Abady Law Firm, P.C. – Customs and Import/Export Attorney Blog

Learn the Basics of Customs and International Trade Policy and Procedure

Archive for the "Customs Entry" Category

Customs Attorney: Confidential Treatment of Shipping Manifests

How can I prevent information about my imports from being available to the public?

As some of you may or may not be aware pursuant to the privacy statute, 19 C.F.R. § 103.31 (d), the public is allowed to collect manifest data (e.g., bills of lading) at every port of entry. The information is limited to vessel manifests (air, rail, and truck manifests will not be available to the general public in any form).

Websites such as panjiva.com and importgenius.com collect and publish names of importers/suppliers/manufacturers from vessel manifest data. This can be troubling for some because entities such as your competitors are able to access information related to the sourcing and/or manufacturing of your products. However, an importer/shipper may make a request for confidentiality. The confidential protection is valid for 2 years, after which time a renewal is needed. Send in renewal requests 60 days prior to the expiration of the 2 year confidentiality period.

If you need assistance in requesting such confidentiality contact a customs attorney who can help.

You may call us at 347-512-9007 for more information on your international trade and customs issues.

Customs Attorney: Commercial Invoice and Footwear

In general, a commercial invoice should provide enough information for a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer to determine if the goods being imported are admissible, and if so, what the correct rate of duty should be applicable based on its Harmonized Tariff Number.

Customs does not provide a specific format for a commercial invoice, however they do provide the elements that should be on an invoice in 19 C.F.R. 141.85.

At a minimum, an invoice should:

1. Describe the item clearly

2. Give the quantity

3. State the value (either price paid, or estimated value based on other considerations.) Give both the value in foreign currency and U.S. dollars

4. Country of Origin (where the item was made)

5. Where it was purchased

6. Name of the business or person selling the merchandise

7. Location of the business or person selling the merchandise

8. Name and address of business or person buying the merchandise, and if different from the importer

9. The U.S. address of the person or business the goods are being shipped to

In addition, Footwear is unique and Customs requires more detail; these additional requirements may be viewed at 19 C.F.R. 141.89.  The additional invoice one must include with all their shipments is the “Interim Footwear Invoice.” A sample of a interim footwear invoice can be found here.

Customs Attorney: Customs Protest

A protest (Customs Form 19) is a means by which an importer can contest the way in which an entry was finalized or liquidated. Generally, any issue regarding the value, classification, or admissibility of an entry may be raised after liquidation. 19 U.S.C. § 1514; 19 C.F.R. § 174.13.

A protest is required to be filed within 180 days (no extensions permitted) after liquidation or reliquidation of the entry (19 U.S.C. § 1514(c)(3)(A); 19 C.F.R. § 174.12(e)) or within 180 days if liquidation is inapplicable (19 U.S.C. § 1514(c)(3)(B); 19 C.F.R. § 174.12(e)(2)).

The protest form asks for basic information regarding the entry, however it is in the importers best interest to supplement the protest with a detailed analysis of why Customs should grant the claim. Generally, the protest is reviewed by local Customs, however there is an option to request that the protest be reviewed by Customs Headquarters in Washington.

If the protest is approved the entry will be reliquidated and refund due (if applicable) to those entries that were protested. 19 U.S.C. § 1515(a); 19 C.F.R. § 174.29.

For protests involving the payment of duties, if the duties have been paid and the protest is approved then Customs pays the refund amount plus interest that has accrued from the payment date. If the duty has not been paid and the protest is rejected the importer pays the duty plus interest accrued from the date that payment was due. 19 C.F.R. § 24.36.

You may call us at 347-512-9007 for legal assistance in preparing a proper protest.

Notice of Seizure and Information to Claimants Form AF

Have you received a letter from Customs that looks like this http://twitpic.com/9j9rll ?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the agency responsible for protecting our borders. Accordingly, Customs officials at seaports, airports, and other border crossings all over the U.S. have the authority to examine, detain, and/or seize merchandise entering or exiting the country. More often than not, importers and exporters are surprised and intimidated when they find out that the government has intervened in their business. As a result, it is best to provide my readers some basic knowledge in an effort to appease any distress from Customs intervention.

Customs officials have a laundry list of “red flags” when targeting merchandise; they are looking for drugs, non-compliance with the Food and Drug Administration, counterfeit goods, and currency among many others. When Customs decides to detain a particular shipment the merchandise is transferred to a Centralized Examination Station where officials sort through and intensely examine the contents of the shipment. During the detention Customs must provide an explanation for the detention (see previous post for more detail). It is important to note that Customs explanation for the detention may have been provided under the advisement of another federal agency – as Customs is the “enforcer” for all other federal agencies relating to the import/export of products. Here is an example: Customs detained a shipment of T-shirts from Canada due to the failure to provide documentation that the importer has the authority to utilize a logo that is a registered trademark.

If Customs find a violation, they will seize it and transfer it from the Centralized Examination Station to an official warehouse. Throughout this process the importer is charged storage fees which must be paid if Customs agrees to release the goods. Seizures are handles by a department in Customs known as Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures (FP&F). An FP&F paralegal reviews the case and issues a seizure notice to the alleged violator. The seizure notice will give information regarding the identity of the merchandise, the location of the seizure, and citations to legal authorities. Generally, the alleged violator is given options 1) abandon the goods; 2) file a petition with customs within 30 days of the issuance date on seizure notice; 3) file an offer in compromise (this option is beneficial in specific circumstances – best to speak with an attorney first to confirm whether an offer is the right strategy); or 4) take the matter directly to court for litigation (you need to fill out the seized asset claim form and post a cost bond equal to 10% of the value of the seized merchandise, or $5,000, whichever is lower).

At this time it is highly recommended to contact a Customs attorney regarding your best options and strategy moving forward.  If an attorney is hired, he/she would notify Customs that the alleged violator is being represented by counsel. Thereafter, generally, the attorney would make what is called a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA). This formal request is sent in order to gain access to records that customs has regarding the alleged violation.

If the petition option is chosen, the alleged violator is given an opportunity to explain to customs why the goods should be released. It is important to hire an attorney who knows the policies, procedures, and practices that customs has in place in order to convince customs to release your goods. Thereafter, customs will render a decision on the case and either grant or deny the petition. If denied, the alleged violator is given an opportunity to file a supplemental petition to which must state additional information not before provided to customs. Alternatively, the alleged violator can choose to file an offer in compromise whereby one can make an attempt to negotiate with customs by offering a monetary sum to settle the matter and release the goods.

As discussed, there are various options offered to the alleged violator under the law. It is best to consult with an attorney experienced in these matters to explain these options as they relate to a particular set of facts. TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!

Resource Information

For more information about this blog post, please contact Abady Law Firm, P.C. and speak with our customs attorney at (800) 549-5099. Also visit www.customsesq.com to chat with a customs lawyer — who has insight into the Notice of Seizure — about your company’s import situation and to schedule a consultation.  To chat with us, click the bottom right corner tab of our homepage.

Customs Attorney: Request for Information – CF 28

When goods are presented at the border for entry into the United States, Customs, at the point of liquidation, makes a final determination as to the classification and valuation, or other requirements pertaining to the imported goods. How does Customs make that determination? Customs uses the information provided by the importer such as the commercial invoice and other documentation at the time of entry. Issues arise when Customs finds that the information given to them is inaccurate, incomplete, or insufficient whereby Customs cannot formulate a decision. Customs may give the importer an opportunity to add additional information, clarify what was provided, or provide a sample of the imported product in order for Customs to make a final determination.

The means by which Customs does this is via a Request for Information – Customs Form 28 (CF 28) – see it here. The importer must be cautious; responding to Customs’ questions may have future effects. Importers should ask themselves, why is Customs asking me this question, and what effect will my answer have on my shipments. This is the opportunity to make your case to Customs for present and future treatment.

The importer has 30 days to respond in writing to Customs from the date of issuance. If not possible to respond within that time frame a request for an extension can be asked for and usually obtained from the Customs Import Specialist handling the matter. If a Request for Information is not responded to, Customs will most often presume the least favorable interpretation of the facts, thus leaving the importer in a financial disadvantage. Therefore, it is vital that CF 28 be responded to properly and with the help of an experienced person who can guide the importer in the appropriate direction.

Contact us today at 347-512-9007 regarding a CF 28 you received, time is of the essence!

Customs Attorney: Customs and Border Protection- Liquidation

Liquidation is the process through which Customs completes its review of an entry and finalizes its position as to the duties.   You may ask, what about those duties paid at the time of entry?  When duties are paid at the time of entry they are referred to as “deposits” because they are not considered Customs’ final assessment of duties owed.  Generally, the entry remains “unliquidated” for a period of 314 days after the date of entry.  During this interim period the entry information may be revised regarding country of origin, classification, valuation, etc.  The 314th day marks liquidation.  An entry is “deemed” liquidated by operation of law through Customs inaction within (1) year from the date of entry or reconciliation, unless extended.

An entry can be liquidated in one of three ways:

1.  No change as to the way the goods were declared or duty deposited.

2. Customs may issue a bill of underpayment due to reasons such as change in classification or valuation.

3. Customs may issue a refund for overpayment.

Liquidation is important because it signifies the final calculation as to the payment of duties for a given entry.  Further, the date of liquidation triggers the statutory limitations period where the importer may challenge Customs decision.  For example, an importer who wishes to challenge Customs classification, the importer must file an administrative protest within 180 days from the date of liquidation.  As a result, it is important for the importer to monitor liquidations.

Customs Attorney: Customs Release

Goods that are imported are released based on the filing of the entry and/or entry summary with Customs but before Customs may have determined whether or not the goods are admissible into the U.S.  “Release” refers to Customs relinquishing physical control over the goods.  However, Customs will not release the goods without evidence of an entry bond being filed. The bond offers protection to Customs in that the importer guarantees return of the goods to Customs custody if requested.  Customs will order the return of goods for 1) failure to abide by the customs laws and regulations; 2) a need for examination or appraisal of the goods; 3) issues regarding country of origin marking.

As mentioned goods that are released may be subject to redelivery.

Customs may make the demand for redelivery

1. 30 days after release; or

2. 30 days after the end of a “conditional release period;”

3. or via conditional release periods pursuant to regulations for certain products.

Customs cannot make a demand for redelivery after liquidation is finalized.

Examples that create a conditional release period include: 1) Customs demand for a sample of the goods; 2) Customs request for information (CF28).  The consequences for failure to comply with Customs conditional release may include substantial delays and a claim for liquidated damages.

Customs Attorney: Expenses, Damages, and Losses During Inspection

Who is responsible for the costs of opening of a shipment and unloading product by Customs?  The importer.  Inspections are usually done on an appointment basis and are known to result in days of delay before released from Customs custody.  Further, costs involving demurrage and storage charges are the responsibility of the importer.

In addition, there is generally no liability on the part of Customs for loss or damages to ones merchandise during the course of inspection.

Customs Attorney: Who will be inspected?

Last post was a discussion on the types of examinations. The question presents itself: Whose shipments will be inspected?  The term one will hear is that examinations are random.  However, determination for inspection of merchandise is by majority controlled by a automated system which is overseen by human judgment.  Generally, Customs will inspect more shipments of an importer who has a history of poor compliance.  Other factors may include, the familiarity with the importer, type of goods being imported, and the foreign factories being used to manufacture the merchandise.

In addition, Customs periodically targets for examination certain Harmonized Tariff numbers to determine compliance on a nationwide level.  If the importer finds themselves being checked more than a few times by Customs it is best to investigate the matter, other issues may be at play.

Customs Attorney: Examination

All goods that enter into the United States are subject to examination by Customs or other regulatory agencies.  Shipments are examined for purposes of determining whether all the requisite documentation has been provided, whether the documentation is accurate, as well as whether the goods are in compliance with U.S. laws.  The examinations are said to be “random,” however I have heard time and again that importers believe Customs has put their company under a microscope while letting their competitors run free.  There are generally two types of examinations that Customs utilizes:

1.  Partial Examination – A sample is selected from a container load of goods.

2.  Intensive Examination – An entire shipment of goods is unloaded and samples are selected randomly from within.