Importers use ACH debit to streamline duty payments

Savvy importers who take advantage of paying their customs duties via Automated Clearing House (ACH) debit realize many benefits.  As outlined by CBP, these importers:

  • Obtain up to an additional 10 days to pay duties, taxes, and fees on quota and other special merchandise classes
  • Reduce administrative processing and costs
  • Pay all ABI statements in a central location
  • Reduce administrative errors related to check processing
  • Eliminate lost or stolen check problems
  • Control cash flow by identifying the exact day to allocate funds

Additionally, users of ACH may use avail themselves of the Periodic Monthly Statement (PMS) feature in ACE which provides its own benefits, such as 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

customsPrior to using ACH, the import compliance department must work with the company’s finance or accounting group to set up internal payment processes and then coordinate with CBP to connect with ACH.  After that, the ACH debit process is straight-forward — just 5 simple steps to paying import duties.

The ACH debit process is quite secure; CBP has taken numerous steps to safeguard the payer’s account information and ensure that the correct amount is debited, which will satisfy even the most conservative finance departments.

ACH debit may be used by both importers who self-file their customs entries and those who use a customs broker.  (CBP also offers an ACH credit process for importers who prefer that method of payment).


Basics of direct filing customs entries and ISFs, part 1

Are you a US importer who is interested in direct filing your customs entries (and ISFs) but don’t know where to start?  Here are some helpful FAQs that provide general guidance on self-filing with an approved ABI software provider such as CustomsNow:

What are the benefits of direct filing?

Direct filers can save up to 90% off the filing fees charged by third-party providers.  In addition, self-filers enjoy improved compliance rates and increased supply chain control and visibility.  (See our brochure, “Why Direct File?”).  Moreover, importers can gain operational efficiencies — by integrating the systems that store trade data (e.g., GTM, ERP) with an ABI software solution, the entry process can be highly automated.

Do I need to be licensed by US Customs?

No.  According to the Customs regulations, an importer may file entries, for their own benefit, without a license.  (The same holds true for self-filing ISFs).

Do I need to have a broker on staff?

A licensed broker on staff is not required by CBP.  However, to ensure a successful and highly compliant direct filing program, it is important to have a well-trained, experienced and knowledgeable staff with proper employee oversight.

What type of entries can I direct file?

As an importer of record, you are legally able to file any and all types of entries with US Customs.  That includes air, ocean, truck and rail and even hand-carried shipments, however, the specific processes required for the different modes of transportation may vary.  Each importer should factor in their unique supply chain business requirements when determining which entries should be direct filed and which are best left with a broker.

Will I need additional resources to file my own entries?

Your current compliance process should be thoroughly reviewed to understand future staffing needs under direct filing.  Questions such as “How much time does my staff currently spend on broker oversight, problem resolution and manual audits?” should be answered.  We’ve found that most average sized importers have enough resources on staff to implement the initial direct filing process.  However, as savings are generated and the program expands further, additional staffing may be necessary.

How does the duty payment process work?

The importer must be set up with CBP to pay their duties via the ABI system through ACH (Automated Clearing House).  This requires submission of a simple application form to CBP’s finance department, which takes about 10 days to process.

How long does it take to get started?

For entries, from start to finish the process can take anywhere from 8-10 weeks.  It takes approximately 6 weeks to receive a filer code from CBP, during which time the system can be set up and some training conducted. (If the importer already has a filer code, this speeds up the process).  Once the filer code is received, and a Customs’ ABI Client Representative is assigned to your account, allow an additional week or two for entry training and CBP testing to be completed and reviewed.  Once the testing has been completed sufficiently, the go-ahead to direct file is given from Customs.  For ISFs, the process is much shorter — just a matter of days until you can self-file.

For even more answers to common questions, please visit CustomsNow’s FAQ page.  And if you would like to schedule a demo of our ABI solution, please contact us.

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.