I’m at the point in teaching my 16-year-old daughter to drive that we’re now out on highways, making the long drives to practice staying in lanes, merging onto expressways, and staying within the speed limit, so we have time to talk a little about things other than watching out for bicyclists and what to do if a squirrel jumps out in front of you (bye, bye squirrel). Lately, we’ve been chatting about TV shows she used to watch when she was little – Teletubbies, Zoboomafoo, and, a perennial favorite, Thomas the Tank Engine. Sir Topham Hatt, the director of the railway, reserves his highest praise for the trains in very unique situations, such as pulling a load of school children up a steep hill, or helping a larger engine push an extremely heavy load of coal. At the conclusion of the episode, he would intone, “You are a Really Useful Engine.”
Are you set up to use ACE yet? Yes, the Gas Buddy app on my phone has more bells and whistles than ACE, but, if you have the perseverance to register and then get into ACE, you’ll find that is has some really useful features. Go to http://www.cbp.gov/trade/automated, and click the “Apply for an Account” icon. Importers usually take one look at the application (apparently developed during the Reagan Administration with cutting edge software tools of the time), and figure they’ll work on it some other day. But consider that ACE is meant to be used by anyone in the importing biz, and you’ll see why the form is so comprehensive. As an importer, there are only a few fields that need to be completed to obtain login privileges to the portal – the company name, tax ID number, and date of fiscal year end, the names and contact info of a company officer and the user of the portal, the hire dates for these people (no need to use birthdates), and an electronic signature for each. Hit SUBMIT, and the application gets rolled up and attached to an e-mail directed to CBP. You’ll then receive a couple of e-mails from CBP with your login name (also known as “the shared secret”), and a place to go to obtain a temporary password that then gets you into the portal so you can set yourself up as a user.
Once you are logged in to the portal, the first thing to do is tick the ACCOUNTS tab at the top of the page, change the defaulted view from BROKER to IMPORTER, and click GO. Now you will have access to almost everything CBP can see about you.
Want to know which brokers have been filing entries in your name? Check.
How much duty did you pay in October 2013? Check.
Which HTS codes have been used to report the merchandise you have imported? Check.
Maneuvering through ACE is a bit cumbersome, and you want to keep track of how you get to certain places that yield results that are helpful, but with practice, you’ll be able to search for ADD/CVD cases, ascertain that your bonds are in place and sufficient, check your periodic statement, find liquidation reports, file ISF or get reports on what has been filed for you, and run reports on your import activity. If one of the pre-formed reports is missing something or has a little too much info, you can customize the reports to your liking, save them as favorites, and even arrange to have them e-mailed to you on a regular schedule. Great tools to manage your audit program, collect info on costs (and think about possible savings opportunities), and, eventually, respond to CF28s or other communications from CBP. Is using ACE an indicator of Reasonable Care? Can’t hurt. Add to this the fact that EXPORT information will also soon be visible through the ACE portal, and you truly do have a Really Useful Engine.