Friday, September 4, 2009

Ask the Wizard: Finding Difficult Answers in the Regulations

Each Friday, the Wizard joins us to share an answer to one of the questions asked during the week. This week we had an excellent question about finding difficult answers in the CBP Regulations.

When reading a question related to the CBP Regulations, some answers are easy to find, but there are some topics where it is not always obvious where to find the correct answer. For example, when you are reading a question that deals with liquidation or penalties, how do you know what to look for in the question to help locate the correct answer?

As an example, we will use the question from the April 2008 exam submitted by our reader.

When CBP notifies a principal of a claim for liquidated damages, the surety or sureties involved will be notified _____.

A. at CBP’s discretion within sixty days of the offense
B. at CBP’s discretion after 180 days of initial mailing of notice
C. sixty days from the date of the demand on the surety
D. thirty days from the date of the demand on the surety
E. at the same time as the initial notification to the principal

First, it is important to note that this question was posted under the section titled “Bonds” on the exam. Since the question mentions sureties numerous times and is listed under the Bond Section of the exam, one might assume that the answer would be found in Part 113 – Customs Bonds. It is helpful to determine what the question is really asking. The primary subject appears to be some type of information about liquidated damages. In fact, the question seeks information about notification of the surety in a liquidated damages claim. If unsure of the answer, you might scan the list of topics covered in Part 113. Subpart F – Assessment of Damages might be a source of information, but looking at the individual section titles, liquidated damages are not mentioned. By learning the names of each part in the Regulations, we should know that liquidated damages are covered in Part 172. Scanning the topics covered in Part 172, we find information about notices for liquidated damages in

When it comes to questions about penalties, those answers may be found in more than one part of the regulations. For example, information related to “petitions” and “offers in compromise” can be found in both Part 171 and Part 172. Penalty amounts for violation of 19 U.S.C. 1592 can be found in Part 162 and Appendix B to Part 171. Again, this demonstrates the need to learn and possibly summarize on a fact sheet the types of information found in each part.

To summarize, learning the names of each part and becoming familiar with the types of information contained in each part is key to finding answers. Scanning the topics covered in each part is often a good method of confirming or eliminating that part as the source of an answer. In addition, Tip 7 on how to read the regulations published on Thursday may also provide some helpful suggestions on getting to know the information contained in the various sections.

We invite our readers to share their tips on how to find difficult and/or confusing information in the CBP Regulations.

Do you have a question for the Wizard? Submit your question by clicking on the link in the space for “Ask the Wizard.” See you next Friday!

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