Beware of Customs Bearing Gifts: Informed Compliance Letters!

It’s the ole’ Trojan horse scenario. Just when you think Customs is being helpful sending out Informed Compliance Letters to your business with information to “assist” your company with ensuring compliance, they will state in the document that since this information has been provided to your company, violations that may occur in the future could result in penalties and/or seizure and forfeiture of imported merchandise. That doesn’t sound much like a gift to us. It sounds like an official warning that the importer who received this letter must immediately take action to ensure their house is in order.

In today’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) world, there is much more transparency; it is easier for Customs to identify areas of possible or probable non-compliance as they review all of the data in ACE. While it appears that Customs is targeting the top 1,000 importers at this time, other importers cannot be far behind. Being proactive and ensuring a compliant internal program is essential for importers maintaining compliance with all Customs regulations.

Here is some advice on achieving good internal controls:
  • Analyze your ACE Data. More specifically, review any Post Summary Corrections (PSC) that have been made and any CF28 (Requests for Information) and CF29 (Notices of Action) that have been received;
  • Ensure your recordkeeping meets Customs expectations;
  • Review your shipments vis-à-vis the high risk areas that Customs is currently concentrating on: Valuation, Free Trade Agreements, Antidumping and Countervailing duties, Textiles/Wearing apparel, country of origin, Duty free provisions, Classification, and Intellectual Property Rights;
  • Analyze the root cause of any errors that are uncovered and implement corrective action plans to prevent these errors from recurring;
  • Monitor/Audit import entries for timeliness and accuracy;
  • Implement compliance and control policies and procedures;
  • Develop a culture of informed compliance with continued education and communicate these policies within your organization.

In February of this year, the president signed the Trade Enforcement and Trade Facility Act, with the goal of protecting economic security through trade enforcement. We are now seeing the results of this initiative. If you implement good sound internal controls taking into account Customs laws and regulations, you won’t be afraid when Customs rolls that Trojan horse to your door.

If you need help getting there, please contact compliance@shapiro.com for help.

-- Marjorie Shapiro
President/CEO