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Changes Allow for Duty Free Return of Foreign Goods

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For years, U.S. buyers have found it difficult to return imported articles when products come in damaged or erroneously shipped. In the case of a return, importers have been required to pay additional duties and Merchandise Processing Fees (MPF) upon re-importation.

With that being said, there is good news for importers. Recent changes to U.S. tariff number 9801.00.10 allow for duty free return of foreign goods, according to the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 [1].

Conditions to Qualify

It is important to meet the following conditions to avoid paying duties a second time.

  • Goods must be returned within 3 years of initial export.
  • Duty drawback was not claimed on the original export.
  • The goods were not entered under bond or produced in a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ).
  • The article was not advanced in value or improved in condition while abroad [2].
  • The U.S. importer has proper documentation to support the claim.

Support Documentation

U.S. Customs is in the process of defining the required documents more clearly for 9801.00.10. In the meantime, it is vital for importers to have these documents on hand at time of entry to support their claim. These documents include

  • A Foreign Shipper’s Declaration and U.S. Importer’s Declaration
  • Some form of proof to demonstrate that the goods have been returned within 3 years, such as

- Export invoices
- Export bill of ladings
- Electronic Export Information filings (EEI)

On the bright side, these documents are already required records for exporters, making the process easier.

By meeting these conditions and having the supporting documents, the change to this tariff provision will save importers significant duties and MPF for their returning goods.

For assistance with developing processes and procedures for returning goods, contact Mohawk Global Trade Advisors.


Footnotes

[1] “Products of the United States when returned after having been exported, or any other products when returned within 3 years after having been exported, without having been advanced in value or improved in condition by any process of manufacture or other means while abroad.” Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (2016).

[2] The article was not altered in any way that might have made it into a new product or might have improved it while overseas.


By Jim Trubits, Vice President.

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©2016 Mohawk Global Trade Advisors

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Don’t Overlook Reasonable Care

One common misconception among U.S. importers is that they don’t have to worry about what’s on their commercial invoice and other import documentation. These importers will often neglect to provide their Customs broker with a truly complete product description or accurate country of origin because they don’t think they have to sweat the details. What they may not realize is that these types of requirements fall under the umbrella of what U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) refers to as “reasonable care.” Importers who do not attend to these crucial requirements risk delays in release of their goods, audits, and penalties.

Defining reasonable care

CBP expects all importers to exercise some form of caution (i.e. reasonable care) when dealing with [1]

  • import documentation
  • country of origin verification, marking, and labeling
  • tariff classification, valuation, and duty rates
  • quantity
  • free trade agreements
  • other government agencies
  • recordkeeping

Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, importers must be careful with all details relating to these areas, as well as have written procedures to document their approach. In other words, as an importer, you should be able to prove to Customs that you provided and obtained the right information to meet these regulatory standards.

Is there a right way to manage my reasonable care?

CBP allows you flexibility in how you manage your reasonable care responsibilities. You can manage them yourself, use an expert (a licensed Customs broker, attorney, or accountant), or a combination of the two.

If you decide to use an expert, it is important to choose wisely. CBP expects you to qualify your expert by asking if their firm is a licensed Customs broker or, in the case of an attorney or accountant, if they have specialized knowledge or expertise in CBP matters. When in doubt, avoid taking advice from unregulated or unlicensed “experts,” as it will not serve in your defense during a CBP audit.

Once you’ve qualified your expert, it is crucial to provide him or her with complete and accurate information about the import transaction. Falling short of this requirement will lead CBP to view your company as lacking reasonable care.

What steps can I take?

Prior to import

  • Familiarize yourself with U.S. import requirements by reading informed compliance publications like, What Every Member of the Trade Community Should Know About: Reasonable Care [2].
  • Determine if there are any other government requirements for your imported products, such as an FDA Prior Notice for food products or additional labeling requirements for wearing apparel.
  • Bookmark the link to the online Harmonized Tariff Schedule for quick classification reference [3].
  • Consult with a licensed or certified expert, such as a Customs broker, attorney, or accountant.
  • Search CROSS, CBP’s online ruling database, to see if Customs has previously ruled on a product similar to yours [4]. Use this ruling as a guide for classifying, valuing, and marking your goods.
  • If after consulting with an expert and reviewing CROSS you are still in doubt of your product’s correct classification, origin, value, etc., seek a binding ruling from CBP. The beauty of a binding ruling is that it provides CBP and the importer with a definitive answer on these aspects of the product.
  • Document your processes for classification, origin verification, valuation, marking, etc. and provide employees with step-by-step instructions to achieve compliance. Keep procedures simple and easy to follow and them with your vendor and Customs broker.
  • Create a tariff database and share it with your broker to cut down on entry errors. Periodically review the database and provide your broker with any updates.
  • Issue purchase order instructions to your vendor that match your invoice requirements.

After import

  • Attend trade seminars and read newsletters to stay informed of changing requirements.
  • Review your commercial invoice or proforma invoice to make sure all requirements are met [5].
  • Verify that entries prepared by your broker are correct. If you find an error during a post entry review, correct it and work with your vendor and broker to prevent it from happening again.
  • Establish a recordkeeping program. Verify which documents should be kept, how long they should be retained, and how they should be stored.

Keeping up with your reasonable care responsibilities is not easy but with continued effort you will be able to show CBP that you’ve done your homework.

MGTA’s import audit service can help you to uncover gaps in your import procedures. Click here to learn more about our import audit services. Our import compliance programs can assist you in developing, improving, and enhancing your reasonable care policies and procedures. Click here to learn more about our import compliance programs.

Footnotes

[1] per U.S. Code Title 19, Section 1484(a)(1).
[2] See the list of Informed Compliance Publications, including Reasonable Care (A Checklist for Compliance), on U.S. Customs & Border Protection’s website, www.cbp.gov.
[3] View the Harmonized Tariff Schedule at www.usitc.gov/tata/hts/.
[4] See rulings.cbp.gov.
[5] For a complete list of requirements see 19 CFR 141.86-141.89 and 142.6.

By Jim Trubits, Vice President. Click here to read more about Jim.

©2012 Mohawk Global Trade Advisors

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