokerage firms are usually specialized on certain categories of goods.
This is necessary not only for the sake of convenience and management but also necessary so as not to have accurate assessment of the value of goods. Some may specialize in technology and electronic products while others may specialize in agricultural and food products. Some brokers also have sub-specializations such as luxury vehicles. Computing the duties and documenting the various types of goods require specific approaches.
The work of licensed brokers requires knowledge of laws, accounting, international trades, economy, inventory management, and logistics. It is not a simple clerical or inventorial task. Aside from the routine documentation, the job also requires excellent skills in communication particularly in the area of negotiations. In some cases, the task could also involve some hint of diplomacy and politics.
Most sovereign states regulate customs brokerages/brokers. They are usually required to take college courses related or specializing in customs brokering. It is also mandatory for them to have apprenticeship trainings and take written examinations before they can be licensed.