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What Small Businesses Should Know About Tariffs

What Small Businesses Should Know About Tariffs

By Peter J. Cazamias, SBA Official
Published: August 8, 2018 Updated: August 10, 2018

Recently the United States Government announced several new tariff increases.  The U.S. Department of Commerce implemented tariffs on steel and aluminum imports for national security reasons.  Separately, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced tariffs to combat unfair trade practices on certain Chinese goods.  Additional tariffs on a larger list of goods from China are expected in the future.

Small businesses should become familiar with what imported products are impacted to make informed business decisions as tariffs could increase the total cost of certain imported goods.  

What are tariffs?

Tariffs are a taxes, levies, or duties on a particular category of imports. These fees are charged as a percentage of the price of an imported good paid for by a U.S. buyer. These charges are collected by U.S. Custom and Border Protection agents at all U.S. ports of entry.  

How can I obtain a tariff waiver on my foreign purchases?

U.S. businesses may request that individual imported products be excluded from the new tariff charges; and U.S. producers may also comment on why certain exclusions should be denied. The Department of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) have separate application procedures based on the actions taken by their organizations.  Decisions are case by case and require separate individual applications for each item to be imported.   

Where can I find out more information?

SBA directs small businesses to visit the following U.S. Government resources for more information, to receive answers to frequently asked questions, and to request a tariff exclusion on imported products:

  • Some impacted goods may also be subject to anti-dumping (AD) or countervailing duties (CVD) duties for unfair trade actions involving selling at less than fair value and prohibited government support. Small businesses importing goods with additional duties related to an AD/CVD investigation should be aware that the estimated AD/CVD duties paid during an investigation can increase significantly and a bill may follow after the goods clear U.S. Customs.  Small businesses may direct questions on specific tariff lines and AD/CVD duties to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Enforcement & Compliance Communications at 202-482-0063.

Small business traders may also wish to explore the following SBA and interagency partner programs on trade:

  • Small businesses may be eligible for cost-sharing programs under Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms to retain consultants or industry-specific experts to improve their business competitiveness: http://www.taacenters.org/.
  • Local SBA resources can provide business, financial, and marketing counseling and mentoring to help strengthen your business, navigate trade challenges, and connect to Federal, State and Local resources including competitive STEP grants when available: www.sba.gov/local-assistance.  

SBA Trade Finance Managers can educate on SBA’s loan guarantee programs and trade finance options and what information you need to approach a bank effectively: https://www.sba.gov/article/2017/nov/01/list-useacs-sba-staff-2017.

About the Author:

Peter J. Cazamias
Peter J. Cazamias

SBA Official

Peter J. Cazamias serves as the Associate Administrator for SBA's Office of International Trade.