U.S. Customs and Border Protection is planning to conduct a pilot test of the electronic payment of taxes and fees imposed on commercial vessels at four ports of entry. This pilot will start no earlier than Jan. 8, 2018, and run for 18 months. CBP states that the pilot will not affect the amount of taxes and fees due, the clearance process, or the proof of documentation required to be presented.

CBP collects various maritime taxes and fees with regard to commercial vessels that enter ports of entry, proceed coast-wise, or utilize certain customs services at a port. These include tonnage taxes and light money, Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act user fees, agriculture quarantine and inspection user fees, and navigation fees. CBP regulations require payment of these taxes and fees by cash or check and specify a paper-based payment process that occurs either onboard the vessel or at the port office.

However, CBP is working to eliminate cash and check payments of maritime taxes and fees by allowing for electronic payments and automating the collection and receipt process. Toward that end, the forthcoming pilot will introduce the mobile collections and receipt system, which through its interface with and the Automated Commercial Environment will give participants the option to pay the taxes and fees specified above online upon or prior to vessel arrival at the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach; New Orleans; Gulfport, Miss.; and Mobile, Ala. The pilot will also introduce portable electronic devices that authorized CBP employees will use to view commercial vessel arrival data, automatically calculate applicable fees, electronically process payments, and send receipts via email.

Any commercial vessel agent or other entity responsible for payment of commercial vessel taxes and fees at the designated ports of entry may participate in the pilot. No application is required to participate, but to receive notification emails from the MCR system a commercial vessel agent or other party submitting payment must create an MCR profile and maintain a valid email address as part of the profile.

CBP notes that if the pilot works successfully it may be expanded to additional ports of entry, extended for an additional period of time, and/or expanded to include additional maritime fees.

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