At a webinar on Friday, October 7th, Cindy Allen of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) office spoke about planned changes regarding liquidation information. As has been previously reported, for money-saving reasons, CBP is doing way with mailing courtesy notices of liquidation to importers as each entry liquidates. While perhaps understandable as a dollars and cents issue, the fact is such a move leaves many importers with highly suspect data from which to plan protests and close out their financial records for a given entry. As things stand right now, if you file your entry through ACE, CBP claims the data is 100% reliable. However, if you file through the system most widely used – the Automated Cargo System or ACS – that data needs to be dumped into ACE and that conversion process is where the inaccuracies arise. According to CBP, 100% accuracy is only available if all filings are done through ACE. So, until that happens, importers are forced to continue to rely on Master Extract and ITRAC Reports, both of which have been in use for long periods of time, and both of which still end up with contradictory information.  The other alternative is to obtain entry/liquidation data from the customs broker.

It has been publicly known for some time that CBP has issues with the current ACE system. Specifically, the latest numbers publicized are 450 problem reports meaning report inaccuracies or reports that cannot be used as expected or as requested, and 320 change requests. One of the significant hitches with the ACS system is that when a post-entry correction (PEA or SIL) is filed, the system correction process is so cumbersome that no entries are updated, unless a specific request is made and granted, thereby complicating the importer’s tracking of liquidations. However, since September 22nd, if the entry and post-entry correction are both filed in ACE, the entry is updated.

CBP plans to put all liquidation notices on the website. However, until the regulations are changed, the official notice of liquidation will remain the one posted at the Customhouse. CBP has said the web-based system will state the date on which the liquidation notice was posted at the Customhouse. While courtesy notices of liquidation will no longer be sent by CBP, suspension notices and bills will continue to be issued. At the same time, CBP is planning an attorney/consultant module in ACE which will work by the importer giving entry level data to the attorney/consultant and the attorney/consultant filing protests for that importer through that portal. CBP appears ready to concede that if the attorney or consultant has the entry level data, he is an authorized agent of the importer. The current system allows importers to give attorneys, consultants and other authorized parties access to their ACE account now, and this electronic liquidation portal is in addition to the one currently existing for rulings. Once the liquidation and protest process becomes totally reliable and accurate, one wonders how long it will take before CBP uses a similar portal for penalties, seizures and liquidated damages.