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What is Importer of Record (IOR) and Why is it important?

Phuc Le
July 7, 2023

In the realm of international trade and logistics, it is imperative to comprehend the concept of Importer of Record (IOR) and its significant role. Acting as the linchpin in the importation process, the Importer of Record ensures compliance with regulations and facilitates the seamless movement of goods across borders. In this comprehensive SEO post, we will delve deep into the definition of Importer of Record, explore its multifaceted importance, and highlight why it is indispensable for businesses engaged in global trade.



The Importer of Record (IOR) plays a crucial role in international trade, backed by compelling data and metrics. According to a survey by the World Customs Organization (WCO), 79% of customs authorities identified non-compliance by the IOR as a significant challenge in international trade. This highlights the importance of having a responsible IOR to ensure compliance with customs regulations. In the fiscal year 2021, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection conducted over 30,000 audits and investigations, resulting in the collection of $700 million in penalties for trade violations. This metric emphasizes the need for a diligent IOR to mitigate compliance risks. Inefficient customs procedures and delays cost the global economy between 0.5% and 2% of total trade value annually, according to a study by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). By streamlining customs clearance, the IOR contributes to the efficiency of global trade, avoiding costly delays and disruptions. These data-driven insights underscore the significance of the IOR in ensuring compliance, mitigating risks, and facilitating smooth customs processes.



An Importer of Record (IOR) plays a crucial role in the importation process, backed by various tasks that ensure compliance with customs regulations and smooth import operations. Let's explore these responsibilities supported by relevant data and metrics:

Legal Responsibility: According to the World Customs Organization (WCO), the IOR assumes legal liability for the imported goods and is responsible for accurate and complete documentation. In a survey conducted by Livingston International, 81% of respondents considered legal compliance as the most significant challenge when importing goods. Failure to fulfill legal obligations can result in penalties, fines, delays, or even seizure of goods.

Customs Compliance: According to a study by Amber Road, non-compliance with customs regulations can result in an average penalty of 5% to 10% of the shipment value. The IOR ensures accurate declaration and documentation, reducing the risk of penalties and delays. Proper compliance improves customs efficiency, reducing clearance times by an average of 1-2 days (World Bank).

Duty and Tax Payment: The IOR is responsible for correctly calculating and paying import duties, taxes, and fees imposed by the destination country's customs authorities. In the United States, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported collecting over $72 billion in import duties during fiscal year 2021. Proper classification, valuation, and utilization of preferential trade agreements can help mitigate costs. A study by the International Trade Centre (ITC) showed that utilizing preferential trade agreements reduced import duties by an average of 1.8%.

Customs Documentation: Inefficient or inaccurate documentation can lead to delays or shipment rejections. The IOR ensures proper preparation and submission of customs documents, reducing the risk of non-compliance. According to FedEx, accurate customs documentation reduces clearance delays by up to 50%, ensuring timely release of goods.

Customs Clearance: Delays in customs clearance can significantly impact supply chain efficiency. The IOR acts as a liaison with customs authorities, ensuring smooth communication and timely clearance. The World Economic Forum reports that reducing customs clearance times by just one day can increase trade flows by 0.6% on average.

Record-Keeping and Reporting: Comprehensive record-keeping is crucial for compliance and future reference. The IOR maintains accurate import records, ensuring transparency and accountability. Proper record-keeping is particularly important during audits or investigations. A well-organized record-keeping system reduces audit time by up to 30% (Grant Thornton).

Risk Management and Compliance Monitoring: Non-compliance with customs regulations can lead to reputational damage and financial losses. The IOR actively monitors regulatory changes to ensure ongoing compliance. Automated compliance solutions can improve compliance rates by up to 30% (Amber Road). Regular monitoring helps mitigate risks and ensures adherence to evolving trade policies.

By fulfilling these responsibilities, the Importer of Record contributes to efficient supply chain management, reduces costs, and promotes trade facilitation. The data and metrics provided highlight the tangible benefits of a responsible and knowledgeable IOR in terms of compliance, operational efficiency, and risk mitigation.



While these statistics provide a broader context, it's essential to note that specific data and metrics regarding the prevalence of each entity as an Importer of Record may vary depending on the industry, country, and trade dynamics. Consulting trade reports, customs authorities, or industry-specific research can provide more precise and up-to-date information on the entities acting as Importers of Record in specific contexts.

Importer or Purchaser: 

When individuals or businesses directly import goods for their own use or consumption, they often act as the Importer of Record. According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), in 2020, global merchandise trade in goods for final consumption amounted to $15.8 trillion, indicating the significant involvement of importers in international trade.

Importer of Record Services Provider: 

Companies that offer Importer of Record services play a crucial role in facilitating importation for businesses that lack a physical presence or legal entity in the destination country. The global trade compliance software market size was valued at $796.9 million in 2020 and is projected to reach $1.45 billion by 2028, highlighting the growing demand for specialized services in managing import compliance.

Customs Broker: 

Customs brokers act as intermediaries between importers and customs authorities, providing expertise in navigating customs procedures and regulations. The global customs brokerage market size was valued at $25.2 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $35.2 billion by 2028, indicating the significant role of customs brokers in facilitating international trade.


It is advisable to consult with legal and trade professionals who specialize in international trade and customs regulations to ensure that you are following the specific requirements of the destination country and adhering to all legal obligations throughout the importation process.

Research and Understand Import Regulations: Researching import regulations and requirements is essential to comply with the laws of the destination country. This information can typically be obtained from customs authorities, government trade agencies, or international trade databases.

Business Registration and Legal Entity: Establishing a legal entity is necessary to engage in import activities. The specific requirements for business registration and legal entity formation vary by country. Consulting local business registration agencies or legal professionals can provide guidance on the necessary steps.

Obtain an Importer-Exporter Code (IEC): Many countries require an Importer-Exporter Code (IEC) or similar identification number for import activities. This code helps track and monitor imports and exports. The process and requirements for obtaining an IEC can be obtained from customs authorities or trade promotion agencies.

Identify Product Classification and Customs Tariffs: Correctly classifying imported goods using the Harmonized System (HS) code is crucial for determining customs tariffs and import duties. HS codes can be found in the World Customs Organization's Harmonized System database or through customs authorities of the destination country.

Develop Import Processes and Documentation: Establishing efficient import processes and documentation procedures ensures compliance and smooth operations. Guidelines for required documents, such as commercial invoices, packing lists, certificates of origin, and import permits, can be obtained from customs authorities or trade organizations.

Customs Compliance and Clearances: Understanding the customs clearance process and compliance requirements is essential. Working with customs brokers or freight forwarders can provide expertise and assistance in navigating customs procedures. Customs authorities can provide specific guidelines and requirements.

Import Duties, Taxes, and Financial Considerations: Calculating import duties, taxes, and other fees is crucial for financial planning. Customs authorities provide tariff schedules and information on applicable duties and taxes based on the HS code. Trade associations and industry reports can provide insights into potential financial considerations.

Stay Updated and Compliant: Staying informed about changes in import regulations and trade policies is essential. Customs authorities, trade publications, and industry associations provide updates, newsletters, and regulatory announcements to keep importers informed.



By actively pursuing voluntary compliance, conducting self-audits, utilizing compliance tools, providing comprehensive training, and understanding the potential consequences of non-compliance, IORs can navigate customs and compliance considerations effectively, maintain regulatory compliance, and mitigate risks associated with importation. Collaborating with customs experts, trade consultants, and legal professionals can further enhance compliance efforts and ensure adherence to specific country requirements. Ensuring customs and compliance is a vital responsibility for Importers of Record (IORs) to adhere to the laws, regulations, and statutes of the importing country. This commitment to compliance is commonly achieved through voluntary compliance initiatives such as self-auditing programs, compliance tools, and comprehensive training. Self-auditing programs play a crucial role in maintaining compliance. By conducting regular internal audits, IORs can proactively identify any potential compliance gaps or errors. According to a survey conducted by PwC, 82% of organizations have established self-audit programs to ensure compliance with customs regulations and mitigate risks. Compliance tools can significantly support IORs in adhering to regulations. These tools range from customs software systems that assist with documentation and tariff classification to trade compliance management solutions. A study by Aberdeen Group found that companies utilizing compliance management tools experienced a 16% decrease in compliance violations. Investing in comprehensive training programs for employees involved in import processes is essential for compliance. According to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), companies that provide compliance training experienced a 45% decrease in compliance-related incidents.

In addition to voluntary compliance, IORs are also subject to enforced compliance measures enforced by customs authorities. This includes inspections of imports to ensure compliance with regulations and documentation audits to verify accuracy and completeness. Failure to comply can result in monetary penalties, civil penalties, criminal penalties, and investigations. For instance, in the European Union, non-compliance with customs regulations can lead to fines ranging from 1% to 10% of the customs value of the goods. Certain government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have the authority to overrule the IOR and deny entry to imported goods if they pose a potential threat. The EPA focuses on environmental compliance, while the FDA ensures the safety and quality of food, drugs, and medical devices. These agencies conduct inspections, testing, and regulatory reviews to protect public health, safety, and the environment.

In conclusion,

An Importer of Record (IOR) is a critical entity in international trade, responsible for complying with customs regulations, facilitating smooth import operations, and managing legal liabilities. By designating a reliable IOR, businesses can ensure compliance, expedite customs clearance, and mitigate risks associated with importation. Having a competent IOR enhances supply chain efficiency, promotes trade growth, and establishes a solid foundation for successful global trade operations.


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