U.S. Customs and Border Protection is expanding its enforcement efforts by targeting importers it suspects may have compliance deficiencies with respect to the Lacey Act declaration requirement and related customs issues.

As amended in 2008, the Lacey Act requires imports of certain plants and plant products to be accompanied by an import declaration that contains, among other things, the scientific name of the plant, the value of the importation, the quantity of the plant, and the name of the country where the plant was harvested. For paper and paperboard products containing recycled content, the declaration also must include the average percent of recycled content without regard for species or country of harvest. Click here for the most recent list of plants and plants products subject to the import declaration requirement.

In recent weeks members of the importing community dealing with goods covered by the Lacey Act have been receiving letters from CBP that include CBP guidance on the declaration requirement, a list of relevant materials from the website of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and background materials from the website of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The letters also request sample entry packages for related shipments.

Particular attention should be paid to the documents listed in the letters, as they provide clues to the areas CBP would likely scrutinize in a review. Although the letters appear designed to encourage self-reviews and prior disclosures of any problems discovered by emphasizing importers’ obligation to exercise reasonable care in declaring items to CBP, they also warn that CBP will pursue penalty actions such as seizure and forfeiture of imported goods and/or the assessment of monetary penalties if an audit uncovers noncompliance. Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg’s former CBP attorneys and regulatory auditors emphasize that self-reviews should be undertaken under the protection of attorney-client privilege.

For more information, please contact Larry Ordet at (305) 894-1003. Click here to access a webinar on steps you can take to mitigate compliance risks.

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