Building an Effective Import Compliance Program

Q: How do shippers create an importing program?

A: Meeting import control obligations need not be a painful experience. Proactive import compliance planning and governance will minimize the risks and negative consequences of non-compliance.

First, understand current import laws and regulations. Familiarize yourself with government policies and procedures prior to actually importing your goods. You should also be aware of any entry requirements specific to the particular commodity you are importing.

Second, articulate and circulate a compliance program to educate staff.

Third, facilitate implementation with administrative support and technology tools. By providing easy access to appropriate technology-based tools and processes for everyone involved, you’ll facilitate consistent implementation of your import compliance program.

Q: What practices can facilitate implementing an importing program?

A: An import compliance plan is of little practical value unless implemented consistently across the enterprise. But the requisite due diligence screening of restricted parties, recordkeeping, monitoring, review, and audit processes can make compliance tedious and time-consuming. Rapidly changing restricted-party lists further complicate the process.

With the appropriate groundwork, every institution can deploy a technology solution that facilitates and dramatically improves process efficiency and accuracy. Improved efficiency also enhances the likelihood that employees will comply consistently.

Some best practices to consider while creating an import compliance program include: establishing a clear position on governance; implementing continuous risk assessment; creating a written compliance guidance manual; establishing internal recordkeeping, review, and audit processes; implementing screening protocols; automating the import compliance process; and highlighting the penalties for non-compliance.

Many first-time importers consult a licensed customs broker for help filing entries, particularly if they find the process complicated. Remember, however, that even when using a broker, the importer of record is ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the entry documentation and all applicable duties, taxes, and fees.

Q: What should companies look for in a technology solution?

A: As with all technology, finding the best fit is important. Here are a few qualities to look for in an import compliance solution: ease of deployment, preferably available using a subscription-based, on-demand model; ease of use, including multiple integration points with other in-house systems; accurate and real-time content updates from government sources; and fully automated and comprehensive screening against active global government-issued denied-party lists.

A good technology solution should also have advanced tools to identify controlled technologies and determine import license requirements for all possible scenarios; flexible restricted-party screening rules; and backing from a provider with proven experience in global trade management, automation, and trade compliance solutions.

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