New Bill Targets Duty Cheating by Foreign Companies

March 22, 2013
The Customs Training Enhancement Act would help identify those who import foreign goods without paying duties.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) introduced The Customs Training Enhancement Act this week in response to foreign companies avoiding duties by misclassifying and undervaluing products or by shipping goods from one country to another on their way to the United States in order to disguise the country of origin.

This legislation would facilitate the sharing of information between the private sector and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, enabling the government to identify those who import foreign goods without paying duties.

The bill, which was folded into Democratic and Republican versions of more comprehensive Customs legislation in the previous Congress, is an effort to help American businesses “level the playing field” so they can better compete against overseas companies. 

“Blatant cheating by foreign firms has become more widespread at a time when American employers and workers are already at a serious disadvantage,” Rep. Lipinski said. “This is not only bad for American business, but it hurts taxpayers by robbing the federal government of taxes it is rightfully owed. This Act allows impacted industries to provide our Customs agents the critical intelligence they need to spot the cheaters.” 

Since 2001, importers and exporters of goods into the United States have avoided paying $600 million in duties, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which estimates that 90 percent of all transshipped or mislabeled items originated in China. Under this bill, Customs and Border Protection would be required to seek out companies and trade groups that have information that can identify misrepresented shipments. That information, in turn, would be shared directly from these industry experts to Customs agents.

The Customs Training Enhancement Act is modeled on a successful program forged between the steel industry and Customs and Border Protection in which company and industry officials have taught Customs agents how to spot products that have been deliberately mislabeled.

“The steel industry has shown us a public-private partnership that saves taxpayers millions of dollars while costing the federal government very few, if any, resources,” Lipinski said. “We need to expand this program.”

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