3 Crucial Customs Regulations Importers Need To Know

3 Crucial Customs Regulations Importers Need To Know

As the Importer of Record for transactions made with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), it is extremely important that your company is aware of their obligations regarding compliance with Customs regulations.

Of the myriad regulations that you face as an importer, there are three very important regulations to be aware of:

  1. Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS)
  2. Self Adjustments and Reason to Believe
  3. Compliance Verification Audits

1. Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS)

AMPS is a penalty regime designed to "provide the Agency with a means to deter non-compliance by its client (the Importer), and thereby to encourage compliance.  AMPS ensure a level playing field for all Canadian businesses by ensuring that there is a cost for non-compliance. To this end, AMPS is designed to be a remedial rather than a punitive program".

There are over 300 specific situations that can trigger an AMPS penalty to be issued. AMPS penalties can range from $150.00 per transaction up to $25,000.00 for multiple infractions.

AMPS - How Would This Affect Your Bottom Line?

2. Self-Adjustment - Reason To Believe

Each time a shipment is cleared through Customs, an electronic transaction is presented to the CBSA which provides among other information, the quantity, description, tariff classification and value of each product in that particular shipment or transaction.  This constitutes a declaration under subsection 32(1), (3) or (5) of the Customs Act.

If after the original declaration (transaction) has been acquitted with the CBSA,  it becomes apparent that there has been a change in tariff classification, country of origin, or value for duty, for any reason, the importer is required to make a correction to the declaration whether or not the correction results in duty or GST owing to CBSA, or is revenue neutral.

An importer has an obligation to file any corrections within 90 days of having a "reason to believe", that an incorrect declaration has been made.  "Reason to believe" can take on a number of different forms. You may receive a NAFTA Certificate of Origin from your vendor that has a different classification on it than what has been declared to Customs, you may receive a corrected invoice which has a different country of origin than what has been declared, or you may discover that your vendor has been providing an incorrect or incomplete description or pricing on their invoices.

Any of these, and other instances can trigger the requirement for a correction to be filed with the CBSA for the affected transaction or transactions. Corrections may be required from the earliest date of having "Reason to Believe" that an incorrect declaration has been made to a maximum of four years. The specific provisions that cover this can be found in the  Customs Memorandum D11-6-6.

If you are unsure of corrections that require filing and have not done so, a member of our Trade Compliance Team can assist you in making that determination through a self-audit process. If it is discovered that corrections are required within the 90 day time limit then they should be dealt with immediately. If it is discovered that corrections are required past the 90 day time limit, it may be to your advantage to file a Voluntary Disclosure. If Customs accept a Voluntary Disclosure, it may mitigate the payment of AMPS penalties and punitive interest on any duty or taxes owing to the CBSA.

How To Accurately Complete A NAFTA Certificate Of Origin

Important Notes:

  • Corrections must be filed even if they are revenue neutral.
  • Should your company be chosen for a Compliance Verification Audit prior to filing required corrections the Voluntary Disclosure is no longer an option and AMPS penalties and punitive interest may apply.

For further information on the Voluntary Disclosure process please speak with one of our Trade Compliance Specialists.

3. Compliance Verification Audit

Should the CBSA choose your company for a Compliance Verification Audit,  you will be asked to provide a number of sample transactions for CBSA to review.  The verification could be for tariff classification, valuation, country or origin or a combination thereof.

For example, in the case of tariff verification you will be provided with a letter requesting copies of transactions that the CBSA wish to review. You may also be asked to provide samples of the products in question. At the conclusion of the review, a letter will be sent outlining the CBSA findings. If the CBSA makes a determination that all transactions were filed in accordance with the regulations, they will issue a letter to close the audit. If the CBSA determine that there are corrections required, and the "Reason to Believe" is determined to be the date of the final verification letter; corrections would be required to be filed on any affected transactions from the date of the final verification letter, including 12 months from the date of the last fiscal year end. However, if it is determined that there was "Reason to Believe" that an error had been made in the tariff classification, prior to the verification audit, corrections may be required to be filed on transactions going back four (4) years from the date of the final verification audit letter. Furthermore, in this scenario, the CBSA can issue AMPS penalties of $150.00 per transaction to a maximum of $25,000.00 for each correction required to be filed. It is important to note, that any CBSA findings and subsequent corrections and/or penalties are subject to appeal. Please see CBSA Targeted Priority List - July 2013 for a list of the current CBSA National Audit Priorities.

As an importer with the CBSA, your company should be aware of all compliance requirements, and have mechanisms in place within your company to ensure that all information transmitted to the CBSA is as accurate as possible. It is very important that your company have a plan in place to make sure that any corrections that are required to be made are being addressed. We hope that you will find this information helpful and we urge you to take the steps within your company to ensure that those who need to be aware of this information are made aware of it.

Should your company have any corrections to file at this time, or on an ongoing basis, our Trade Compliance Specialists have the expertise to guide your business through the audit process and avoid incurring further penalties. As your customs broker, we make every effort to provide you with the right tools and information to ensure that your company is as proactive as possible with the CBSA. In this way we hope to help lessen your exposure to any penalties or fines.

As part of our ongoing efforts, we offer a number of  Trade Compliance Seminars and Webinars throughout the year on compliance and customs audit among other subjects. Our upcoming Customs Audit Seminars might be of particular interest details of which are listed below.

  • Canada Customs Audit  - This seminar will focus on the differences between voluntary and enforced compliance, the term “reason to believe”, the potential cost risks of non-compliance, and best practices. Register today!
  • U.S. Customs Audit - This seminar will focus on the differences between voluntary and enforced compliance, the expectation of “reasonable care”, the potential cost risks of non-compliance, and best practices. Register today! 
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About the Author
Dave Bucholtz

While we strive for accuracy in all our communications, as the Importer of Record it is incumbent upon your company to ensure that you are aware of the requirements under the new regulations so that you maintain compliance as always.