Voluntarily disclosing honest errors on export or import paperwork to the U.S. Customs Service will not result in criminal penalties or heavy fines in most cases, said Gregory Rogers, senior special agent with Customs’ office of investigations, at a March 27 seminar.

“We frown on criminal penalties.  That would defeat the purpose of prior disclosure,” said Mr. Rogers.  In most cases, he added, paying any duty owed and correcting the error will take care of the problem.

Mr. Rogers and several of his colleagues at Customs spoke at a question and answer session sponsored by the Atlanta Women in International Trade (AWIT) at the Georgia-Pacific Building about the changes in Customs procedures under 1993’s Customs Modernization Act.

The Customs agents told attendees that the “Mod Act” has shifted the agency’s emphasis toward working with importers and exporters rather than policing them.

The new regulations are still in the “informed compliance” phase, said Yvonne Williams, a senior inspector.  If importers or exporters have questions on how to classify a product or whether it is allowed into the U.S., agents will come to the company’s office to inspect the item and offer advice, she added.

However, while an agent will advise a company how to correct a minor violation, products with major violations may be seized, said Ms. Williams.

Regina Tutt, a field audit specialist for bonded warehouses, added that the new compliance assessment reviews, or audits, will be looking at record-keeping, classifications systems and overall compliance, rather than searching out every minor error.

For more information about this program, call AWIT at (770) 621-2519.