Determining import duties requires taking many factors into account. Based on a product description, one must classify a good to obtain its HTSUS code, the acronym for the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the U.S. Additionally, it requires knowing the country of origin, which can be hard if the product has many parts, ingredients or assemblies from multiple countries. Also, the importer needs to know the value of the good to which a duty rate will apply.

Factors Increasing Duty Rates

Furthermore, there are many additional factors which may increase duties. Firstly, there are anti-dumping duties levied against imports sold below market prices. Secondly, there are  countervailing duties levied against countries that subsidize their exports to the U.S. Thirdly, there can be tariff rate quotas, where the tariff rate increases beyond a certain import quantity into the U.S.  Fourthly, some products are subject to temporary modifications established pursuant to trade legislation.  These can cover imports from a particular county such as the Section 301 tariffs on some goods from China and the EU. Additionally, they include Section 232 tariffs on imports of certain steel and aluminum products.  

Opportunities to Decrease Duty Rates

However, there are also opportunities to decrease duty rates. Firstly, a good from a specific country or more than one country may qualify for a free trade agreement. Secondly, certain goods from a certain country or countries may qualify for a preferential trade arrangement. Thirdly, there are duty-free tariff programs based on agreements covering specific products, such as pharmaceutical products. Fourthly, there are special tariff rates, often zero, for special situations. These include imports for the U.S. government and certain organizations such as the United Nations.   

Ways to Delay Paying Import Duties

Goods may enter the U.S. indifferent ways. Some of these ways permit no payment of duties at the time of entry. For example, a good may enter a foreign trade zone, thereby delaying payment until the good exits the foreign trade zone. A similar mechanism applies to goods entering bonded warehouses.

Instances where Import Duties are Not Paid

In some circumstances, duties do need to be paid. For example, if a good is shipped from Canada to Mexico but is transported under bond while moving across the U.S., no duties are payable.