U.S. Customs’ Internal Assessment Program – Right for your Business?

Businesses that regularly import goods into the U.S. face the possibility each year of being selected for a Customs and Border Patrol “Focused Assessment.” What is a focused assessment?  Quite simply, it’s an audit.

Each year, CBP selects importers and conducts an exhaustive review to ensure those businesses are in compliance with all CBP controls, regulations and mandates.  As you might expect, the audit process can be exhaustive, costly and time-consuming.  Fortunately, there is a way to avoid having your business entered in the audit lottery – CBP’s Internal Assessment Program.

The Internal Assessment Program was introduced in 2002 as a way to facilitate the border clearance process for importers that have maintained a consistent record for compliance with all Customs mandates and regulations.  In exchange for agreeing to stringent internal controls and self-assessment protocols, IAP participants are exempted from Customs audits, and can also avoid costly and time-consuming inspections.

Interested businesses submit an application to CBP, and then successfully complete a rigorous review process.  Among the requirements necessary for consideration:

  • Business must be a member of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program.
  • Must be a resident importer with at least two years experience.
  • Must agree to comply with all applicable Customs regulations.
  • Must have detailed records of prior compliance with Customs regulations.

The Internal Assessment Program is very popular with importers anxious to avoid the rigors of a CBP audit.  It’s also a way to send a signal to customers and associates that your business has significant risk management and internal controls in place – strong enough to pass muster with the federal government.