Customs & Compliance Checklist


Perform the necessary maintenance within your compliance programmes

Help prevent “fire drills” and unnecessary kinks in your supply chain by reviewing these key focus areas. If you have any questions, please contact one of our Trusted Advisor® experts.

1. Review customs broker powers of solicitor

Once a year is an appropriate cadence to review any U.S. customs powers of solicitor (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 suggest any POA you extend to your U.S. customs brokers have an expiration period, allowing all parties a time to revisit and review.

By obtaining data through the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) portal and using Navisphere® ACE Import Intelligence (see #12, below), you can quickly see all U.S. customs brokers that 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 the CBP Form 5106 to communicate with Importers of Record. Examples of communications 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 pertinent or time-sensitive correspondences from CBP.

3. Ensure bond amount is sufficient

Now is a great time to confirm 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, ensuring bond sufficiency is critical. CBP has the right to determine if your bond is insufficient and may require you to increase your bond amount—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. Each entity shares liability if CBP issues a demand against the bond.
  2. 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 considering listing multiple principals on the same bond.

5. Check customs broker instructions

Have you got customs broker instructions that you send to your U.S. customs brokers regularly? Examples of important topics covered within the instructions are Harmonised Tariff Schedule (HTS) classification database, related party verification instruction, free trade agreement (FTA) instructions, partner government agency details/instructions, antidumping/countervailing duty instructions etc. As your Trusted Advisor expert, we suggest you provide instructions as to how you want your entries declared to CBP for these and many other relevant topics.

6. Request updated certificates of origin

If you have not already done so, we recommend you proactively engage your suppliers to obtain updated annual blanket certificates of origin (COO) for any programme in which you’d like to claim preference. Also ensure these blanket COOs are sent to your U.S. customs broker to keep copies on file. If you do not obtain your COOs in a timely fashion, your potential annual duty savings may be affected.

7. Update free trade agreement instructions

As mentioned above, part of your customs broker instructions should have instructions pertaining to free trade agreements (FTAs) so that your U.S. customs brokers have proper direction about how you would like to file your entries that may be eligible for FTAs. Internally, conduct qualifications for products your company certifies as eligible for FTAs, including soliciting underlying documentation from relevant suppliers.

8. Obtain your manufacturer’s affidavits

If you utilise an U.S. goods return programme, found under Heading 9801 of the Harmonised Tariff Schedule, confirm you have obtained your manufacturer’s affidavits for the coming calendar year. It is also recommended that these affidavits are (1) shared with your U.S. customs broker and (2) included within your customs broker instructions.

9. Review antidumping & countervailing duties products

Antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) are considered high priority trade issues. In fact, since the enactment of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (TFTEA)—signed into law February 2016—there has been a heightened enforcement in AD/CVD. TFTEA provides CBP with the authority to investigate any potential AD/CVD evasion allegations.

Because of this, if you are importing any goods subject to AD/CVD, keeping your U.S. customs brokers informed via your customs broker instructions helps confirm that accurate case numbers, rates etc. are shared and reported upon entry.  If you are disclaiming AD/CVD on your entry, document your product details internally. Make sure that you provide detailed rationale as to why your product does not fall within the scope of the order.

10. Provide reconciliation flagging instructions to U.S. customs broker

Are you a reconciliation participant? If so, be aware that when reconciliation transitioned to ACE on 24 February, 2018, CBP stopped applying blanket flags on their end. This means that flagging of entries is now the responsibility of the importer. Your U.S. customs broker has the ability to blanket flag. If you are a reconciliation participant, send your U.S. customs broker written instructions regarding any flagging you would like established.

11. Sign up for the ACE portal

The ACE Secure Data Portal is another powerful way to manage your trade compliance program. If you have not signed up for the ACE Secure Data Portal, please contact one of our Trusted Advisor experts for help. This powerful tool enables you to receive paperless notifications from CBP, monitor your brokers, audit entries in real time, and much more.

12. Leverage Navisphere ACE Import Intelligence

Once you have access to your ACE importer account, use Navisphere ACE Import Intelligence—a proprietary tool from C.H. Robinson that organises the complex details of all your customs activity from all entry filers into user-friendly dashboards, charts, graphs and reports. It also acts as a diagnostic tool that transforms your customs data into a powerful information source.

13. Get access to your export reports

As the U.S. principal party in interest (USPPI), you should regularly audit your export filings for accuracy—looking for gaps in your export compliance programme. Utilise your ACE exporter account to review your historical Electronic Export Information (EEI) filings.

If your existing account does not show the reporting for all current Employee Identification Numbers (EINs), request access from the U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Division. Though the government encourages the use of ACE to access this data, you may also make a traditional data request. Using this method, the USPPI is entitled to one year of EEI of data at no charge. Additional EEI data will be provided at an additional charge from the Census Bureau.

14. Check U.S. Import Harmonised Tariff Schedule classifications and export classifications

CBP periodically makes updates to the Harmonised Tariff Schedule (HTS) throughout the year. Verify you have the most accurate tariff number for your product by checking your HTS classification database and your export Schedule B number database. Communicate any updates to proper stakeholders—both internally and externally. Staying up to date on HTS classifications will help you with other tariff relief programmes (e.g., customs duty drawback and tariff exclusions).

15. Reduce liability with marine cargo insurance

Steamship lines and air cargo providers have limited legal and financial responsibility for your international cargo. Did you know that a surprisingly wide variety of situations can eliminate their liability altogether? With a marine cargo insurance plan, you can reduce your company’s financial exposure and realise new efficiencies. C.H. Robinson can help you to conduct a risk assessment of your deliveries and offer marine cargo insurance that meets your specific needs.

16. Protect trademark and trade names

Protecting and recording all of your trademarks and trade names with CBP helps combat potential counterfeit products or infringement. According to CBP's website, “The enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) is a CBP priority trade issue (PTI). PTIs represent high-risk areas that can cause significant revenue loss, harm the United States economy or threaten the health and safety of the American people.” In the 2022 fiscal year, the total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of seized goods by CBP, had they been genuine, was over $2.98 billion.

17. Request manifest confidential treatment

An importer or consignee may request confidential treatment of its name and addresses contained in manifests, as provided for in 19 CFR 103.31(3)(d). Additionally, the importer or consignee may also request confidential treatment of their shippers’ names and addresses for outbound (export) deliveries. You can request confidential treatment of inward and outward manifest information; however, there are mandatory biannual renewal requirements. In addition, all possible variations of names should be accounted for within your request.

18. Review your denied party screening programme

Take time to review your denied parties screening programme, including which parties you are screening, how often and how results are documented. This will ensure your programme is appropriate for your current business model and bring to your attention any potential risks.

19. Perform internal and external training

Schedule regularly cadenced training sessions with key company stakeholders—both internal and external. You can also attend external training sessions hosted by CBP, C.H. Robinson and several other members from the trade community, both in-person and virtually. This keeps all parties, especially new employees, up to date and abreast of any changes.

20. Keep apprised of CBP’s focus areas

According to CBP, priority trade issues “drive risk-informed investment of CBP resources and enforcement and facilitation efforts.” Those efforts include the selection of audit candidates. Be sure your compliance programme addresses each one of these CBP initiatives. Furthermore, the significant expansion of forced labour prevention laws makes it challenging for shippers participating in global trade—review our forced labour guide to better understand your responsibilities.

This list of essential items will help to strengthen your trade compliance programme—one check mark at a time. As always, we are here, as your Trusted Advisor experts, to help you with any questions or concerns and to work with you to tighten your internal controls and minimise overall risk. Contact your C.H. Robinson customs, compliance and trade policy teams for more information.

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