Passenger van or cargo van? That is the question (well, for Ford at least).

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A current case in federal court is attempting to address when or if a passenger van is actually a cargo van.

The case involves Ford Motor Company and their imports of passenger vans that removed a row of seats and sold the vehicles as cargo vans. Cargo vans were levied a duty of 25%, whereas their passenger van counterparts were only taxes 2.5%. Specifically, Ford imported “passenger vans” into the US from Turkey. After they cleared customs, the second row of seats were removed, windows blocked and holes on the floorboard for the seats were covered.

In 2017, the Court of International Trade ruled in Ford’s favor, but the government has appealed and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments yesterday (Monday 11, 2019). Many are watching the ruling as this may impact what strategies companies implement when “tariff engineering” imports to avoid higher duty amounts.

Tariff engineering and finding alternate classifications under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the US (HTSUS) are common ways importers try to lower their duty amounts.

The Ford argument is the goods should be classified as they are imported and subsequent altering does not matter. However, the government claims Ford’s wording of the vehicle is “for the transport of persons” instead of goods, ie is a cargo van.

Will update as soon as a decision is made.

If you are interested in how your company can “tariff engineer” goods or want to discuss alternative classifications for your goods, contact experienced trade attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or email David’s catchall email: attorney.dave@yahoo.com (will be sent to David’s dh@gjatradelaw.com) email.

Court of International Trade sides with Canadian textile importer and dismisses Customs $4.5 million penalty claim.

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In a just released decision by the the U.S. Court of International Trade (CIT), the CIT dismissed U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) efforts to collect $4.5 million in penalties against Tricots Liesse 1983, Inc. (Tricots), a Candian textile company importing goods into the US. The full text of the CIT Slip Op. 18-29 can be found here.

In the instant case, Tricots tried to correct NAFTA rules of origin claims by filing a prior disclosure with CBP. CBP issued an administrative penalty and duty demand while not providing Tricots an opporutnity for oral hearings during the administrative proceedings. CBP then filed suit against Tricots in the CIT to collect $4.5 MM in penalties and duties. In response, Tricots filed a motion to dismiss the claims because CBP did not allow Tricots the opportunity to attempt administrative remedies.

In short, the CIT opinion faults CBP for not allowing Tricots a “reasonable opportunity” to make oral representations after issuing the penalty notice. This decision helps future importers by ensuring any importer has the opportunity to receive an administrative hearing before CBP imposes a penalty.

If you have received a penalty notice from Customs and need assistance, contact experienced trade and customs attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288, or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com.