U.S. Customs has significantly increased its reviews and audits of import documentation with special emphasis on Antidumping/Countervailing duty compliance, NAFTA/FTA compliance, transfer pricing, and HTS classifications. The structuring of Centers of Excellence by CBP significantly enhanced their ability to identify errors. The firm has structured a process to assist its clients in undertaking import compliance reviews before being contacted by Customs in order to understand fully their responsibilities and to undertake necessary corrective actions.

Reviews can and should be substantially completed by company personnel. In this manner, the necessary activity can be structured so as to be an educational and training tool for company employees while at the same time significantly moderating the expense of the effort. It provides an opportunity to increase the depth of subject-matter knowledge and cross-train employees in the entire import/export process. As your attorneys, communications between us and information uncovered during the review is protected under the Attorney-Client Privilege.

The most important task in the process is to review thoroughly current import operations in preparation for a potential Customs audit. Subjects include, but are not limited to, classification, valuation, financial accounting, Antidumping/Countervailing duty, special trade programs, (FTA’s), Federal Agency interface, origin marking, invoicing standards, entry, MPF/HMF, TIB, drawback, FTZs, recordkeeping, Customs communications, CBPF 28/29/Protests, etc. It is also useful to audit import entries, and examine actual business processes and sample imported merchandise to verify classification and origin marking. Finally, we find that the initiation of this activity also provides a good opportunity to use the information secured to prepare a focused Import Compliance Manual for future employee use. The existence of an Import Compliance Manual is considered by Customs during its Focused Assessments and Audits, and is viewed as evidence of “reasonable care” by importers. If an importer or exporter does not have such a Manual, the Focused Assessment Audit will not be concluded until one is completed and presented to Customs. Such a document is also essential because of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that now include import/export statutory violations.

We believe that all importers should develop a comprehensive import compliance program. The program should consist of a thorough review of existing import activity and should include:

  1. Securing and analyzing Customs import data to identify possible import compliance issues;
  2. Completing and reviewing an Internal Import Audit Questionnaire;
  3. Identifying the process for import document preparation, submission, and retention from the Questionnaire responses, and implementing necessary enhancements;
  4. Preparing or revising an Import Procedures Manual to cover all aspects of the export process;
  5. Reviewing import, classifications, valuation, origin marking, and declarations, AD/CVD compliance, special trade program (FTA) usage, document preparation, and audit reviews;
  6. Enhancing existing Item Masters to include key import management data;
  7. Implementing increased management over Customs brokers to control selection, reporting accuracy, and record provision;
  8. Creating an Import Log to monitor import transactions;
  9. Obtaining legal advice on any potential issues identified.

We have developed comprehensive import compliance programs for many different types of importers. We have template documents to begin the process, but believe that these programs must be specifically tailored to individual importers for them to be successfully implemented.

Our approach provides the opportunity for company employees to undertake a good deal of the review on their own, thereby, providing a positive learning experience as well as significantly reducing costs. Further, the information that is secured from this review can then be utilized to update and prepare Import Compliance Manuals. Prior Disclosures can be prepared and filed on any compliance concerns. Please contact us about import compliance programs and our assistance in developing and implementing a robust import compliance program for your company.