Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations (19 CFR for short) and the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States are the two primary sources of rules and regulations for importing goods into the United States. All importers should have familiarity with 19 CFR and the HTSUS.
What is Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations (19 CFR)?
Title 19 CFR is one of 50 Titles of the US Code of Federal Regulations and specifically covers rules and regulations issued by federal agencies regarding Customs Duties. Title 19 will be the source of truth for a wide variety of Customs related questions such as: “What is the Transaction Value of My Shipment? or “What is a Carnet?” or “How do Customs Bonds work?”
Where can I find 19 CFR? Is there a digital version?
Title 19 along with all Titles of the US CFR are available online.
Almost all Customs related questions can be answered in the first two volumes of 19 CFR, Parts 0-140 and 141-199.
Below is a view of all the parts of the first two volumes of 19 CFR. Each part has the rules and regulations that govern different aspects of Customs Duties. All of the regulations are important, but some of the more applicable rules for Importers can be found in:
- Rules of Origin
- CBP Bonds
- Country of Origin Marking
- Entry of Merchandise
- Classification and Appraisement of Merchandise
How do I navigate the regulations?
Familiarizing yourself with the Customs regulations is a great way to understand how Customs operates and what you will need to do to stay in compliance when importing goods into the United States.
Opening up the regulations you will find that they are neatly broken down into parts. Parts are numbered 0-199 (even though the regulations skip numbers). If you are brand new to navigating the regulations, it might be a good idea for you to go through each part to get an understanding of what each one covers.
1. Scroll through the parts; look for the part that might cover your question. Do you have a question on how Customs values your merchandise? The answer most likely will be in part 152, “Classification and Appraisement of Merchandise.” Maybe you want to know how Customs calculates certain duties? The answer might be in part 24, “Customs Financial and Accounting Procedures.”
2. Scroll through the “subparts” of the part you’re in. Each part is broken down further into subparts. If you were looking for how Customs values your goods, you would be in part 152. You would then scroll through the subparts until you find the subpart that might contain the answer you are looking for. In our case, Subpart E – Valuation of Merchandise, seems like a great place to look.
3. Read through the sections of the subpart; see if the regulation applies. Each subpart is further broken down into sections. These sections are where you will find the rules and regulations. In our example, we are looking for how Customs values merchandise. Notice §152.101 – Basis of appraisement. We would then have to read through all of §152.101 to understand the basis of appraisement on how Customs values merchandise.
Pro-Tip: Be sure to read through the entire section. Some sections reference other parts of the regulations. For example: §152.12 – Applicable rates of duty. The section refers you to another part of 19 CFR, §141.69.
Pro-Tip: Hire a Licensed Customs Broker. Customs Brokers are licensed professionals that specialize in navigating Customs rules and regulations. Having one on your team can bring invaluable knowledge and expertise to your supply chain.
A Word of Encouragement
If you are having a difficult time navigating through 19 CFR or the HTSUS, don’t be discouraged. It takes practice and time to familiarize yourself with these dense (and some would say, dry) materials. A great way to learn how to navigate through both the regulations and the tariff is to study to become a Licensed Customs Broker. Whether you are looking to become a broker or not, studying for the exam will help you get a better understanding of the rules and regs.