What to do when U.S. Customs & Border Protection sends you a letter

Arent Fox LLP, a law firm in Washington D.C. specializing in cross-border business activity between the US and Canada, has alerted CFIB that the United States Customs & Border Protection (CBP) has launched an initiative aimed at importers of record of merchandise into the US. This initiative aims to increase outreach and communication with the trade community. It does not necessarily mean that there will be an increase in audit and/or enforcement actions, just that US CBP will increase efforts to engage with importers.  

This includes Canadian non-resident importers of record. 

Why is US Customs & Border Protection writing you? 

If you have received an informed compliance letter (see the attached sample letter so you know what to expect), be on notice. Although the letter is not intrinsically an audit, it may be a sign that an audit is imminent. If your business has been selected for audit, you will receive a formal notice that is separate from this letter.  

If you receive a letter:  

  • Ensure your team is on the lookout for any communications from CBP and make sure your senior management responds to the letter in a timely fashion.
  • Conduct a self-review of your company’s trade compliance processes, accountability and data flows to best determine the possible extent and scope of your risk exposure. The publications included with the informed compliance letter will aid with this review.
  • If you believe any violations of US law may have occurred, the letter indicates that disclosure prior to audit is preferred since penalties and/or interest may be minimized or not required. Should a violation be found through an audit, penalties and interest most likely will apply.