Customs Service:

Penalty Assessment and Collection Process Is Improving

GGD-88-74: Published: Jul 21, 1988. Publicly Released: Aug 2, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Customs Service's assessment, processing, and collection procedures at four district fines, penalties, and forfeiture (FP&F) offices to determine whether they needed improvement.

GAO found that: (1) in three of the district offices it reviewed, violators' failure to timely respond to penalty notices delayed case processing; (2) the offices' response time after the prescribed 60-day period had elapsed ranged from 13 to 687 days; and (3) FP&F offices' failure to promptly respond to petitions for cancellation or mitigation of violations also caused processing delays, since they took from 3 to 1,434 days to respond to these petitions. GAO also found that: (1) FP&F offices did not regularly review and update their internal control systems for case processing; (2) three FP&F offices did not follow GAO guidelines for collecting, accounting for, and depositing money; (3) all FP&F offices except one complied with the requirement for daily deposit of collections in excess of $1,000; and (4) FP&F office work loads increased substantially due to Customs' increased enforcement actions. GAO also found that, in order to improve FP&F office operations, Customs: (1) established a headquarters office to oversee field offices; (2) plans to implement an automated case processing system by July 1988; (3) provided formalized personnel training for the first time in June 1987; and (4) plans to address personnel issues such as career ladder and uniform grade structure in 1988.

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