CBP and import violations

CBP And Import Violations​

Before importing your goods into the country, beware! The U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP) has strict compliance regulations and can penalize you for some slip-ups or corner-cutting. Penalties can have a hefty cost and negatively affect your future import processes!

Penalizing imports

The CBP has a designated Penalty Program to discourage non-compliance by importers. The program details are available in full on the CBP’s website, which aims to simplify meeting compliance avoiding fines.

The CBP doles out fines and can even take legal action if merchandise entering the country violates the law. The CBP tolerance is clear-cut regarding unfair, unsafe, or illicit trade – including in U.S. supply chains.

A wide variety of laws and government regulations apply when people or objects enter or leave the U.S. For example, numerous federal agencies create food or agricultural products regulations, including the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

These agencies can limit what can enter or leave the country, and all regulations are considered customs restrictions. Though customs laws and regulations can change often, common violations occur in several areas.

Import violations

Importing goods into the country, like bringing in personal items when you travel, is subject to specific declarations and notifications.

Besides breaking the law, the import process involves paying import taxes and filing documents accurately and on time. These include filing the pivotal ISF (10+2) and  Entry summary (Entry 7501) documents. In addition, the CBP expects compliance with its regulations. Therefore, it is strict regarding inaccurate information provisions, such as the imported product valuation, classification, country of origin, late filing of documents, or goods not declared or invoiced.

Trying to conceal the nature of the imports, their origin, or value to avoid import duties can also be criminal. Individuals can violate import duties when, for example, they try to bring in large amounts of tobacco or alcohol products without paying the required duty. The penalty can be dealt out to the importer of record, consignees,  institutions, companies and their employees,  or any other party involved in the import.

Federal violations

Various federal and state laws also have import compliance regulations and can result in penalization. Examples include the possession of certain types of items, such as weapons or illegal drugs. In addition, attempting to bring prohibited items into the country, or bringing people in without going through customs procedures, is known as smuggling.

Smuggling can involve several specific crimes, depending on the nature of the items smuggled and the actions of those involved. If government laws are infringed, the CBP can proceed to criminal prosecution even against a suspected individual offender.

Criminal penalties

Criminal penalties vary depending on the nature of the importer’s crime, but typically they include the following punishments:

  • Fines for criminal customs violations can be substantial. One criminal act can result in penalties of a few thousand dollars to a million dollars or more.
  • Some customs violations can result in a prison sentence, particularly for smuggling. For instance, making a false declaration when entering the country can lead to up to two years in prison, while violating export restrictions can result in a 10-year prison sentence for each offense.
  • Customs violations can also result in probation sentences. A person sentenced to probation must serve at least a 12-month sentence or much longer. During this time, the violator must comply with several court-imposed rules.

Loss of government revenue

CBP enforcement for non-compliance is also based on whether an import caused a loss of revenue to the country.  If this is the case, the importer is classified in three ways following the extent of the loss:

  • Fraud violation
  • Negligence
  • Gross negligence

When an importer is penalized, the CBP notes this in their compliance database. The record may cause the importer to face more regular customs inspections and longer processing times with future imports.

Do you get a warning?

Yes. If found to be non-compliant, a company or individual importer can expect to receive CBP pre-penalty notification. The warning delivers a 30-day deadline for parties to make their case as to why they should not be penalized. Their response is called a “petition for relief.” The CBP will then decide against the penalty, but this is less common. If there is still no payment, the Court of International Trade can initiate a collection action.

Going digital

Going digital is beneficial. Importers can use online information and digital platforms to quicken the clearance process and avoid penalties for common avoidable mistakes, such as late filing. Mistakes are not the same as deliberate law-breaking.

The CBP encourages importers to pay all fees via its ACH (automated clearing house) electronic payment system. This process accelerates the clearance process, removes the probability of late clearance, and saves importers money.

eezyimport offers advanced user-friendly features to help importers sail through customs clearance and avoid penalties along the way. Moreover, the platform enables importers to become self-filers. So, in addition to easing the import process by cutting out the middleman (e.g., broker or brokerage company), importers save time and money, gain knowledge and understanding, and transparency and control over the customs import process.

However, importers still need to stay up-to-date on regulations and requirements by reviewing the latest trade processes and conditions should they change – and they sometimes do. One cannot rely on advice to avoid penalties from others in the industry.

The best advice is to use your common sense. If something about a transaction feels wrong, stop and investigate!


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eezyimport is an online platform and is not a licensed customs broker. However, we work closely with a third-party licensed customs broker who can assist with any entry-related issues.

eezyimport is an online platform and is not a licensed customs broker. However, we work closely with a third-party licensed customs broker who can assist with any entry-related issues.

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