Why is U.S. Customs Issuing So Many Requests for Information (CBP Form 28)?

posted by Jennifer Diaz November 7, 2010 2 Comments

WARNING!  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has issued a record number of CBP Form 28s (Request for Information) and CBP Form 29s (Notice of Action) so far this year.  Import Specialists of CBP at ports of entry all over the United States are sending out these forms to importers demanding responses.  If the responses are not satisfactory, the CBP officer will demand payment of customs duties. What an importer states in its response to CBP may result in CBP taking no further action, assessing customs duties, issuing a monetary penalty notice, or even referring the case for criminal prosecution. 

A CBP Form 28 is entitled "Request for Information", and it demands that a response be submitted by the importer of record, in writing to CBP, within 30 days of the date of the Request.  The response is typically signed and dated by a company official, usually a corporate officer or manager.  Moreover, the company employee who signs the form certifies that the statements made by the company are true and correct.  The person who signs the CBP form is reminded that false statements on the form to CBP may result in criminal prosecution against that person.

CBP may demand records and assess penalties, demand payment of duties, or take other legal action up to 5 years after an entry of a shipment is made in the United States, according to 19 U.S.C. 1509, 19 U.S.C. 1621, and 19 CFR Part 151.  A Request for Information form may be the first step for CBP to discover violations committed by an importer.  Typically, the CBP officer demands proof that a certain product ((often a textile) qualified for the free trade agreement identified by the importer when it brought the shipment into the United States.  Another typical demand from CBP is an explanation from the importer why a shipment of a certain item from a certain country (often China) should not be subject to anti-dumping duties.  The most common problem remains that CBP believes that an importer failed to declare the proper tariff classification on the imported product, thereby attempting to avoid paying higher customs duties.

Why CBP is now issuing a record number of CBP Form 28s has not been disclosed to the public. Maybe it is the Federal Government’s misguided effort to collect additional revenue, or maybe CBP discovered that importers are not properly declaring shipments as accurately as they did in prior years.  Whatever the reason, importers and customs brokers must be careful when drafting and filing a written response to CBP. 

I am regularly hired by importers or customs brokers only after CBP has taken action against the importer or broker which resulted from not carefully responding to a CBP Form 28.  Rather than getting hired after ‘the horse is out of the barn,’ it sure would be easier for a customs attorney like me to get hired to draft the response to the CBP Request for Information.

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Martin Rayner November 13, 2010 at 10:51 pm

I can’t say that I necessarily agree with your speculations as to the impetus behind the apparent increase in compliance activity. They seem a bit facile to me (which isn’t to say that they might not be accurate, of course). That said, it would helpful to better understand what precisely is motivating this recent “record” increase in enforcement on the part of CBP.

Juan Jose Natteri September 13, 2011 at 12:52 am

Your articles on the subject are very informative and I appreciate your perspective on the matter. Having managed an import company for more than 6 years I have only encountered a RFI from Customs twice. The first time the questions were not too detailed and we were able to easily answer the RFI but now we are faced with a more detailed and painful interrogation we need to address quickly.

However, hiring a customs attorney (such as the ones employed by your company) to handle the response to a Form 28 seems to be out of the question for a small company like ours. After all, what sense does it make to pay a $ 5,000 retainer to get a response drafted for shipments that might be in the $10,000 – $40,000 range total merchandise value? Better to throw yourself at the mercy of Customs or answer the RFI to the best of your ability and save that money if things escalate later.


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