Informed Compliance Letters from U.S. Customs

The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 has tasked CBP with making several organizational and structural changes in order to streamline and best fulfill responsibilities in the areas of security and revenue collection. As CBP has begun making these internal changes, trade is experiencing impact.
One recent area of impact is CBP issuing “informed compliance” letters to importers.What receipt of one of these letters means:
CBP Regulatory Audit (enforcement branch) team has reviewed data available to them in ACE, identified a compliance area (ADD, valuation, etc) they believe to be an issue, and are “strongly considering” the company for comprehensive audit. ISA (Importer Self-Assessment) participants, while precluded specifically from the CBP Focused Assessment Audit pool, are still open to other audits including “Audit Surveys,” and have been receiving these informed compliance letters as of late.

What actions should my company take if an informed compliance letter is received?
Immediate actions:
  • Understand why the letter was received (note: it may not be a random selection). More than likely, the data that CBP has indicates that you may have something to disclose.
  • Notify your broker(s) of the letter and work with them to review any data filed on your behalf.
  • Ensure that you have a regulatory compliance manual that is “audit ready”.
  • Obtain an ACE portal account if you do not already have access to collect your data directly from the same source used by CBP.
  • Conduct a risk assessment that focuses on risk-areas outlined in the letter.
Short term actions:
  • Sign the letter. Escalate within your company to include decision makers and leaders across departments (compliance, legal, finance) in order to provide awareness and appropriate alignment for response/action.
  • Engage external support: leverage the experience and expertise of your service providers and/or outside legal counsel. These partners will be able to provide advice that can assist you with decision making and understanding your risk.
  • Attend trainings and read about importer requirements and responsibilities under the law.
  • Follow up on corrective actions put in place to ensure that past problems are no longer an issue.
  • Implement a robust post audit entry process, and strong broker management procedures.
  • File a prior disclosure, or intent to file prior disclosure if errors are found. Receipt of Informed Compliance letters do not preclude an importer’s ability to do so.
  • Keep in mind, it’s a good practice to do your own internal review or have a qualified third party complete the review and disclose the information to CBP rather than waiting for CBP to audit your company.
Should you have any questions, please contact: