Customs Audit: A Survival Guide

A customs audit is a review of a business to assess whether or not the business is in compliance with U.S. Customs laws and regulations. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, audits initiated by the Office of Regulatory Audit Field and Branch Offices can be conducted to address specific import issues or as a general Focused Assessment Audit which reviews a company’s internal controls over its import business. If your business is involved in import and may be audited, here’s a quick look at some tips for surviving an audit – for professional legal help during the process, don’t hesitate to contact the customs attorneys at the Law Offices of Paula M. Connelly today.

Know Your Obligations

The first thing that you should do when preparing for a Customs audit is to understand what the audit is addressing and what the company’s legal obligations may be. During a Customs audit, you will be required to provide all specific documents and Customs entries that the auditors may request from you.   These documents can vary depending upon what is at issue and in some instances you may also need to work with foreign suppliers to obtain certain documents.

Records and Data You Should Prepare

The second thing that you should do after receiving notice of an audit, is to determine what documents are needed for the audit and also determine if there are any potential violations that should be addressed or disclosed to Customs prior to the start of the audit. Examples of some of the documents that may be requested include the following:

  • Customs Entries
  • Invoices and purchase orders
  • Written compliance procedures
  • Proof of payment to foreign vendors
  • General Ledger of Accounts

The list above is not inclusive – you should be prepared to comply with all requests for relevant records or data concerning the import practices of your business.

Review Harmonized Tariff Schedule Classifications

U.S. Customs requires importers to ensure that the correct HTS provision is reported at the time of entry. However, oftentimes during an audit, the HTS Classification becomes an area of concern for auditors as the HTS provisions used by the importer may be determined to be incorrect upon further review by Customs.  The HTS provision affects the rate of customs duties that a business pays, as well as whether or not that business is subject to any specific requirements. The auditors and other Customs officials will most likely have a number of questions about your product classifications, including how they were determined, who determined the classification, and whether or not the company’s classifications are in fact correct for your imported products..

Contact a Customs and Trade Attorney Today

In preparing for a customs audit, it is important for your business to hire a customs attorney to assist you throughout the process. An attorney can advise you on what you need to know about records and data you’ll be required to provide, can help you to prepare for the audit, and can represent your interests in the event that a customs violation has occurred. At the Law Offices of Paula M. Connelly, our customs attorneys have the experience that your business needs for a smooth audit process. If have more questions about the audit process or your right to legal representation, call us today at 781-897-1771.


The information contained in this Website is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

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