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What Small Businesses Should Know About Tariffs

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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:

Information on Goods from China with New Additional Tariffs:

  • The list of certain Chinese goods with new additional tariffs now in force can be found at the Federal Register under 83 FR 28710.
  • USTR implemented a process by which U.S. stakeholders may request that imported products be excluded from these newly implemented duties on Chinese goods. USTR will evaluate each request on a case-by-case basis.
  • USTR has published on a request form template, Q&A, instructions on  how to describe your product, and how to request an exclusion before October 9, 2018 at
  • If you have questions about the product exclusion process for tariffs found in 83 FR 28710, you may directly contact Arthur Tsao or Justin Hoffmann at 202-395–5725 at USTR.
  • For questions on customs classification or how the additional duties will be assessed, please contact

Information on a Second Tranche of Goods from China with Additional Tariffs of 25%:

A List of Goods from China Under Consideration for Further Tariff Actions:

Information on Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Global Imports:

  • The United States has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended. 
  • Questions regarding aluminum exclusions requests can be directed to 202-482-4757 or   

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.

Cross post from SBA Blog