U.S. Imports:

Unit Values Vary Widely for Identically Classified Commodities

GGD-95-90: Published: Apr 26, 1995. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 1995.

Additional Materials:


Norman J. Rabkin
(202) 512-3610


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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the importation of eight classifications of commodities in fiscal year 1992, focusing on why unit values for identical types of imported commodities varied.

GAO found that: (1) unit values for identical imports varied widely because of overly broad commodity classifications and product misclassifications; (2) although Customs used Census Bureau-developed parameters to screen filers' entries and detect possible unit value errors that could adversely affect the quality of trade data, most of the parameters were so broad that Customs only detected errors involving extremely high or low unit values; (3) the errors that were noted had little effect on quotas, duties, and fees for the 80 transactions reviewed; (4) although generalizations about the overall level of errors in the Import Detailed Data Base could not be made, the high number of errors found indicated the need to improve Automated Commercial System (ACS) data accuracy; (5) a high error rate could threaten the accuracy of U.S. trade statistics and Customs ability to screen transactions for errors or illegal activities; and (6) adding narrower unit value ranges to ACS would allow filers to identify and correct more errors during data entry.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Customs' Office of Field Operations determined that the recommendation is outside of Customs' control and narrowing unit value ranges in ACS would not be feasible under the current system. No further action is intended.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should direct the Commissioner of Customs to determine the feasibility of adding narrower unit value ranges to Customs' ACS that will allow the filer to identify and correct more errors at the point of data entry. If the Commissioner finds that such ranges are feasible and cost-effective, he should take the appropriate steps to implement them.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury


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