Consolidated guidelines on accreditation of importers

THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) recently issued Customs Administrative Order (CAO) 07-2022, which provides revised guidelines on the accreditation of importers and consolidates three previous issuances: Customs Memorandum Orders 11-2014, 05-2018 and 31-2019.

CAO 07-2022 primarily outlines the application process for new applications and the renewal of accreditation. It covers all importers who transact with BoC concerning the importation, movement and clearance of goods. These include other government agencies or instrumentalities; foreign governments, officials and representatives; and international organizations. Under the order, the BoC may allow one-time accreditation for importers with a high level of customs compliance under the Authorized Economic Operators and other trade facilitation programs.

The CAO mandates that an electronic copy of the application and requisite documents be submitted to the Accounts Management Office or equivalent office through the Customer Care Center. For new applications, a company profile with geotagged photos of the importer’s office and warehouse/storage area, if applicable, is required. There are additional requirements in the case of joint venture applicants and a different set of documentary requirements for applicants from other government agencies and instrumentalities or those enjoying special or diplomatic privileges. Importers are also required to submit an updated list of importables with pictures.

The BoC’s Client Profile Registration System will remain. It mandates the mandatory disclosure of certain information such as the responsible officers of the importer, declarants of the importer, if any, and other material information.

The CAO also provides for specific persons who may be registered as the importer’s declarant. For natural persons, the importer himself/herself or his/her authorized representative, through a special power of attorney, may be registered. For juridical entities, only responsible officers authorized through a secretary’s or partners’ certificate, or by the head of office for government agencies, may be registered as the declarant.

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The period to act on the application for accreditation is now seven working days from receipt of complete documentary requirements. This effectively shortened the previous timeline of 15 working days under CAO 11-2014.

Renewal applications must be filed not earlier than 30 calendar days before the expiration of the importer’s accreditation. However, filing the application less than seven working days before expiration will be considered late renewal. CAO 07-2022 provides for an application for automatic renewal of accreditation at least seven working days prior to its expiration.

CAO 07-2022 also comprehensively enumerates the responsibilities of the importer in relation to accreditation, goods declaration, post-clearance audit and enforcement of the CMTA (Customs Modernization and Tariff Act). It lists violations and corresponding penalties without prejudice to criminal or other actions that may be initiated by the BoC. The order also details mitigating and/or aggravating circumstances.

In case of conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude at any time after the filing of an application for accreditation or during the period of its validity, the importer, responsible officers and the declarant will be barred or blacklisted from transacting with the BoC. The offender will also be disqualified from applying for accreditation under another business name or entity or from being declared as such under a new accreditation application and may no longer be allowed to enter customs premises.

CAO 07-2022 elaborates on the different treatments of suspended, canceled and revoked accreditations as well as remedies in case of disapproved applications and suspension, revocation or blacklisting. In case of suspension of accreditation, the importer may still request for continuous processing of all shipments that are still in transit or have arrived at ports on or prior to the suspension.

The BoC will likewise issue separate guidelines for the accreditation, registration or monitoring of other types of importers such as non-regular importers (or persons/entities who import goods and consequently transact with the BoC on one occasion only covered by a single bill of lading or air waybill within 365 days to be reckoned from the approval of the application for registration), importers of postal items, importers of goods cleared exclusively through the informal entry process, registered free zone business enterprises/locators and other importers as may be determined by the BoC commissioner. They remain subject to the same responsibilities and penalties provided under CAO 07-2022.

The validity of customs accreditation is one year from the date of approval. Importers must be mindful of the period as an expired accreditation will affect the release of imported goods from BoC custody.

In issuing CAO 07-2022, the BoC clearly intended to enhance its risk management and enforcement capabilities and introduce simplified accreditation and clearance procedures for importers.

Gwendolyn Ann I. Bañaria is a junior associate of Mata-Perez, Tamayo & Francisco (MTF) Law offices. This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. If you have any question or comment regarding this article, you may email the author at [email protected] or visit MTF website at www.mtfcounsel.com.