International companies importing into or exporting out of China will invariably need to deal with China’s General Administration of Customs, the government agency responsible for administering and enforcing China’s complex customs laws and regulations. Customs officials are given significant authority under these laws to monitor the transit of goods across China’s borders and to mete out harsh punishment to companies for, among other things, non-declaration or false declaration of goods, and importing or exporting counterfeit products.

China follows the “Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System”, by which all imported and exported goods are classified according to their HS code and the place of origin. Furthermore, China requires valuations on goods to be made according to their transaction value, while also taking into account cost, insurance and freight (CIF). The goods’ HS code classification, place of origin, and valuation determines the duties and taxes to be levied on (imported) goods. When companies fail to properly declare their goods, it can lead to non-payment or significant underpayment of customs duties and taxes (and therefore a loss of income to customs). Prohibited or restricted goods may also (even if not intentionally) make it into or out of the country without authorization or the required licenses, and counterfeit goods may go undetected.

The consequences for non- or improper declaration of goods can be grave for the company and managers involved, ranging from administrative penalties and fines to even criminal charges if the offence is serious enough. In light of this, some companies choose to outsource the handling of customs formalities to local trading companies, specialist customs brokers or law firms.

Our team of lawyers and consultants not only have extensive knowledge of customs laws, regulations and practices, but also understand how cases are handled and processed based on many years of experience dealing with customs, and have developed effective communication channels with customs officials. Our customs services include, but are not limited to, advising on and/or handling the following:

  • Customs clearance, quality inspection and quarantine procedures, importation/exportation of prohibited or restricted goods, licensing and permit requirements for controlled goods, quota compliance requirements, and filing of required documentation;
  • Post-importation audits and records inspection conducted by customs with regards to correct classification and valuation of goods, declaration and payment of duties, taxes, tariffs, and fees, and correct declaration of country of origin etc., and preparing appropriate and necessary responses;
  • Self-audit and voluntary disclosure of violations to customs;
  • Customs anti-smuggling investigations;
  • Customs registration and protection of IP rights, including liaising and coordinating with customs officials to initiate and conduct investigations into infringing and counterfeit goods, and enforcement thereof;
  • China’s complex customs laws, regulations and practices, including with regard to processing trade, bonded factories and warehouses, and free trade zones;
  • Internal company policy and practices concerning customs compliance, and if necessary, establishment of or improvements to customs compliance system and the implementation thereof, and providing internal training if required; and
  • Customs-related cases, including representing clients for administrative reconsideration and/or litigation.