The Customs Reauthorization Bill was signed by President Obama, and you might have questions about its impact. I discussed the bill with Ben Bidwell, director of global forwarding at C.H. Robinson, to help bring understanding and clarification.
Jason: President Obama just signed the long-awaited Customs Reauthorization Bill. What are some of the highlights in this bill?
Ben: The biggest news is that the de minimis value was raised from $200 to $800. This could significantly increase the flow of packages directly to consumers in the United States from overseas origins, since a shipment under $800 in value will need only minimal paperwork to clear customs when entering the United States. The establishment of the Centers of Excellence is another significant change.
Jason: What does the permanent establishment of the Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE) within Customs and Border Protection (CBP) do for the industry?
Ben: This is a great example of government actually responding to industry needs and innovating. While many will say this is overdue, the reality is that this is good management at work. By centralizing industry clusters and allowing expertise to concentrate, the consistency of the customer experience—in this case, classification and entry issue resolution—will only improve. Kudos to Congress for recognizing that this program works and making it permanent.
Jason: Customs brokers have had some concerns regarding the proposed law around customs brokers’ identification of importers. Are these warranted?
Ben: Maybe. Specifics have yet to be determined, but there may be cause for concern. Additional data gathering and recordkeeping requirements may add burden to customs brokers. Furthermore, there are concerns that the specific information customs brokers may be required to collect from importers is of personal nature to owners and officers of the importing company. It is safe to say that such individuals will not happily provide this information.
Jason: Was anything done to address the risk importers face regarding retrospective anti-dumping fines and duty drawback penalties?
Ben: A growing problem in the world of imports has been the maddening risk of retrospective anti-dumping duties being assessed two years or more after a product has been imported. Especially for small business, slow moving investigations have cast fear over some sections of the importing community. In the Customs Reauthorization Bill, anti-dumping investigations have to be completed within a maximum of 375 days from the filing of a complaint.