On December 9, 2013, the Decree amending, various provisions of the Customs Law was published in the Federal Official Gazette, it will enter into force tomorrow December 10, 2013.

The decree includes a number of amendments targeted to (i) promote transparency and simplification of procedures and encourage Mexico to improve and employ best customs practices contained in international agreements, (ii) promote trade openness among trade participants and (iii) establish an effective exchange of information between authorities through electronic systems.

Herein a brief summary of the most relevant amendments approved:

Customs Clearance

  • Customs clearance of goods may be carried out at a different location other than the locations currently authorized.
  • Importers and exporters will be able to carry out customs clearance of goods directly through an appointed and authorized legal representative, without the mandatory intervention of a customs broker.
  • The legal concept of "legal representative" is created, while the concept of “customs agent or apoderado aduanal “ is eliminated.
  • Minimum requirements to perform as a “legal representative” of any given importer or exporter are included in the amendments. A legal representative shall be: a) a natural person of Mexican nationality, b) knowledgeable in foreign trade matters, c) in compliance with its tax obligations, and d) is an employee or has a work relationship with said importer or exporter.
  • Pre-validating services, which were previously provided only by customs agent’s confederations and associations, will now be able to be provided by other interested third parties thereto.
  • Deadlines for the Bonded Warehouses to deliver seized goods under their custody to Mexican Customs, which have become property of the Federal Government, were increased from 3 to 10 days. The rules applicable to deem a good as “lost” were also amended. The goods will first be deemed as “Missing” after 5 days (formerly 3 days) from the authorities request for their delivery and will be finally consider “lost” after 30 days from being deemed as “missing”.

Strategic Bonded Warehouses

  • The customs authorities will be able to authorize Strategic Bonded Warehouse throughout the country, even if they are not located inside or neighboring the customhouse or port.

Electronic customs clearance system

  • Provisions are created to support the electronic customs clearance system, which will simplify and automate customs clearance of goods.
  • Legal support is given to the electronic platform implemented by the government mid last year (VUCEM), including provisions related with the electronic value declaration of the goods ("COVE").
  • Electronic documents shall have full legal effect and shall be kept on electronic files unless it refers to documents relating to foreign trade operations, which shall be kept in the format in which they were issued or obtained.
  • Foreign trade and customs audits will be performed considering the electronic file, however, when the customs authorities deems it necessary they may request physical documentation that the taxpayers is anyhow required to keep.
  • Notices related to procedures and applications submitted by means of the electronic customs clearance system shall be served electronically. The system will generate an acknowledgment of receipt of the notice with the date and time it was opened in the system’s mailbox. After a period of 5 days, if the mailbox is not opened, the notice shall be considered served on the system’s notice board. Importers and exporters may authorize a maximum of 5 people to receive notices.

Simplification of procedures

  • The second inspection (segundo reconocimiento) upon customs clearance will no longer be applicable and the customs authorities may now use non-intrusive technologies to carry out inspections and reviews.

Taxpayers' rights

  • It will now be possible to change the customs status of goods for all custom regimes. Likewise, importers will be able to correct or regularize goods imported on a temporary basis even if the term of stay in national territory has expired.
  • Furthermore, it will now be possible to rectify and correct all fields of the import/export declaration without limitation, unless such correction requires authorization from the customs authorities.

Cooperation and exchange of information

  • The Tax Administration Service will establish mechanisms, ways and means to implement a cooperation and exchange of information system even with authorities of other countries.

Certified companies

  • The term "authorized economic operator" is included and refers to companies that satisfy the minimum standards of safety and specific requirements that will be established by the Tax Administration Service.
  • Renewal application as a certified company shall be submitted in the deadlines and under the conditions that the Tax Administration Service will establish in the Customs Rules.
  • The decision concerning registration will be issued no later than 180 calendar days (before 30 days) as of the date of application. Likewise, the amendments include provisions regarding cancellation of the registration.

Responsibility

  • The “legal representative” of the importers and exporters that will carry out customs clearance of goods directly will be jointly liable for customs duties.

Infringements

  • False or misrepresentations of the value of the goods and the information related to the sale will now be considered as infringements to the Customs Law. Hence, importers or exporters will be fined from $18,000 to $ 30,000 pesos regardless of any other sanctions that may be applicable.
  • It will no longer be possible to rectify any irregularities within the 10 days following the date of notification of the minutes of irregularities without paying the corresponding fine.

This amendments to the Customs Law shall enter into force on the day following its publication in the Federal Official Gazette, except for those provisions related to the mechanisms, ways and means to be used by importers and exporters to carry out customs clearance directly which will enter into force within a year from the publication of the amendments.

As of the entry into force of the amendments, all resolutions, consultations, interpretations, authorization or general licenses that have been granted to a person or company that are inconsistent with the provisions of the current Customs Law will have no effect.

The authorizations for customs agents (apoderados aduanales) will remain in force until their cancellation, termination or revocation.