Canada-U.S. Blog Trade Lawyers Cyndee Todgham Cherniak and Susan K. Ross

Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) Account Becomes A Must

Posted in Customs Law

With the elimination of the courtesy notices of liquidation (CBP Form 4333-A) as proposed by Customs taking effect on September 30, 2011, importers are going to be forced to have ACE portal accounts in order to learn when entries are liquidated. Customs will store data in ACE about entries filed in the current fiscal year and go back historically four (4) years and no further due to storage size limitations. Older data can be obtained through an Automated Broker Interface (ABI) query, or via the ITRAC or Importer Trade Activity reports which Customs will provide.

While the courtesy notices of liquidation are not the official or legal notice issued by Customs that a given entry has liquidated, they are relied upon by importers to track their record with Customs and identify anomalies. The notice required by statute is the bulletin notice printed and posted at each Customhouse, see 19 C.F.R. 159.9.  However, that practice may also come to an end. Customs at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach is going to run a test from October 5, 2011 through December 2, 2011 wherein it will save the official liquidation data to a stand-alone computer at the Customhouse. Access to that computer and providing the requested print-outs will be provided free of charge, but how much longer will it be before Customs proposes to change the law and eliminate these bulletin notices altogether?

The biggest concern right now is the inconsistent data currently available. The liquidation data in ACE does not always match the data in the Automated Commercial System (ACS). Which one is official? correct? ACE currently does not contain a history about an entry, so if it was scheduled to liquidate and then suspended, that earlier scheduled liquidation is not noted, only the suspension, but information about both is critical when protesting and evaluating reasonable care and overall compliance. What is Customs doing to upgrade the quality and reliability of the liquidation data it is providing in ACE?  Until that question is answered, telling importers to rely on ACE is equivalent to fool’s gold! Looks nice, but there is no substance underneath.