Self-filers are rare birds

The tools for importers to self-file exist, but few take advantage

By: Eric Johnson
 | 
Photo: kajornyot wildlife photography / Shutterstock.com
   The gradual acceptance of global trade compliance automation software has made shippers more empowered than ever to manage customs filings without the need of a customs broker.
   But, according to American Shipper research, the vast majority of importers continue to turn to brokers to help them manage this all important compliance facet. American Shipper has found that more than 91 percent of all shippers use brokers to file entries, according to data gathered during the most recent import-export compliance benchmark survey.
   For manufacturers, the rate of self-filing among respondents was slightly higher than the average, at nearly 10 percent, while fewer than 5 percent of retailer respondents say they self-file.
   The research also found that small and medium-sized importers are more likely than larger shippers to self-file. Twelve percent of medium-sized importers (defined as having annual revenue of $100 million to $1 billion) self-file, while the rate is more than 10 percent for small importers (less than $100 million in annual revenue. Around 6 percent of large shipper respondents (those importers with more than $1 billion in annual sales) say they self-file.
   Aside from global trade automation technology, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) also provides tools to help shippers electronically file and track metrics. Still, importers remain heavily reliant on brokers.
   According to data in the 2017 American Shipper Import-Export Compliance Benchmark Study, 45 percent of shippers use two to three brokers, 21 percent use a single broker, 20 percent use four to five brokers, and 14 percent use more than five.
   The study also found that 46 percent of importer respondents still predominantly use manual tools to manage compliance. Another 31 percent outsource their import function or use a system provided by a 3PL. It’s likely that as that number of companies not using self-serve trade automation systems comes down, the percentage of importers turning to self-filing will gradually rise.