Assurance Needed That Import Classifications Are Accurate

GGD-81-46: Published: Apr 23, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 1981.

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Proper tariff classification is essential for determining the appropriate import duty, treating importers consistently, and compiling import data for formulating trade policies. GAO reviewed a random sample of 50 entries at each of three Customs Service field offices.

Most of the products in the entries were accepted solely on the basis of import specialists' reviews of entry papers submitted by importers or their brokers. Entry classification verifications were limited as evidenced by the fact that: of the products susceptible to laboratory analysis, only a few were analyzed; from 75 to 89 percent of the products were probably never physically examined; and for most of the product line items, there was no coordination with the Customs Information Exchange to insure correct and uniform classification. Customs Service import specialists have insufficient time and means to adequately verify Tariff Schedule classifications. Verification is hindered, in part, by a cursory entry-by-entry review of entries, a relatively large number of incorrect entry documents which are rejected and must be resubmitted, and the lack of a quality assurance program. The Customs Service's problems are intensified by a relatively unchanged work force and a sharply increased workload. Without additional resources, Customs may not be able to ensure that imports are properly classified. Substantial improvements have not been made because of insufficient management support and followup. Customs has been unsuccessful in implementing measures which would enable import specialists to focus only on selected entries, enable Customs to require brokers with continual poor performance to improve performance, provide import specialists with quick classification and legal assistance, monitor import specialists' performance, and reallocate positions of import specialists.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should establish as a top priority a Customs Service improvement program to implement the proposed headquarters and regional program evaluation system to bring better management and control over import specialists activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should establish (1) procedures to track individual broker performance in preparing entry submissions for Customs and (2) a program to assist poor performers in reducing their error rates with a provision for using existing punitive measures if sufficient improvements are not made.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should establish as a top priority a Customs Service improvement program to implement the proposed import specialist allocation system.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should establish as a top priority a Customs Service improvement program to revitalize the Customs Information Exchange system.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should implement selected entry screening to ensure that complex entries receive detailed specialists' reviews.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

 

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