The trade law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) appears to be in the process of stepping up its trade enforcement efforts by targeting importers that it suspects may have compliance deficiencies.
According to ST&R, in recent weeks, companies have been receiving letters from CBP with the subject line: “Distribution of Informed Compliance Publications and Other Informative Documents”.
While sounding fairly innocuous on its face, CBP officials confirm these letters should actually be cause for concern as receiving them indicates that the government has reason to believe the firm’s import compliance may be in question.
The so-called “informed compliance letters” include a list of CBP ICPs, are accompanied by a DVD containing the ICPs listed and review the criteria for submitting prior disclosures to CBP. Further, the letters “strongly encourage” importers to “proactively monitor [their] transactional data in the ACE Secure Data Portal and evaluate whether there are any significant errors/discrepancies that should be voluntarily reported to CBP.” CBP encourages importers to conduct self-reviews and, where applicable, “correct the issues and submit loss of revenue” (emphasis CBP).
It appears that (1) the letters are designed to encourage prior disclosures and (2) CBP may pursue penalty actions in cases where a CBP audit uncovers noncompliance. Importers receiving the letters should pay particular attention to the ICPs listed as they provide clues to the areas CBP will likely scrutinize in a review.
Companies receiving such letters would be well advised to contact their customs broker and trade advisor to assess their present state of compliance and should also take note of ST&R’s caution that while self-reviews are encouraged, it is highly recommended “that they should be undertaken under the protection of attorney-client privilege”.