Assurance Needed That Import Classifications Are Accurate

Gao ID: GGD-81-46 April 23, 1981

Proper tariff classification is essential for determining the appropriate import duty, treating importers consistently, and compiling import data for formulating trade policies. GAO reviewed a random sample of 50 entries at each of three Customs Service field offices.

Most of the products in the entries were accepted solely on the basis of import specialists' reviews of entry papers submitted by importers or their brokers. Entry classification verifications were limited as evidenced by the fact that: of the products susceptible to laboratory analysis, only a few were analyzed; from 75 to 89 percent of the products were probably never physically examined; and for most of the product line items, there was no coordination with the Customs Information Exchange to insure correct and uniform classification. Customs Service import specialists have insufficient time and means to adequately verify Tariff Schedule classifications. Verification is hindered, in part, by a cursory entry-by-entry review of entries, a relatively large number of incorrect entry documents which are rejected and must be resubmitted, and the lack of a quality assurance program. The Customs Service's problems are intensified by a relatively unchanged work force and a sharply increased workload. Without additional resources, Customs may not be able to ensure that imports are properly classified. Substantial improvements have not been made because of insufficient management support and followup. Customs has been unsuccessful in implementing measures which would enable import specialists to focus only on selected entries, enable Customs to require brokers with continual poor performance to improve performance, provide import specialists with quick classification and legal assistance, monitor import specialists' performance, and reallocate positions of import specialists.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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