Some Import Duties Temporarily Postponed

As part of ongoing relief efforts for U.S. businesses, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced that it is temporarily postponing deadlines for importers to deposit certain estimated duties, taxes and fees. A temporary final rule was issued over the weekend by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Treasury, postponing payments that would otherwise be due on the date of entry or withdrawal from warehouse, for consumption, for merchandise entered in March or April 2020. Additionally, no interest that would normally accrue will do so during a 90-day postponement period.

In order to capitalize on the 90-day extension, companies must prove “significant financial hardship” by way of fully or partially suspended operations amid the months of March or April 2020, stemming from government orders limiting commerce, travel or group meetings, due to COVID-19. Gross receipts must be recorded for March 13-31, 2020, or April 2020 proving less than 60% of those recorded for the same period in 2019.

The temporary final rule is made possible by Proclamation 9994, issued by the president on March 13, 2020, declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). Under such conditions, the president may authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to “extend during the continuance of such emergency the time prescribed for the performance of any act.” Under those conditions, the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with CBP, decided there is just reason to forgo the need for public notice and opportunity to comment before finalizing the rule—also finding good cause to make the temporary final rule effective immediately.

The remedy does not allow for the return of deposits. It also doesn’t apply to imports currently subject to anti-dumping and countervailing duties or tariffs. Those must still be paid on time.

“Many importers of record will be receiving diminished or no revenue during this time while still incurring costs, including the duties, taxes, and fees associated with imported merchandise for their clients and supply chains,” the temporary final rule states. “Aggravating matters, many major retail chains and other businesses are closing for business—either voluntarily in response to the president’s call or following state or local government requirements,” it adds, noting that many of those same importers are experiencing difficulty authorizing and logging payments, as employees work remotely or experience technical difficulties.

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