Customs duty is the duty imposed on goods when they are transported across a political border. The duty is levied according to tariff fixed by the importing country.
Merchandise coming to the U.S. is subject to customs clearance and is subject to a customs duty unless specifically exempted by law. Payment of customs duty is a responsibility of the person importing the goods to the U.S. A major share of the federal government’s revenue is created by imposing customs duty on goods imported to U.S for commerce. If a vessel arriving from a foreign country does not contain goods, wares, or merchandise, it is not subject to ordinary customs duties.[i]
The U.S. constitution adopted admiralty law for maintaining good order in the navigable waters of the nation. Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over admiralty matters. Services that are an essential and integral component of shipping commerce are maritime in nature.[ii] Therefore, payment of customs duty on goods imported from foreign countries to the U.S. through navigable waters comes under federal admiralty jurisdiction.[iii] Federal courts consider cases regarding classification of merchandise for customs purposes, customs tariff imposed, or when Department of Treasury officials refuse to pay refunds due to importers.
[i] Hitner Sons Co. v. United States, 13 Ct. Cust. 216 (Ct. Cust. App. 1922)
[ii] BDL Int’l v. Sodetal USA, Inc., 377 F. Supp. 2d 518 (D.S.C. 2005)
[iii] Buck Kreihs Co. v. United States, 192 Ct. Cl. 297 (Ct. Cl. 1970)