Thursday, September 22, 2011

Proposed Bill Provides Customs Brokers with New Obligation

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri introduced a bill entitled the “Fighting for American Industry’s Right to Enforcement Against Duty Evasion Act,” otherwise known as the “FAIR Enforcement Against Duty Evasion Act of 2011,” with the intention of ending duty evasion by foreign companies. The bill addresses two issues: (1) the lack of information collected on importers making it difficult for officials to identify those companies evading antidumping duty and (2) the ability of foreign companies who have not previously shipped to the U.S. to post a bond to cover estimated duties rather than pay cash.

Broker Obligation

The bill obligates customs brokers to use a good faith effort to obtain the identity of the customer importing into the U.S. and “maintain[ ] records of the information used to substantiate a person’s identify, including name, address, and other identifying information.” SAFE Enforcement Against Duty Evasion Act of 2011, sec. 3(a)(i)(2)(C), amending section 641(i) of the Tariff Act of 1930. With this additional burden on brokers comes new significant penalty exposure. A broker who fails to obtain the required identifying information is potentially liable for a penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation and a possible revocation or suspension of the broker’s license.

Senator McCaskill indicated in her press release that collection of the identifying data would assist law enforcement during an investigation by “increasing the likelihood the lawbreakers can be identified and brought to justice.” The bill also creates what she referred to as a “safe harbor” to prevent brokers from penalties when they made reasonable efforts to comply with the new law. To this end, within 60 days from the date the bill is enacted, CBP must publish a Federal Register notice, in which it solicits proposals for examples of conduct that should not trigger the penalty provision. After the public comment period closes, CBP will issue its final regulation specifying such practices.

In addition, the bill requires CBP and other regulators to submit a report to Congress, (1) recommending the best way to require foreign nations to provide brokers with the required identifying information and (2) establishing a system for brokers to review identifying information maintained by the government.

New Shippers

In addition to the added broker obligations, the bill also removes the “bonding-in-lieu” provision for new shippers to the U.S. Instead, the bill requires shippers to pay in cash up front, thereby eliminating the possibility of posting a bond for estimated duties. This requirement is intended to prevent foreign companies from vanishing before making a duty payment in full. Under the bill, estimated duties are paid on imported goods at the beginning of the import process, rather than after the goods are in the U.S.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are you guys going to post the prelimnary answers to the October 2011 Customs Brokers Exam?