Importers of merchandise into the United States must use “reasonable care” in the importation process, which includes providing accurate and complete information necessary for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) to process and release the merchandise into the United States. Importers who fail to take this obligation seriously do so at their peril, because catching importer mistakes that result in duty underpayments is an enforcement priority for CBP. If CBP determines that an importer has failed to exercise reasonable care, CBP may impose substantial civil penalties, even if an error was unintentional. However, where importers discover their own import compliance errors before CBP does, they may significantly reduce their exposure to penalties by proactively and voluntarily disclosing such errors to CBP with a “prior disclosure.” This article summarizes the fundamentals of a prior disclosure, and reports on recent efforts by CBP to standardize prior disclosure practices across U.S. ports of entry.
Prior Disclosure Fundamentals
CBP encourages importers to file prior disclosures, and it often makes sense for an importer to do so. The statutes, regulations and procedures that govern the importation of merchandise into the United States are complex and constantly changing, such that even the most experienced and vigilant importers make mistakes. A prior disclosure allows an importer to disclose its violations of Customs laws and regulations to CBP and pay any unpaid duties or fees owed. In exchange, the importer limits exposure to otherwise applicable penalties, by limiting the penalty to the interest owed. CBP benefits as well, receiving prompt payment of duties owed (plus interest) without using internal resources to conduct an investigation of the reported violations and enforce a penalty order.
Continue Reading Voluntary Disclosures to CBP: What Importers Need to Know About the Changing Landscape