Smooth Your Customs Clearance Process with this Checklist

Forgetting to make updates to your customs compliance program in a timely manner can quickly lead to unnecessary delays and possible penalties. An end of year customs review can help you identify when things need updating. These regular self-audits can help you rapidly realign your processes. 

Conduct regular reviews of your trade compliance program

Any customs process review should start by reviewing these six areas of your trade compliance program.


1. Review customs broker powers of attorney

Once a year is certainly an appropriate cadence to review any U.S. customs powers of attorney (POAs) you have provided to your U.S. customs brokers, revisit those existing POAs (if you wish), and revoke any POAs for those U.S. customs brokers with whom you no longer wish to work. We recommend any POA you extend to your U.S. customs brokers have an expiration period, allowing all parties a time to revisit and review. When you request your Importer Trade Activity (ITRAC) data (see #11, below) or obtain data through your importer ACE portal, you can see all U.S. customs brokers who are transacting business on your behalf.


2. Update names and addresses on file with U.S. Customs

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) selects the name/contact information that is on CBP Form 5106 to communicate with Importers of Record. Examples of communication from CBP are Requests for Information (CF 28), Notices of Action (CF 29), etc. If you have recently moved, or have not reviewed the information listed on CBP Form 5106 in a while, this is a good time to revalidate the information you have on file so you will not miss any pertinent or time-sensitive correspondences CBP may send your way.


3. Ensure bond amount is sufficient

Now is a great time to ensure that your bond amount is sufficient, which can be determined by your import activity over the last rolling 12-month period. If you have had a change in import activity, or anticipate a large increase in activity in the year to come, you will want to be sure that your bond is sufficient. CBP does have the right to determine if your bond is insufficient, and may reach out and require you to increase your bond amount, so it is always best to be proactive.


4. Consider risks of listing multiple principals on the same bond

Although having multiple entities on the same bond can bring cost savings, there are a few potential risks to consider.

  1. In particular, each entity shares liability if CBP issues a demand against the bond.
  2. In addition, if any entities on the bond terminate the bond, this can cause hiccups for the other entities within the bond. These are just a few of the things to think about when you consider listing multiple principals on the same bond.


5. Check customs broker instructions

Do you have customs broker instructions that you send to your U.S. customs brokers regularly? Examples of important topics covered within the instructions are Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) classification database, related party verification instruction, free trade agreement (FTA) instructions, partner government agency details/instructions, anti-dumping/countervailing duty instructions, etc. As your Trusted Advisor® expert, we encourage you to provide us with instructions as to how you want your entries declared to CBP for these and many other topics.


6. Request updated certificates of origin

If you have not already done so, we highly recommend that you are proactive with your foreign suppliers to obtain updated annual blanket certificates of origin (COO) for any program in which you’d like to claim preference. It is also important that these blanket COOs are sent to us, as your U.S. customs broker, so that we have copies on file for our records. If you do not obtain your COOs in a timely fashion, your potential annual duty savings may be impacted.


Take your review to the next level

Following the advice from these six steps will help your customs compliance program align with your business goals. But if you’re looking to conduct an even more comprehensive review, check out C.H. Robinson’s full 20-point Customs Clearance Checklist.

If you have any questions, please contact one of our Trusted Advisor experts.

Ben Bidwell
Director North Amercia Customs & Compliance
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