Companies that import goods are subject to ever-increasing government regulation and scrutiny. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) historically has been the critical agency for companies importing goods into the United States. Its responsibilities range from collecting duties imposed on imported goods to interdicting contraband at the border. The events of 9/11 led to increased concerns regarding public safety and border protection and a concomitant increase in the scope of CBP’s authority. It now has a lead role in developing, implementing and administering supply chain security programs that affect all companies importing goods into the United States. Importers are expected to cooperate with CBP’s efforts to tighten controls on all aspects of the importing process.
The recent increase in scrutiny at the border is due not just to national security concerns, but also to increased focus on consumer protection. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission all are playing a more active role in regulating imports, especially imports of consumer goods (child-related, in particular), agriculture and food products, pharmaceuticals and counterfeit goods of all types.
We have significant experience with the full range of customs matters, including compliance, audits and training, prior disclosures and enforcement actions. One of our group’s senior members has more than 40 years’ experience with customs matters and spent eight years with the U.S. Customs Service as a Supervisory Import Specialist and an Operations Officer. Other senior members of the group have been practicing in the area for nearly 20 years. We have strong relationships with CBP officials and a reputation for providing excellent service. We have advised U.S.-based and multinational suppliers, retailers and manufacturers across a variety of industries, including aerospace, agriculture, auto parts, chemicals, consumer goods, electronics, food products and textiles.
Compliance counseling and audits. We counsel importers on the full range of customs compliance issues, including classification, valuation, country of origin marking and other issues that are critical to maintaining compliance and avoiding penalties. We also conduct internal CBP compliance audits that identify and quantify a client’s risks. Based on the audit’s results, we recommend solutions to eliminate risks and provide training to implement the recommended solutions and avoid future problems.
Government investigations and proceedings. We represent clients in CBP audits, investigations and penalty, seizure and forfeiture proceedings, as well as in CBP administrative proceedings to recoup excess duties paid.
Prior disclosures. Clients rely on us to analyze their compliance efforts and prepare prior disclosures and remedial customs procedures when warranted, which may help mitigate or avoid penalties.
Trade agreements. We counsel clients on the applicability of NAFTA and other free and preferential trade agreements to their products to eliminate duties and to avoid potential penalties.
C-TPAT and importer self-assessment. We assist companies in meeting the requirements of these CBP programs. We advise on every step of the qualification process, helping clients achieve CBP certification.
Other customs-related issues. Clients seek our counsel on a variety of other matters, including helping identify areas for duty savings, as well as investigating and pursuing alleged competitor CBP fraud.
Illustrative examples of our experience in this area include:
- Providing a U.S.-based bearing company with a full analysis of classification, valuation and origin (and origin labeling), as well as antidumping duty order scope, for several families of bearings. The company minimized potential liability, avoided CBP action and was able to adjust its labeling procedures with regard to downstream products.
- Preparing prior disclosure and remedial customs procedures for a multinational company facing $75 million in potential penalties for failure to declare assists and improper valuation of agricultural commodities imported from related and unrelated parties.
- Preparing prior disclosure and remedial customs procedures for a multinational company facing $70 million in potential penalties for improper valuation of consumer paper products between related parties over five years. Our prior disclosure resulted in no penalties assessed by CBP.
- Preparing prior disclosure and remedial customs procedures for a multinational company facing more than $700,000 in potential penalties for more than $3 million of transportation materials subject to allegations of misclassification, false country-of-origin claims and fraud. Our prior disclosure resulted in no penalties assessed by CBP.
- Preparing prior disclosure and remedial customs procedures for a multinational company facing $350,000 in potential penalties for failing to declare assists and improper valuation of imported mineral products refined overseas by related party toller. CBP assessed no penalty; $20,000 in additional duties was owed for $8 million in total import value.
- Conducting a customs audit for a telephone manufacturer that included all telephones and telephone components, as well as numerous electronics products. We uncovered the potential for $10 million in duties and fines; we negotiated a $50,000 settlement after a 2.5-year audit.
- Providing internal CBP compliance audits and training for more than 25 U.S.-based and multinational companies, including bearing manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers, aerospace suppliers, electronics manufacturers, textile producers, chemical manufacturers and consumer goods companies.