CBP’s Bersin may exit by year’s end

American Shipper reports that US Customs & Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin may soon be out of a job.

President Obama installed Bersin as a recess appointment in March 2010, much to the chagrin of the Senate Finance Committee, who wanted to question Bersin about possible violation of immigration laws in hiring household help.   Without Senate confirmation of his recess appointment expected by year end, the position will become vacant.

Despite the hard feelings on Capitol Hill, Bersin remains popular with the trade.  He is viewed as a progressive, take-charge leader who exerted “significant effort to reorient CBP’s priorities towards trade facilitation and enforcement after a decade focusing on security measures that complicated the movement of cargo.”

Bersin’s staff has indicated that they will continue the forward progress started by Bersin.

The American Shipper article, “Popular Customs chief to lose post,” is available here (site registration required for access to entire article).

ACE courtesy notice of liquidation reports – not ready yet

As mentioned in our blog post of September 9, to save on postage, US Customs is terminating the paper courtesy notice of liquidation notices.  Since importers who hire customs brokers to file their entry summaries via ABI will now no longer receive a paper courtesy notice, CBP is reprogramming ACE to allow importers of record to establish its own ACE Portal Account to monitor entry filings made using the importer’s IOR number.

Unfortunately, the trade and others are trying to access those reports prematurely — in advance of the announced September 30 ready date — which is adversely affecting the reprogramming.   Following is Customs’ request for patience:

CBP has not completed the deployment process for the AM 100 Courtesy Notice Liquidation Report.  We are asking both the field and the trade to refrain from running the report or pulling any ad hoc data from the new liquidation tables until they have received an update that the deployment is complete.  The hits on the tables by users are impacting the initial data load into the report’s tables.

The official notice is here.

Today, CBP also published a clarification of the termination of paper courtesy notices for those needing additional guidance.

Importers must use PSC for entry summaries filed in ACE

As discussed in our blog post of May 9, Post Summary Correction (PSC) functionality became available in June for entry ACE type 01 and 03 summaries filed in ACE.  One of the notable benefits of this new functionality is an importer’s ability to file electronic PSCs in ACE up to 270 days after the date of entry (currently 10 days if filing in ACS rather than ACE).   The PSC procedure is intended to replace the existing Post Entry Amendment (PEA) hard copy process.

At the launch of this functionality, US Customs established a grace period during which importers could continue to file hard copy PEAs.   That grace period formally ends on September 22, 2011.  As of that date, CBP will not accept PEAs for entry summaries filed in ACE; rather, importers must use PSCs.

See CBP’s official notice here.

Reap the benefits of paying duties via Periodic Monthly Statement (PMS)

Many importers may not be aware of the advantages of paying duties and fees to US Customs via the Periodic Monthly Statement (PMS) feature in ACE.

  • Improved cash flow – payments of duties and fees are deferred until the 15th day of the following month, offering up to a 45 day interest-free float on this cash
  • Facilitates receiving of imports shipments into inventory sooner if not obligated to pay duties and fees until following month
  • Ease and predictability
    • Payments are collected once a month instead of on a transaction-by-transaction basis, reducing administrative costs
    • At month end, running a simple report will indicate what payments will be due the next month.
    • Gain visibility to the duty in real time in ACE
    • Eliminates need to receive daily statements from every broker at every port

To participate in the PMS program, an importer needs to set up its own ACE Secure Data Portal account.   The importer marks the entries to be paid on the statement and submits payments through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) processing system.  Before enrolling in PMS, the import team should consult with its accounting, finance or treasury group to ensure that all stakeholders have agreed to the new payment process.

A couple of points worth noting:

  • An importer may participate in PMS as a Non-Portal account through a broker who has an ACE Secure Data Portal account
  • An importer may file entries in ACS – and not ACE – and still participate in the PMS program.

For more information, see US Customs’ ACE Periodic Monthly Statement Fact Sheet.

CBP to terminate courtesy paper notice of liquidation program – what is your plan?

As of September 30, 2011, US Customs will terminate its policy of sending paper courtesy notices of liquidation to importers.   For some importers, this is the only direct notice, albeit informal, that they have regarding the status of an entry’s liquidation.   Despite this turn of events, importers who rely on the paper notices have several options of which they can avail themselves to continue to have visibility to entry liquidation.

Currently, CBP issues electronic courtesy notices of liquidation to all ABI filers: importers of record who file their own entries and customs brokers who file as the duly authorized agents of the importer of record. CBP also mails paper courtesy notices to all importers of record whose entry summaries are scheduled to liquidate by each port of entry.

This renders duplicative the paper courtesy notice sent by CBP to importers of record that file their own entries in ABI because, as an ABI filer, they already receive an electronic courtesy notice.

To save $3,000,000 in postage annually, Customs is discontinuing the paper courtesy notices.  Therefore, as of September 30, 2011, there will be 3 distinct groups of entry filers whose liquidation notice status is as follows:

  1. Importers of record who direct file their own entry summaries in ABI will receive only the electronic courtesy copy.
  2. Customs brokers who file on behalf of importers via ABI will receive only the electronic courtesy copy.
  3. Importers of record who file a paper formal entry with Customs will continue to receive the paper courtesy copy.

Importers in group 1 will not be affected by the discontinuation of the paper courtesy notices, as they will continue to receive an electronic copy of the liquidation notice.  Similarly, importers in group 3 will be unaffected, as they will still­­­­­­­­­­­­­ have direct visibility to the paper notice of liquidation status.  In addition, importers in either group who have an ACE account can monitor liquidation in that system.

Unfortunately, importers who hire customs brokers in group 2 to file their entry summaries via ABI will no longer receive a paper courtesy notice.   Without that notice, these importers will not have any direct visibility to whether and when an entry has been liquidated.  Nevertheless, an importer in this category has options:

  1. Request a copy of the liquidation notice from the customs broker, who is required by law to provide this information. However, there is no guarantee that the broker will comply with this request in a timely manner.
  2. Request that the broker provide access to the broker’s ACE Portal Account to monitor liquidation status of entries filed by the broker. Unfortunately, some brokers may be unwilling or unable to grant this request
  3. Set up its own ACE Portal Account to monitor entry filings made using the importer’s IOR number. This option is not currently available. Customs claims that ACE is being reprogrammed to allow importers of record to do so, by the effective date of the termination of paper courtesy notices (September 30, 2011).  Given CBP’s spotty record in launching timely, fully functioning updates to ACE, importers who wish to pursue this option should be cautious.  In addition, the ACE Portal contains entry data for the past 4 fiscal years, so this option will be of no help to importers who need information about entries filed before then.
  4. Direct file its own customs entries with an ABI-approved system to gain direct visibility and immediate notice of all liquidations. Since doing so will give the importer complete control, the importer will not have to rely on the whims of a broker providing the notice or granting the importer access to the broker’s ACE Portal Account.  In addition, the importer will be not be dependent on whether the aforementioned ACE functionality will be ready and fully functional by the stated deadline.  Finally, the importer that self files will have access to liquidation status of all entries it has filed, not just those in the past 4 years.

August 2011 ACE Trade Account Owner Update

US Customs has just issued its August 2011 ACE Trade Account Owner Update.

Highlights include:

  • e-Manifest:  Rail and Sea deployed but not in use yet
    • Given the success of e-Manifests:  Trucks, CBP deployed the functionality on August 27 to allow rail and sea carriers to transmit electronic manifest data to ACE.
    • Customs will continue testing the of the code in production, and will notify the trade when it will be available for use.
  • New ACE capabilities deployed on August 29 and September 5
    • Carriers may view continuous bonds, as well as view and verify ocean conveyances, in their ACE Portal Accounts
    • Carriers may create a list of authorized bond users
    • Brokers may create rail entry banks
    • Users may save customized reports in shared reports folder
  • Reminder: PSCs – As of September 22, post summary corrections will replace the post entry amendment (PEA) procedures to amend pre-liquidation summaries (see our previous blog post on this topic).
  • New CPB Forms 301 and 301A for customs bonds – Forms will replace previous versions; CBP to accept old forms through December 31
  • Elimination of paper courtesy notices of liquidation – Customs is discontinuing this service as of September 30, and will be updating ACE to provide a new ACE report that provides the information as contained in the paper notice

The ACE Trade Account Owner Update is available here.