by M. Sigmund Shapiro
November 3, 2000

Recently, The Journal of Commerce reported on a company that advertised that it will “have the capability to do remote location filing” with Customs from each of its U.S. offices. I wish them luck.

RLF has been in effect in Europe for years. About five years ago it was implemented in Canada in the simplest manner. Electronic data are transmitted to Customs, the port is alerted, and, if examination is needed, a copy of the invoice is sent to the inspector.

U. S. Customs has developed its own RLF with absurd restrictions. Granted our government was aided and abetted by dissident elements of the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association who were afraid for their economic lives. “Stumbling blocks before the blind” were in place before the system was given a “test” imprimatur that has lasted, lo these many years.

The irony is that, all transmissions to Customs are received in Springfield, Virginia and are then dealt off to the port designated.

But, under current law, brokers must have a permit at that port to work there, unless they have a national permit and are using RLF. They must be vigorously tested and approved, and must also be capable of transmitting an electronic invoice, if necessary. (In some cases, this could require keying in each line of a multi-page document, effectively reducing usage of the program. In addition, certain commodities (quota, for example) are excluded.

To make matters worse, the broker must apply to each anticipated port, giving the same information that is already in Customs data bank. It usually takes the port a month or so to approve each application, and upon approval, there is a further twenty-day hiatus before it can be used.

Customs admits that NCBFAA helped mandate this kind of nonsense, but since even some of the “aginners” now use it, and find it a competitive weapon against the “big boys”, we’ve been promised that the requirements will be loosened up. There is no doubt that RLF will be the “modus operandi” in the future. Trouble is, the future is now.