by M. Sigmund Shapiro
February 23, 2004

Back in the Pleistocene era the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association met periodically with Customs to discuss issues concerning both sides. Our hope was always to simplify procedures for the benefit of all.

Periodic duty payment was one of the suggestions we made to Customs in the 1970’s when I was chairman of the Customs Committee of the Association. In those days, a check for duty had to be attached to each Customs entry, unless a particular port allowed a single check to be submitted daily. We thought it unwieldy and recommended to Customs (we met with them quarterly) that periodic payment would make sense. It only took 35 years to come to fruition.

About the same time, we harangued Customs about the handling of entry liquidations. The law provided that the only official notice of liquidation was a notice posted on a bulletin board in the Custom House, ala Martin Luther’s demands on the church door. This idiotic provision dates from the original language in the Tariff Act of 1930. To alleviate the problem, Customs was forced to issue “courtesy Notices of Liquidation” to the importer by mail. Needless to say the courts had to rule on non-receipt by the importer. NCBAA’s Customs committee suggested, (also in the mid seventies) that liquidation after a specific time by operation of law, would provide the solution. Legislation passed more than a decade later helped by declaring that entries would automatically liquidate one year from date of entry. But Customs raised a challenge in court claiming that automatic liquidation did not constitute a decision by Customs and was therefore invalid!

I was delighted to see that a cure to this idiocy is part of the miscellaneous trade bill now rattling around the halls of Congress. If it passes, it would have taken forty years from our first suggestion.

A prominent, now deceased, sanitary engineer, Dr. Abel Wolman told me one day that he had good news. Fifty years before he had been contracted by the government of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to develop a water distribution system for them. He had just been informed that their Parliament had finally approved it.

As can be seen, in comparison with other parts of the world, the U. S. is ahead of the game.

I was naturally delighted to see that the current miscellaneous trade bill currently before Congress.