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Avoiding importation problems by getting an advance ruling letter from Customs
Posted in Customs

Lock in a Customs ruling on tariff, country of origin, marking, valuation, admissibility or duty preference.

Like thousands of other importers each year, you may receive an unwelcome notice from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“Customs”) that your imported goods are subject to supplementary duties, remarking, redelivery, detention or seizure.  You may even face a monetary penalty or liquidated damage claim.  Moreover, you will likely expend substantial time and money to address and rectify these matters. 

You might have avoided these problems by requesting an advance ruling letter from Customs. Ruling letters may concern IP issues as well as tariff classification, country of origin determination, marking, valuation, admissibility and duty‚Äźpreference issues.  Any interested party (e.g., an exporter, importer or anyone else with a demonstrable interest in the goods) may seek a ruling letter, which will be binding at all ports of entry unless revoked by the Customs Headquarters’ Office of Regulations and Rulings.  

Requests for ruling letters must be submitted in writing (on paper or electronically), and with respect to classification issues, may cover a maximum of five items of the same class or kind.  Submitted information and documentation must give Customs the ability to understand and address the issues presented, and support the requester’s position.  Because ruling letters are accessible by the general public, you may ask Customs to redact confidential information from all published versions of such letters. 

Customs strives to issue a ruling letter within 30 days of its receipt of a written request.  Once a letter is issued, you should attach a copy of the ruling letter to the first entry of covered merchandise at each port of entry. 

While you could seek ruling letters without the aid of a trade professional, improperly prepared requests can have adverse effects: 


First, a request that is deficient with regard to the basic regulatory requirements for rulings will be rejected outright. While a corrected request may be filed, critical time may be lost. (Remember, Customs can issue a ruling letter only for prospective transactions.)   

Second, preparing a valid request requires the interpretation of both law and fact.  Failure to substantiate a position properly may result in an unfavorable decision that could adversely affect your future importations. 

Third, a ruling letter is binding upon the importer until it has been either revoked by Customs or overturned by the courts.  Getting a revocation can be a lengthy and costly process.  

Contact C.J. Erickson for further information about Customs matters.

This ON MY MIND™ Blog post © 2014 by Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman, P.C., New York, NY. 

Suggest topics for future Blog posts to law@cll.com.

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