From Chaos to Compliance: A Guide for Importers

Many mistake the ease of importing to mean there is no liability or obligation on the part of the importer. Whether your company is new to importing, or has been in the business for years, CBP expects importers to use “reasonable care” to ensure compliance with relevant rules and regulations. Importers are at risk of being subject to enforcement actions by CBP if they do not comply with the reasonable care standard when importing goods into the U.S. This article provides an overview of CBP’s expectations of an importer and practical advice on what you must have in your import compliance plan.

How Did We Get Here?

December 8th, 1993, the Dow Jones reached a record high of 3734.53, Janet Jackson’s “Again” remained number one on the charts, and President Bill Clinton signed the Customs Modernization Act (Mod Act). The Mod Act altered the import compliance landscape by making it the responsibility of the importer to classify items, determine their value, etc. The law also imposed a legal obligation to use “reasonable care” in doing so, or else Customs could (and would) impose penalties.

What Exactly is “Reasonable Care”?

Reasonable care requires importers to conduct themselves as a reasonable importer would under the circumstance with respect to importing goods into the United States.

Reasonable care requires importers to:

  • Meet the standard to enter, classify and determine the value of imported goods
  • Provide other information necessary to aid CBP in properly assessing duties and collecting accurate statistics
  • Determine whether other applicable legal standards and […]

Ford Motor Company Settles Claims Relating to Under-Valued Vehicles for $365M

Ford Motor Company has agreed to pay $365 million for allegedly misclassifying and understating the value of hundreds of thousands of vehicles.

According to the Department of Justice, Ford engaged in a scheme to avoid higher duties by misclassifying cargo vans. Between 2009 and 2013, the company imported Transit Connect cargo vans into the United States but presented them to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with temporary seats and other features to make them appear to be passenger vehicles. The seats were never intended to carry passengers and Ford removed them as part of post-importation processing. The inclusion of the seats allowed Ford to avoid paying the 25% duty rate for cargo vehicles and instead they paid a duty rate of just 2.5%.

This case dates back to February 2012 when the Port of Baltimore advised Ford it was initiating an investigation into Ford’s classification practices. (Typically, prior to investigating an entity, CBP sends a request for information first. For more information on how this process typically begins read “Now, More than Ever, Be Wary of and Responsive to a CBP Form 28!”).

In 2013 Customs determined that the vans were improperly classified and liquidated the vehicles at the 25% duty rate. Ford protested, and Customs denied the protest. Ford then filed a complaint with the U.S. Court of International Trade (CIT). The CIT agreed with Ford, finding that Ford engaged in legitimate tariff engineering. The government appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit where […]

By |2024-03-15T14:50:57-04:00March 15, 2024|Import, Penalty|Comments Off on Ford Motor Company Settles Claims Relating to Under-Valued Vehicles for $365M

Clothing Wholesaler Executive Avoids Paying Millions in Duties – Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison

Mohamed Daoud Ghacham, a 40-year-old executive from California has been sentenced to 48-months in prison for customs fraud. Ghacham, who was at the helm of a Paramount-based clothing wholesale company, engaged in a deceitful scheme that allowed his business to sidestep paying millions in customs duties on imported garments.

United States District Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong handed down the sentence, which also includes a restitution payment of $6,390,781.

The fraudulent operation involved importing clothing from China and presenting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with a fraudulent second invoice with a lowered value. At Ghacham’s direction, Chinese suppliers would prepare two invoices for orders – a true invoice with the actual price paid and a fraudulent invoice with an understated price. Ghacham submitted the false invoices to CBP, allowing them to avoid millions of dollars in duties for over a decade.

Ghacham also faced charges related to conspiring to engage in transactions with a known narcotics trafficker.

The sentencing of Ghacham and his company concludes a comprehensive investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and CBP, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Export Enforcement, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and IRS Criminal Investigation.

This case underscores the U.S. government’s unwavering commitment to enforcing its customs laws and the severe consequences for those who choose to circumvent them.

Interested in learning more about CBP enforcement? Check out our upcoming webinar on the False Claims Act (FCA). We will discuss damages and criminal liability for making false claims to the government, whistleblower […]

By |2024-03-15T14:26:30-04:00March 15, 2024|Import, Penalty|Comments Off on Clothing Wholesaler Executive Avoids Paying Millions in Duties – Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison

2022: A Year in Review

From all of us at Diaz Trade Law, we are immensely grateful for your support this year. While returning to a new normal post-pandemic, Diaz Trade Law still managed to save our clients MILLIONS of dollars in 2022. It is with great joy that we finish off 2022 filled with numerous achievements and accomplishments we are humbled to share with you. We look forward to assisting you in what we envision will be a better and brighter 2023!

Below we share some of our top 2022 success stories with you.

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Customs Undervaluation – It’s a Crime

Customs Valuation is a procedure to determine the customs value of imported goods. The customs value is essential to calculate the total duty to be paid on an imported good. As part of its agreement with the World Trade Organization (“WTO”), the U.S. is part of an internationally standardized system of valuing imports. This standardized system allows for CBP to protect revenue, ensure reasonable care from importers, and accurately calculate Census trade statistics. Accordingly, it is critical to declare the value of importations accurately and compliantly. 

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) valuation methodology (as well as a summary of relevant Customs rulings) are described in detail in the Valuation Encyclopedia (i.e., the best resource on valuation inquiries). CBP permits merchandise to be valued according to one of the six valuation methods listed below. The methods are applied sequentially from first to last until an applicable value is determined. If the first method does not apply, the importer must then evaluate the second, and so on, until an appropriate method applies. The only exception to this sequential evaluation requirement is when evaluating between deductive value and computed value – an importer may choose to use the computed value before the deductive value.

Methods of Valuation:

  1. The transaction value of imported merchandise (the majority of imports use transaction value – i.e., the price paid or payable plus assists (see below))
  2. The transaction value of identical merchandise
  3. The transaction value of similar merchandise
  4. Deductive value
  5. Computed […]

Bloomberg: What is an Importer’s ‘Reasonable Care’ Standard?

Diaz Trade Law’s President, Jennifer Diaz, is enthusiastic to announce Bloomberg Law published another one of our articles, “What is an Importer’s ‘Reasonable Care’ Standard“! We want to thank law student Isha C. Biswas for her amazing support in getting this article to the finish line!

Many mistake the ease of importing to mean there is no liability or obligation on the part of the importer. In our perfect world this article would be required reading PRIOR to importing where importers would learn about their OBLIGATION to use reasonable care when importing, and actually learn what reasonable care means. This article digs in and gives away TONS of practical guidance. Below is the article reproduced with permission for your reading pleasure. You can read the article here (where you’ll have the ability to access all of the great hyperlinks). Please note you cannot click on the hyperlinks below.

We’d love to hear your feedback and urge you to SHARE with importers!!

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By |2022-05-10T12:41:41-04:00May 10, 2022|Bloomberg, Bloomberg Import, Import, International Law, International Trade, Reasonable Care|Comments Off on Bloomberg: What is an Importer’s ‘Reasonable Care’ Standard?

Draft Guidance on Medical Device Transition Period

In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the FDA took unprecedented action in transforming its enforcement because of the declaration of a Public Health Emergency while also issuing, and continuing, Emergency Use Authorizations. These governmental actions facilitated and increased the importation of necessary medical devices needed to combat the pandemic here in the United States. And now as the U.S. relaxes its pandemic protocol, the FDA is exploring the best way to have medical devices transition back to pre-pandemic regulations and protocol. On December 23, 2021, the FDA issued two draft guidance documents in the Federal Register detailing its proposed medical device transition plans for all medical devices previously imported under the two aforementioned government declarations. And to provide further assistance, the FDA hosted a webinar “Draft Guidances on Transition Plans for COVID-19 Related Medical Devices” providing further explanations to the trade community on what can be expected from the proposed transition plans.

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By |2022-03-10T11:56:55-05:00March 15, 2022|COVID-19, Import, Medical Devices, PPE, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)|Comments Off on Draft Guidance on Medical Device Transition Period
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