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What is a Customs Power of Attorney?

By Daphne Mallory
Updated May 16, 2024
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A customs power of attorney is used to give the authorized agent authority to act in all matters related to the import and export of goods and customs. It's a short legal document, consisting often of one page. Some countries provide their own form to be used, such as customs form 5291 in the United States. The grantor can be an individual, partnership, or corporation much like the agent, who is also called the attorney of the grantor. The customs power of attorney also grants rights to the employees of companies who act as agents, who are given limited authority when dealing with customs.

The type of agent who would sign a customs power of attorney is often a customs broker, export forwarding agent, or import agent. A grantor may enlist the help of all three, but will often use separate documents for each. A customs broker works on behalf of someone else or a company to clear goods through customs, and brokers are regulated by the government entity in the country that is responsible for customs and border protection. An export forwarding agent or import forwarding agent prepares the goods to leave the country and to conform to customs shipping requirements. Forwarding agents also prepare the necessary paperwork required by customs and often hand the goods and paperwork to the grantor, customs broker, or other agent acting on the grantor's behalf.

The grantor is often a resident or foreign company in the business of importing and exporting products, but individuals may also request the service of agents to help them get items in or out of a country. A grantor needs the help of the agent to handle import, export, and transportation of merchandise or other items, either because he or she is unable to go and deal with customs or because it is inefficient for him or her to do it independently. For example, it's often not effective for an owner of an apparel company to handle customs transactions for the clothing it ships on a daily basis.

Companies may be required to use a customs power of attorney in order to name an agent who is authorized to receive a service of process for lawsuits initiated by customers, the government, or other individuals based on custom transactions. For example, agents agree to uphold certain fiduciary duties when they sign the power of attorney, and they may breach those duties and cause damages. Those who suffer damages need to be able to serve those agents with a complaint, especially when a foreign corporation is involved.

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Discussion Comments
By Markerrag — On Feb 10, 2014

This particular power of attorney is becoming more common in the current multinational economy. Expect to see that trend continue.

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