Customs fees extended six months
President Bush signed legislation late Tuesday permitting the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to continue collecting user fees and merchandise taxes on many types of imports hours before authorization for the fees was due to expire Oct 1.
The bill was rushed to the White House for Bush's signature after Senate voted Tuesday night to extend the Merchandise Processing Fee for six months. The House approved the measure last week.
Customs officials were worried they would not be able to operate at full strength at ports of entry without passing the legislation because the customs user fee law included in the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985 goes into a revolving account that Customs uses to pay overtime.
The legislation also covers the Merchandise Processing Fee, which can range from $25 to $485 depending on the value of the goods, and provides about $1 billion to the general treasury every year. Many trade groups have opposed the fees since they were introduced in the mid-1980s, but others feel they should be recycled to Customs to help the agency modernize its computer systems and underwrite its processing services.
Customs had notified the trade industry of contingency plans to allow entries to be processed without the fee, and many brokers furiously tried to reprogram their programs to file through the Automated Broker Interface. Entries can be processed as usual now, but the last-minute uncertainty about the legislation's passage forced Customs to delay many entries dated for Oct. 1, said Jon Kent, Washington legislative representative for the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America.