Complying with Export Regulations and Requirements

Companies seeking to expand their markets by selling products overseas can easily become confused and overwhelmed by export regulations and filing requirements. Scott Byrnes, vice president of marketing for East Rutherford, N.J.-based global trade management solutions provider Amber Road, offers these tips for managing export compliance.

1. Gain support from the top. An organization must have strong executive commitment and clearly articulated policies concerning compliance and its priority as a corporate function. Although senior executives are at personal risk for export violations, lack of executive sponsorship is one of the biggest hurdles compliance professionals face.

2. Promote and conduct regular training. Training is among the best ways to ensure compliance permeates the corporate culture. It should include vivid examples of the consequences of non-compliance—both civil and criminal.

3. Collect data about your products. Understanding product composition is vital to correct classification, which, in turn, drives many aspects of export compliance. Work with product managers, engineers, and scientists to understand the components and functions of the items you plan to export.

4. Understand dual-use implications. Look beyond the obvious uses of your product to anticipate any extra compliance responsibilities. Seemingly innocuous items could have potentially dangerous or nefarious dual uses, and require export licenses.

5. Get familiar with the Harmonized Schedule. Once you understand the form, function, and potential dual uses of your products, you can apply the right classification according to the Harmonized Schedule. Countries that participate in the World Trade Organization use these classification codes to determine whether a product is permitted into the country, how much duty is charged, and whether additional taxes may be levied.

6. Screen your trade partners. Most countries maintain lists of individuals, businesses, and governments that are ineligible to participate in trade. It is your responsibility to ensure your trade partners don’t appear on any of these lists.

7. Know the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Although bribery may be an accepted practice in some countries, payments to foreign officials may be illegal under the FCPA.

8. Consider investing in trade automation software. You can manage export compliance manually, but it is not easy. The volume of regulations, lists, forms, and classification codes is immense and growing, as are the responsibilities of exporters. Many software options can automate and streamline compliance activities.

9. Understand total landed cost. Understanding the true landed cost of your products—including duties, taxes, and other fees—informs your pricing strategy. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of shipping, insurance, and payments to your logistics providers.

10. Maintain comprehensive audit trails. Mistakes happen, and even the most experienced exporters may incur violations. Documenting actions, decisions, classifications, and filings will go a long way toward mitigating potential fines and penalties.

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