Understanding Customs Bond Saturation

Written by Marek Zbyszewski
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Having the right amount of bond coverage can make the difference between a smoothly flowing supply chain and one that is at risk of disruptions, significant unexpected costs, and additional paperwork. Understanding bond limits and saturation is a key measure to ensure your organization falls within the former rather than the latter. Let's cover the basics.

How Do I Calculate a Bond Amount?

Per Customs’ Reviewers Formula, an importer’s bond must cover at least 10% of their duty, taxes, and fees over any rolling 12-month period of entry activity, regardless of bond renewal date or effective date. For example, a $100K bond would cover up to $1 million of duty, taxes, and fees going back 12 months from any given date throughout the year. Import bond limits start at $50K (minimum) and go up by $10K increments up to $100K, then go up by $100K increments, as shown below. After $1M, bond limits continue to increase by $100K.

Bond Limit  Max Rolling 12-Months Duty Coverage
$50,000 $500,000
$60,000 $600,000
$70,000 $700,000
$80,000 $800,000
$90,000 $900,000
$100,000 $1,000,000
$200,000 $2,000,000
$300,000 $3,000,000
$400,000 $4,000,000
$500,000 $5,000,000
$600,000 $6,000,000
$700,000 $7,000,000
$800,000 $8,000,000
$900,000 $9,000,000
$1,000,000 $10,000,000

What is Bond Saturation?

Bond saturation is a measurement of an importer’s bond usage (also called sufficiency) and is communicated as a percentage of their current bond amount. Sufficiency is typically calculated at 10% of their duty, taxes, and fees over the past 12 months, divided by the current bond amount. For example, if an importer has paid $850K in duty, fees, and taxes over the past 12 months, and they have a $100K bond on file, their bond saturation would be 85% ($850K*10%, divided by $100K).

Example: Duty, Taxes, and Fees - Trailing 12 Months

Bond Amount Bond Saturation Bond Status
$850,000 $100,000 85% Sufficient
$950,000 $100,000 95% Nearing Full Saturation
$1,000,000 $100,000 100% Fully Saturated


Important things to note about bond saturation:

While a bond limit covers up to 10% of total duty, fees, and taxes over 12 months, it is always a good idea to build in a buffer when determining your bond limit to ensure that the bond always remains sufficient, in case you experience unexpected import volumes or growth throughout the bond period. For example, if you anticipate spending $500,000 on duty, taxes, and fees over the year, it would be prudent to apply for a $60K bond rather than a $50K bond.
Additionally, it is very important to note that bond saturation is not tied to a specific bond or bond period and does not reset to zero when a new bond is filed. It is always based on the previous 12 months of the importer’s duty activity with respect to the current bond limit on file.

An importer has paid $800K in duty over the past 12 months but only has a $60K bond, thus the bond is 133% saturated. Because the bond limit has been breached, Customs will issue a formal demand that the current bond be filed for termination within 15 days and be replaced with a new, larger bond.

If the importer simply replaces the $60K bond with an $80K bond, the bond will already be 100% saturated even though it is brand new and would immediately be subject to another insufficiency notice from Customs. Instead, the importer should consider the previous 12 months of duty activity ($800K), while also keeping in mind their expected duty forecast for the next 12 months, to determine the proper bond amount.

If the importer expects the same volume of duty for the next 12 months ($800K), they could get a new $90K bond and it would remain 88% saturated for the duration of the annual bond term.

If the importer expects to double their duty spend over the next 12 months ($1.6M), they should get a $200K bond in order for the bond to last the full term ($1.6M*10% / $200K = 80% saturation).


Too often, busy importers don’t give their bond a second thought until they receive a surety warning or a Customs insufficiency notice, which then requires their full attention and immediate action. If not actioned within the prescribed time, their bond could be locked-up and rendered unusable, thereby impacting critical supply chain elements such as importer security filings (ISF) and import entry declarations at the port.

Without the right support, these issues can lead to unexpected delays, costs, and time spent dealing with it all. As a leading provider of bonds, Expeditors is here to help our customers understand the details and ensure proper coverage. If you would like to learn more or would like help with your current bond, reach out to our experts today.

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Blog was originally posted on October 26, 2022 7 AM

Topics: Customs, The Americas

Marek Zbyszewski

Written by Marek Zbyszewski

Marek has been with Expeditors since 2007 and currently manages the brokered cargo policy accounts at ECIB, Expeditors’ wholly-owned supply chain risk and insurance subsidiary. His previous roles include corporate sales operations and development for Expeditors’ Corporate Risk Management group, managing the Customs surety bond program for the US and Canada, and various operational and leadership roles in the Customs brokerage department at Expeditors’ Seattle branch office.

7 minute read