On September 8th, 2014 the Court of International Trade dismissed an importer’s challenge to CBP’s liquidation of entries subject to anti-dumping duties. The importer claimed the entries should have been subject to suspension of liquidation but were not. The court determined that regardless of what should have occurred, the liquidation took place, and the importer did not take any action to reverse or negate that action.
What should the importer have done? It is critically important that the importer ensure that someone is monitoring their entries for liquidation action by CBP. When an entry liquidates importers who file entries through the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) will receive electronic courtesy notices of liquidation (CF 4333A). In addition, all importers of record with an Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), Secure Data Portal Account, can monitor the liquidation of their entries by using the reporting tool in the ACE Secure Data Portal Account. Also, each port of entry is required to post a list of the entries that have liquidated that week in a public place at the port. These lists are normally left in that place for at least 6 months. Importers are frequently not physically located at the port office where their goods enter the U.S., and/or use multiple ports, so they must rely on the mailed or emailed notice or delegate the responsibility of reviewing the CBP record at the port office. Obviously, monitoring the electronic liquidation notices is the more efficient means in order to prevent the potentially costly incident described above.
Using the emailed notice seems simple, but it is critical that the electronic address on file for the importer is a contact that is aware of the meaning of the notice. It is amazing how many times CBP receives inquiries as to what the notice means even from companies that have been importing for years. Ensuring that the CF5106 (importer ID input record) has been filed correctly with a contact name that is knowledgeable about the import process can prevent delays in responding to a liquidation that needs to be contested. These actions are all performed through electronic means that can be amazingly efficient, but require diligent communications and monitoring. Who is filing your importer ID, and who is the contact it contains? If the broker is the filer, are they kept up to date when personnel change in the company, or is the broker receiving the notices?
If a liquidation takes place that the importer feels is incorrect, it has 180 days in which to file a Protest. In the protest the importer, or their agent, makes the argument as to the correct value/duty, rate/classification etc., and provides sufficient information for CBP to evaluate the argument. If the decision goes against the importer there is also the option to challenge the issue in the Court of International Trade, as the importer did in the referenced case.
Due diligence in customs business requires that an entry be followed from initiation through liquidation, or further, as in the case of protest, or even via a court challenge. Making this a part of your compliance plan will protect your company from the situation faced by the importer in the case related above. If the anti-dumping duty rate had lowered on final review the importer may have been due a large refund, but that was rendered moot by the failure to monitor liquidation status.