The process of clearing goods through U.S. customs can seem a bit cumbersome and confusing. In this blog, we’ll aim to clarify the legal requirement to use “reasonable care” when importing goods into the U.S.
What is reasonable care? How do you know if you’ve used it?
According to the U.S. Customs Modernization Act (the “Mod Act”), “the importer of record" is responsible for using reasonable care to enter, classify and value imported merchandise, and must provide any other information necessary to enable U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to properly assess duties, collect accurate statistics and determine whether any and all other applicable legal requirements are met.
Failure to exercise reasonable care constitutes negligence, and can result in substantial penalties.
Your next question may be, who (or what) is an “importer of record”?
The importer of record is the shipper, the consignee, or a third party (such as a customs broker) who is responsible for all paperwork and other formal entry requirements for goods coming into the U.S.
This person is required to show, if asked – as part of a CBP audit, for example – that reasonable care was taken throughout the import process. Basically, it has to be evident that a good-faith effort was put into meeting the requirements for lawfully bringing the goods into the U.S.
CBP admits that the concept of reasonable care “defies easy explanation.” It is explained here, in a weighty 19-page document. In summary, the areas in which reasonable care is to be applied include:
Merchandise description and tariff classification
Country of origin, markings, and quotas
Intellectual property rights
Forced labor (avoidance thereof)
CBP has resources and supports available: published rulings, notices, and memoranda can help equip importers with the knowledge needed to be compliant.
What can you do?
The best approach for successfully importing goods into the U.S. is to be as informed and prepared as possible. Establish internal processes, consult experts (brokers, lawyers, trade consultants), conduct internal audits and ask lots of questions!