I was at a Customs seminar this morning. One of the issues discussed with our local members of Customs was ISF penalties and the confusion regarding how Customs plans on issuing penalties.
Apparently Customs will take a two pronged approach with penalties. The first step will be taken at the local port level. Customs officers at the local port level will initiate penalties. The second step will be taken on a national level. Once the penalty is issued, Customs at a national level will review the penalty before formally sending it out.
What does this practically mean? My personal take at this moment is that there may be variation from port to port on when penalties are issued. As I mentioned in my previous post about ISF enforcement, there are a few different possibilities for an ISF to be considered non-compliant.
Option 1.) The ISF may never have been filed.
Option 2.) The ISF may have been filed late. Note there are many possible reasons this could have happened.
Option 3.) The ISF may have been filed incorrectly (AMS bill of lading number being the top culprit). Most ISF filers usually catch the incorrectly filed ISF’s, but mistakes still happen.
If penalties are initiated at a port level, I could definitely see some ports taking a tougher, hard-line approach than another ports. Here in San Francisco, the local Trade Program Manager for U.S. Customs has indicated to us that they will go after extreme offenders. Importers who have large numbers of shipments with ISF non-compliance. I would hope that other ports will follow this thought process. I think the reality is that most large importers are the ones who are already compliant. The non-compliant importers tend to be small, one-time or first-time importers. Whether or not Customs at a national level will be able create uniformity in the assessments of ISF penalities is difficult to predict.
Regardless, the warning is now out there. Importers and ISF filers need to get their ISF filings straightened out right away.
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