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Import Complexities on the Rise


Over the past few years, the level of complexity when working with governmental agencies has been on the rise. New programs mandated by Congress, the Department of Commerce, or by Presidential decree continue to add a significant workload to Customs’ programmers and trade personnel. Each new program also adds to the regulatory hurdles that importers or exporters must clear. Customs systems and our systems must be updated, and importers must contend with new regulations or documentation requirements. Moving forward, Customs is developing an AI component to help with their compliance targeting – their appetite for data on shipments, exporters, and importers is growing.

As the agencies move toward a more paperless environment, the amount of information which must be collected and transmitted at the time of entry has seen a tremendous increase. While support for the goal of paperless entry crosses over to all parties in international trade, it has resulted in a steady increase in the amount of data that needs to be collected while reducing the timeframe for shippers and importers to produce the data. Take for instance, the most recent requirements on electronic data collection for an Aphis filing where the supporting documentation for implementing the program covers hundreds of pages and resulted in numerous new codes to learn. In the end, this is slated to be a significant improvement, but there is no denying the added time required to submit an entry. Products under the scope of Fish and Wildlife and the Consumer Products Safety Commission are next up for expanded electronic reporting.

Products imported under the Craft Beverage Modernization Act (CBMA) now require additional electronic and paper documentation at the time of filing. This program, which created a significant stir and resulted thousands of tax underpayments, was in dire need of an update and one came through this April. With the update, however, came the necessity to provide spreadsheets and new coding for required data elements, impacting the time required to get an entry processed. The relatively new Foreign Shippers Verification Program (FSVP) shifted responsibility to the importer to verify that their shippers are meeting the applicable food safety standards. The importer is required to develop and maintain a food safety verification program, which the FDA may review, as part of an virtual or on-site exam. Recordkeeping to document their hazard analysis, risk evaluations, and verification activities are required and must be reevaluated by the importer every three years. Starting in late June, imports of many aluminum products will, for the first time, require the filing of an import license. This procedure is very similar to the licensing process which is currently required for many steel product imports.

The new and expanded requirements come at a time of increased enforcement from Customs and other agencies. As had been detailed in a recent client alert, Customs has clearly stepped up the number of audits they perform; the number and value of the penalty actions they are taking and the number of seizures they are initiating. Customs has also stepped up their use of Informed Compliance letters to warn importers and brokers of shortcomings in recordkeeping and documentation. Withhold Release Orders (WRO) have become a very serious concern for importers of some common products as the total number of detained shipments increased from 12 in FY2019 to 324 in FY 2020. The value of the cargo detained by a WRO in 2020 was $55,541,383, a 470% increase over the previous year, and the WRO scope continues to expand. By far, the WRO with the most potential to disrupt the importing community is directed at cotton and cotton products from the Xingang region of China. Tomato products tied the same region also are affected and Customs has added all seafood sourced from the entire fleet owned by Chinese company, Dalian Ocean Fishing Co, to the WRO list. Any products suspected to be tied to forced labor can be subject to a WRO and the onus is on the importer to provide sufficient evidence that there is no forced labor component to the goods.

With the elevated number of new and pending anti-dumping and countervailing duty (ADD/CVD) cases being approved, importers can expect to field more questions regarding the applicability to these cases to their products. ADD/CVD cases are governed by the scope of investigation, but many HTS codes will falsely flag items for inclusion. As a broker, we need to verify the applicability of these cases to the imported product since they may or may not be under the actual scope. The additional duties collected can exceed the value of the imported goods, so an ADD/CVD case is a serious matter.

We have had time to adjust to the expansive Section 232 and Section 301 tariffs, but the future will hold changes to those programs and there is no telling what new tariffs may be on the horizon. Every piece of legislation moving through Congress to address a perceived international trade inequity or shortcoming will, if passed, result in more compliance regulations and their corresponding issues. Recent comments from the USTR indicate Customs will increase their focus on forced labor and expand the use of WROs as a deterrent. We are entering into an era where the government is looking to the trade community to become more involved in ensuring compliance with regulations and policies, and with that will come more responsibility. More responsibility means more oversight, documentation, and attention. The coming years will be an exciting time for international trade as we move to a more data intensive model, and as we continue adapting to the new norm.


Sam McClure, LCB

Director of Compliance & Customs Services


Need a refresher on tariff rounds and exclusions?

CVI Exclusion Guide 2020

CVI has a free, complete guide to EVERYTHING you need to know for tariff rounds and exclusions, including:

  • HTS Code
  • Publish Dates
  • Exclusion provision number per set list and round
  • Effective & Extended Expiration Dates

The CVI Exclusion Guide 2020 provides you with a link to original USTR exclusion announcements with a breakdown of each excluded product.

Please let us know if you have any questions. We will be regularly updating this document via our website. Check it out here!


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Meet one of CVI’s Customs Brokerage & Compliance experts, Sam McClure:

Sam serves as Director, Compliance and Customs Services for CVI. He serves as CVI’s corporate compliance officer and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of our Customs related services, including growth.

Sam started his career in 1977 with Waters Shipping Company in Charlotte, NC. He began as a document runner, soon becoming a leader in operations and customer service for the branch. Sam, along with Linda Masten, founded Central Carolina Shipping Inc. in 1983 as an independent Customs Brokerage firm where he served as Vice President for 26 years. Sam and Linda grew Central Carolina into a successful and highly respected member of the Carolinas trade community. When Charlotte opened their local chapter of the IFFCBA Sam was part of the organizing group and he headed the Customs committee for several years. Sam obtained his Customs Brokers License in 1984 and remained with Central Carolina until the company was acquired by CVI in 2009.

At CVI, Sam has held several positions in both the operations and sales departments. As an expert in U.S. Customs regulations, Sam is often called upon on to provide guidance to importers on Customs compliance issues. He makes regular presentations on matters related to importation and broader regulatory compliance.

– Sam McClure, LCB, Director of Compliance & Customs Services, CVI
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