U.S. Collected a Record $7 Billion in Tariffs in September

WASHINGTON—The U.S. collected a record $7 billion in import tariffs in September, fresh figures show, as new duties kicked in on apparel, tools, electronics and other consumer goods from China.

Tariff revenue jumped 9% from August and was up more than 59% from a year earlier. The revenue is a bounty for the U.S. Treasury, but is an increasing burden on the American businesses that import Chinese products—and their customers.

The new figures are based on an analysis of official Commerce Department data compiled by Trade Partnership, an economic consulting firm. The data was released by Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a coalition of business and agricultural groups who oppose the tariffs.

The sharp rise was driven by a new 15% levy on consumer goods that went into effect Sept. 1. Imports of these items were valued at $111 billion last year, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. has always collected tariffs on some items, but those duties have soared under a series of new levies that President Trump ordered on Chinese imports beginning last year. Mr. Trump said the duties were needed to get China to curtail trade practices that penalize U.S. businesses.

The tariffs are assessed directly to importers in the U.S., although Mr. Trump has at times claimed China pays them. But when he postponed a batch of tariffs until Dec. 15, he said he didn’t want to cast a pall over the holiday shopping season.

The rising cost of the tariffs has increased pressure from business groups to resolve the trade dispute.

“It’s a massive expansion of taxation on American employers and consumers,” said

Peter Bragdon,

chief administrative officer of Columbia Sportswear Co., whose firm had many apparel items hit in the latest tranche of tariffs. The company has notified customers that they would have to raise prices on many of those items, he said.

The Trump administration is considering removing some of the tariffs against China as part of the negotiations over “phase one” of a U.S.-China trade deal.

The first major tariffs were placed on global imports of steel and aluminum in March 2018, but tariffs from China began in July 2018 and have been increased on several different lists of goods. The increased tariff rates on those lists have become the vast bulk of duties collected.

More than $5 billion was collected on imports from China during the month, with tariffs assessed to the rest of the world garnering about $2 billion. The new tariffs imposed on the European Union in October, imposed after a long-running dispute at the World Trade Organization over aircraft subsidies, aren’t yet included in the data.

In the 12 months through September, the U.S. brought in more than $70 billion in tariffs, according to data from the Treasury Department. That figure is about double the amount of tariff revenue from before the trade war.

While tariff collections have increased, so have trade-war related expenses. To help mitigate the losses to U.S. agricultural exporters, who have suffered from international tariff retaliation, the Agriculture Department has authorized $28 billion in payouts to farmers.

The figures only account for the direct burden of the tariffs, said Dan Anthony, vice president of the Trade Partnership.

“This is very much the low-end estimate of costs, because there’s also costs associated with shifting suppliers, shifting to higher-cost sources, that aren’t going to show up in the data,” said Mr. Anthony.

Beijing is giving Washington a concession in the trade talks: regulations that would level the playing field for foreign companies in China. But there are doubts about Beijing’s true commitment to opening its market. Photo: Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Write to Josh Zumbrun at Josh.Zumbrun@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications
An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to September data with the phrase ”last month” in two instances. (Nov. 6, 2019)

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