Congress Finally Passes the Miscellaneous Trade Act; Law Modifies Various Customs Provisions

International Alert

The President signed into law the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-429) (“MTB”) on December 3, 2004. Along with duty reduction and suspension provisions for various specific commodities, the MTB makes significant changes to the Customs process and requirements in the areas of entry of merchandise, liquidation, protest, reconciliation, and drawback so that the development of the Automated Commercial Environment (“ACE”) can proceed. The majority of the provisions in the MTB took effect on December 18, 2004.

IASS, Reconfigured Entries and Reconciliation

The MTB amends 19 U.S.C. § 1484 to permit development of the periodic entry, commonly referred to as the Import Activity Summary Statement (“IASS”), and introduces a new term, “reconfigured entry.” A reconfigured entry allows importers to aggregate product information that otherwise would be reported on individual entry summaries, CBP Form 7501, filed during a calendar month. Thus, if a company filed 50 entries during a month, each containing 100 hats, a single IASS could be filed with a single line showing the importation of 5,000 hats; thus, those 50 entries would be reported as a single “reconfigured entry.” The MTB also provides for reconciliation of these reconfigured entries. These new provisions will not become effective until Customs issues regulations implementing them.

Time to File a Protest Extended; Authority of Customs to Correct Certain Mistakes Repealed

Two major changes to the Customs law made by the MTB are the expansion of the time in which to file a protest from 90 to 180 days, and the elimination of 19 U.S.C. § 1520(c), which allowed an importer one year from the date of entry to seek a refund of an overpayment that resulted from a clerical error, mistake of fact or other inadvertence not amounting to an error in the construction of law. A protest pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1514 now is the only means to recover overpayments of duty whether they resulted from errors in the construction of a law or clerical errors, mistakes of fact, or other inadvertences.

Additionally, because the time to file a protest was extended by three months and Customs does not normally consider a protest until the time to file the protest expires, the MTB allows an importer to file a request for an accelerated disposition of a protest. Such request may be made concurrently with the filing of the protest and prevents the importer from subsequently amending the protest.

Time Period to File a Reconciliation Entry Extended

The MTB also extends the period of time an importer has to file most reconciliation entries from 15 months to 21 months (NAFTA reconciliation entries must still be filed within 12 months). The MTB also changes the date that an entry shall be deemed liquidated to include reconfigured entries and applies this law to post-entry declarations made by an importer. Numerous technical changes also were made to the duty drawback laws in order to simplify the administration of drawback and ease the regulatory burdens associated with the statute.

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