Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Are You Getting a CBP Form 28 or 29 for the Right Reason?

Earlier this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a memorandum to the ports to remind import specialists about the proper use of CBP Form 28 Request for Information and CBP Form 29 Notice of Action. The memorandum stemmed from the inconsistent use among the ports and misuse by import specialists who were issuing these notices for purposes for which the notices were not intended.

In the memorandum, the ports were advised that it was appropriate to issue a CBP Form 28 to an importer when there were questions about admissibility, classification or valuation of the imported goods. CBP can also request information about the imported merchandise, such as brochures, descriptive language, blueprints and samples. In addition, CBP can seek proof of payment information or affidavits about manufacturing to determine eligibility of special tariff program, for example. In other words, if the entry summary package contained insufficient information about the imported merchandise, CBP can request information by issuing a CBP Form 28 to the importer.

On the other hand, the ports were instructed not to continue to use CBP Form 28 for a variety of purposes. First, for example, the ports are not to issue a Form 28 to notify the importer that CBP commenced a formal investigation “as a matter of enforcement policy, not a matter of law.” Instead, CBP instructed the import specialists to notify an importer of such an investigation either by letter on CBP letterhead, or issuing a CBP Form 29.

Additionally, import specialists are not permitted to use Form 28 to request proof of a properly executed power of attorney. When requesting such proof of a valid power of attorney, the ports were advised to seek such proof in writing by submitting an individualized letter on CBP letterhead, or in person during a broker compliance visit.

Finally, the memorandum reminded the ports to avoid warning importers about penalties or investigations For example, CBP does not want import specialists to state that failing to provide the information requested could lead to penalties under 19 U.S.C. § 1592. Similarly, import specialists should not state that “this office is investigating the classification of…” when CBP has not really started an investigation. CBP is concerned that using this type of language will lead to fewer prior disclosures and defeat the goal of informed compliance.

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