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What Small Businesses Should Know About Tariffs

What Small Businesses Should Know About Tariffs

By David Glaccum, SBA Official
Published: August 14, 2018 Updated: March 13, 2019

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. 

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 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:


  • Information on Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Global Imports:
  • 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:


  • (9/18/18 UPDATE): The Federal Government is starting the process to develop a new 3-year Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement. By committing to common goals, the U.S. Government will more effectively and efficiently promote and protect our intellectual property. The Executive Office of the President Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator invites public input and participation in shaping the Administration's intellectual property enforcement strategy. Submissions must be received on or before November 13, 2018, at 5 p.m.  For more information and to submit a comment, visit

SBA’s Office of International Trade believes there is no wrong door for U.S. small business traders.  Contact us today at (link sends e-mail) (link sends e-mail) (link sends e-mail) or 855-722-4877.


About the Author:

David Glaccum

SBA Official

David Glaccum is the Associate Administrator for SBA's Office of International Trade