CUSTOMS INCREASES FOCUS ON BROKER COMPLIANCE PROGRAMS
U.S. Customs believes that to improve custom broker compliance with import regulations and processes it must better communicate those problem areas to the industry.
“By looking at your data in the aggregate — by sharing that data with you — we can more effectively address minor issues before they mutate into bigger problems,” said Charles Winwood, acting commissioner of Customs at the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America annual conference in San Francisco Wednesday.
Customs launched its broker account management prototype last July. Eleven brokers of various size and location have volunteered for the test. By using its existing system, Customs generates reports that show these brokers where they’re experiencing problems in their import entry work. These brokers can then focus on correcting these problems to better comply with Customs’ import rules and processes.
“This is not a gotcha program,” said D. Lamar Witmer, import specialist/broker management at Customs. “It’s informed compliance to the max.”
The program also helps Customs focus on where its inspectors may be either deficient or overzealous in their monitoring of broker activities.
“We’re getting our people trained,” said Mike Craig, chief of Customs’ Broker Management Branch in Washington. “We need to make sure (the program) is institutionalized throughout the organization.”
Customs is pleased with the program’s initial success with both the agency and broker industry.
“Feedback so far has been very positive,” Winwood said. “Before we consider expanding the program, we have to evaluate it. We’ll be doing that this summer. But I think it’s clear that we’re headed down the right track.”
Jacob Holzscheiter, vice president of customs for A.N. Deringer, based in St. Albans, Vt., and an early participant in the prototype, said this should help to create a “unified compliance program” for all his company’s offices.
David Katzman, of C.H. Powell Co. in Westwood, Mass., described the broker account prototype as a “good experience.” “This to me is a true partnership,” he said.
Customs’ Office of Strategic Trade also announced a new program, the Filer Assistance Information Report (FAIR), which similarly promotes the agency working together with the broker industry to correct import entry filing problems. FAIR will be rolled out in April and expanded to ports with the highest levels of broker-related discrepancies, said Thomas J. Mattina, director of Customs’ Strategic Trade Center in Plantation, Fla.
“The FAIR program will allow filers to correct revenue neutral classification errors without importer involvement,” said Jeffrey C. Saum, international trade specialist for Customs’ Office of Strategic Trade.
Participating brokers will receive periodic “report cards” from Customs to raise awareness of discrepancies, such as revenue-neutral classification errors.
“We are busy refining our risk management approach across the board at Customs to generate meaningful benefits for the trade,” Winwood said. “Through better analysis of information we collect, we can lessen the focus on you, the compliant broker and forwarder, while devoting more resources to those who willfully violate our laws.”