Abady Law Firm, P.C. – Customs and Import/Export Attorney Blog
Learn the Basics of Customs and International Trade Policy and Procedure
Documentation is the first stage of the government’s determination as to whether they will allow your product to cross the border. Further, these documents allow the government to assess duties and taxes on your container shipments. IMPORTERS ARE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACCURACY OF DOCUMENTATION PRESENTED TO THE GOVERNMENT, even if the documentation was prepared by someone else (i.e. customs broker or exporter). I cannot stress this enough. If the documentation is misleading, inaccurate, incomplete, or false the transaction is compromised and you will be held responsible. Problems with the documentation can result in higher duties, penalties, exclusion of the goods, and seizure.
Almost everything that your business imports into the U.S. must be declared to Customs. However, not all merchandise that enters the U.S. is subject to duty (tax or fee on imports) and/or importation restrictions.
You must be careful because the failure to declare goods can result in civil penalties, customs seizures, forfeiture of your merchandise, and in some cases CRIMINAL LIABILITY!
A failure to declare goods is not always intentional, it can happen by mistake through normal business practice. Customs does not understand the meaning of a “mistake,” you will be liable; however, a mistake usually provides a business with the likelihood of a mitigation in penalties.
Having trouble with how to declare your goods, it is recommended to contact a customs broker or attorney. You do not want to make a bad impression on those who allow your goods to enter the U.S.!
Credit: Free images from acobox.com
For my first post I thought it would be appropriate to begin with “Importer Responsibility.” The laws of the United States relating to the importation of goods primarily place the responsibility on YOU! the importer, kinda sucks right. Whether the source of a problem is due to a foreign exporter’s conduct, the United States has jurisdiction over you as the importer. As a result, importers must be cautious and not place all of their trust in the foreign exporter to know what to do.
Building on the idea of responsibility, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) (the government enforcement agency protecting our borders) coined the term “shared responsibility” meaning that CBP communicates its requirements to the importer, and the importer must use “Reasonable Care” to assure that CBP is provided with accurate information regarding their imports. The reasonable care standard is subjective to what CBP believes it to mean, basically you must be PERFECT in every way. Thus, it is important to consider any and all help in complying with the Customs Regulations. This can be accomplished through the aid of a customs broker, import/export consultant, accountant, or an attorney.
A checklist of an importer’s responsibilities can be summarized by:
1. Declaring your merchandise that is entering the U.S.
2. Complete and accurate documentation (NO careless mistakes as we prone to in grade school).
3. Compliance with all legal requirements.
4. Pay your duties on time!
5. Maintain accurate records.
Follow the checklist (if you can) and it should be smooth sailing for your merchandise from overseas and into a department store near you.