What is the Duty Drawback Program for Import and Export?

Boost Your Import Business with Duty Drawback

A Step-by-Step Guide to Duty Drawback for US-Based Importers


For US-based importers, managing costs and maximizing profits are crucial aspects of their business operations. One area where importers can potentially recover a significant amount of money is through the duty drawback program.

A duty drawback is a mechanism that allows importers to receive a refund of certain customs duties and fees paid on imported goods that are subsequently exported or destroyed.

In this blog, we will delve into the intricacies of the duty drawback program, its benefits, eligibility criteria, and the application process.


What is Duty Drawback?

A duty drawback is a legal provision that enables importers to claim a refund of duties, taxes, and fees previously paid on imported goods when those goods are exported or destroyed.

The goal of the drawback program is to promote international trade and competitiveness by alleviating the burden of import duties for goods that are not ultimately consumed within the United States.


Types of Duty Drawback

There are three primary types of duty drawback:

1. Unused Merchandise Drawback:

Refunds duties on imported goods that are exported in the same condition as when they were imported.

Typically, this applies to goods that are not processed or altered significantly during their time in the US.

2. Manufacturing Drawback:

Allows for a refund of duties on imported components or raw materials used in the production of exported goods.

This applies to situations where the exported product is a result of manufacturing, processing, or assembly in the US.

3. Rejected Merchandise Drawback:

Provides a refund of duties on goods that are imported but subsequently found to be defective or unsuitable for their intended purpose.

This applies when the goods are returned to the foreign seller or destroyed under US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) supervision.


Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for a drawback, importers must meet certain criteria, including:

  • Importing goods subject to Customs duties and fees
  • Exporting or destroying the imported goods within specific timeframes
  • Providing appropriate documentation, such as invoices, bills of lading, and export certificates


The Application Process

The duty drawback application process can be complex and requires careful attention to detail.

Here are the general steps involved:

Determine Eligibility:

  • Identify whether your import and export activities meet the requirements for drawback. Consult with a customs attorney or a duty drawback specialist if needed.

Gather Documentation:

  • Collect and organize all relevant documentation, including import records, export records, and supporting paperwork.

Submit a Claim:

  • Prepare and submit a drawback claim to the CBP within the prescribed time limits, usually within three years from the date of importation.

Review and Approval:

  • The CBP reviews the claim, verifies the supporting documentation, and determines the eligibility and refund amount. The process may involve additional communication or clarification requests.

Refund or Waiver:

  • If the claim is approved, the importer will receive a refund for the duties and fees paid, either in the form of a cash refund or a credit against future import duties.


Benefits of Duty Drawback

Participating in the duty drawback program offers several benefits for US-based importers, including:

Cost Recovery:

  • Drawback provides an opportunity to recoup a significant portion of import duties and fees, thus reducing overall costs and improving profitability.

Increased Competitiveness:

  • Duty drawback enhances the competitiveness of US exporters by eliminating or minimizing the impact of import duties on goods destined for foreign markets.

Compliance with International Trade Agreements:

  • Drawback aligns with global trade agreements that seek to facilitate international commerce and promote fair competition.


Duty drawback is a valuable program that allows US-based importers to recover import duties and fees when goods are subsequently exported or destroyed.

By participating in this program, importers can improve their competitiveness, reduce costs, and potentially enhance their overall profitability.

However, it is crucial to understand the eligibility requirements and navigate the application process diligently.

Seeking assistance from customs experts or specialists can streamline the process and maximize the benefits of this program for importers.

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