Customs Has Corrected a Deficiency in Administering the Quota on Imported Tuna

GGD-83-34: Published: Dec 27, 1982. Publicly Released: Jan 3, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the U.S. Customs Service's method and manner of counting imported tuna canned in water, including the process used to determine when the quota is reached and the method used for setting the quota.

The tariff-rate quota for certain imported canned tuna was established by a Presidential proclamation and incorporated into the tariff schedules. Under these schedules, canned tuna qualifies for a 6-percent duty rate if the product is preserved in any manner other than oil, if the packages are not over 15 pounds each, and if the aggregate quantity of such tuna imported does not exceed 20 percent of U.S. production during the preceding calendar year. If the quota amount based on the U.S. production of tuna is exceeded, a duty rate of 12.5 percent is charged. GAO found no indications that the methods used by Customs personnel to obtain import data on products having quotas were ineffective. However, Customs did not charge imports of tuna from American Samoa against the quota for 7 years. When this error was detected in 1978, such imports were charged against the quota. Had Customs charged the tuna imported from American Samoa against the quota from 1970 through 1978, the amount of tuna imported would have exceeded the quota limits in only 2 of the 9 years which were affected. However, in 1980, imported tuna was assessed at the higher duty rate of 12.5 percent. Since 1980, as a result of increasing imports from American Samoa as well as from other countries, tuna imports have exceeded the quota resulting in a higher duty rate.

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