Industry News

Customs Cracks Down on Invoice Descriptions

Apr. 2, 2024
By: David G. Forgue

Importers are responsible to report the tariff classification of goods they import to Customs. This is a primary requirement under the law and has ramifications for the use of trade preference programs, as well as the application of certain additional duties. In other words, it’s a big deal. That’s likely why the Customs regulations require detailed invoice descriptions of imported goods no fewer than five separate places.

That being said, brokers, importers, Customs, and anyone else who looks at entries knows that this requirement is rarely enforced. Invoices with descriptions like “automotive parts” or “accessories” are common and utterly unhelpful. This is especially true when we see bearings (for instance) called “parts” (they’re not).

Now Customs is letting the trade know that it sees these vague descriptions and doesn’t like them. In a message to the trade, Customs indicated that it will communicate with importers when it sees overly vague invoice descriptions. For the time being the expectation is that the important will work with the vendor to create more legally appropriate descriptions. One can (very easily) imagine that the next step will be enforcement. That means that now is a great time to craft meaningful invoice descriptions with your vendors and avoid more attention from Customs than is necessary.

Do not hesitate to contact Barnes, Richardson & Colburn, LLP if you have any questions about import processes.