Don’t Ignore Mail from Customs

Jul 31, 2020Supply Chain Management

With offices closed for a sustained period of time this year, there was undoubtedly an influx of mail that piled up and required sorting through.

For logistics managers, compliance managers or general counsels, the envelopes that need to be prioritized are ones with a return address from Customs and Border Protection. Whether from Washington D.C. or a local port, if CBP is writing, pay attention to what they are sending.

Importers with ACE portal accounts already know when CBP posts inquiries for reply, but it is also worth monitoring the U.S. mail for things like Form 28s and 29s or more formal correspondence regarding investigations or audits.

Here are three forms importers should watch for Customs and Border Protection to send that require immediate attention. Everything that Customs sends has a statutory deadline for response and the dates are from the date of issuance, not the date that it is received.

CBP Form 28: Request for Information

A Form 28 seems innocuous at first—a few questions need answering and maybe a few documents need to be attached along the way.

Don’t treat this casually, because this can be the start of something big. From this form:

  • CBP can determine whether or not to start an investigation about transfer pricing between related parties.
  • CBP can determine whether or not the price paid or payable at the time of entry was the correct value.
  • CBP can determine whether or not the classification was correct and if there are additional duties due or if the merchandise is possibly subject to antidumping or countervailing duties.

CBP Form 29: Notice of Action

This form indicates that an action has been taken, usually in the form of a rate advance or request for additional duties. It says that a disposition has taken place and details what comes next.

If a Form 28 goes unanswered, either for a single entry or a series of entries, the import specialist responsible for the classification and valuation of the entry will proceed to issue a Form 29. This will have what they believe is the correct classification and rate of duty or it will refer the case to regulatory audit or agents for further investigation depending upon the severity.

Important to note is that the response time for those 28s and 29s is thirty calendar days, and those days can go by very quickly once the letter finds the right hands to respond.

CBP Form 4647: Notice to Remark/Notice to Redeliver

If CBP wants the goods returned to their custody or if they were discovered to be not legally marked (NLM), a 4647 will detail what must happen to allow the goods to be released into the commerce of the United States.

4647s are issued one of two ways. First, CBP will issue one in concurrence with an intensive examination at either a Centralized Examination Site (CES) or after examining the cargo at the arriving airline’s warehouse. The second is after the goods are conditionally released to an importer’s premises for either marking, remarking or remediation and CBP is unsatisfied with outcome. They will demand the goods be returned to their custody.

Other CBP Communications

These are just three communications that CBP will have with an importer. These have also been automated into ACE and can be seen and responded to within the portal.

As we counsel with all CBP communications, keep TOC’s brokerage team in the loop. If we have been granted access to your portal data, we’ll see if any of these three forms have been issued for entries we have filed on your behalf. However, sometimes inquiries arise for entries we either haven’t cleared or which were filed by a previous customs broker. We request, as your filer who holds power of attorney to represent you before the agency, that we work in partnership to ensure the answers are correct and limited only to what the agency is requesting.

Further, if either the agency’s inquiries or your own internal investigation uncovers either a pattern of incorrect behavior or portends something serious enough to require a prior disclosure, consider retaining a Customs attorney. While we are permitted to speak and act on your behalf by that POA, we do not have attorney-client privilege before the agency or in a court.

When you get one of those letters with the “Penalty for private use $500” writing on the envelope, prioritize it, share it with us, and we’ll work together to determine what comes next.


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