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Foreign sellers or shippers must exercise care in preparing invoices and other documents used to enter goods into the commerce of the United States in order for their importers to avoid difficulties, delays, or possibly even penal sanctions. Each document must contain all information required by law or regulations, and every statement of fact contained in the documents must be true and accurate.


Any inaccurate or misleading statement of fact in a document presented to a CBP officer in connection with an entry, or the omission from the document of required information, may result in delays in merchandise release, the detention of the goods, or a claim against the importer for domestic value. Even though the inaccuracy or omission might have been unintentional, the importer may be required to establish that he exercised due diligence and was not negligent, in order to avoid sanctions with consequent delay in obtaining possession of goods and closing the transaction. (See 19 U.S.C. 1592.)


It is particularly important that all statements relating to merchandise description, price or value, and amounts of discounts, charges, and commissions be truthfully and accurately set forth. It is also important that the invoices set forth the true name of the actual seller and purchaser of the goods, in the case of purchased goods, or the true name of the actual consignor and consignee when the goods are shipped otherwise than in pursuance of a purchase. It is important, too, that the invoice otherwise reflect the real nature of the transaction pursuant to which the goods were shipped to the United States.


The fundamental rule is that both the shipper and importer must furnish CBP officers with all pertinent information with respect to each import transaction to assist CBP officers in determining the tariff status of the goods. Examples of omissions and inaccuracies to be avoided are:

  1. The shipper assumes that a commission, royalty, or other charge against the goods is a so‑called “nondutiable” item and omits it from the invoice.

  2. A foreign shipper who purchases goods and sells them to a United States importer at a delivered price shows on the invoice the cost of the goods to him instead of the delivered price.

  3. A foreign shipper manufactures goods partly with the use of materials supplied by the United States importer, but invoices the goods at the actual cost to the manufacturer without including the value of the materials supplied by the importer.

  4. The foreign manufacturer ships replacement goods to his customer in the United States and invoices the goods at the net price without showing the full price less the allowance for defective goods previously shipped and returned.

  5. A foreign shipper who sells goods at list price, less a discount, invoices them at the net price, and fails to show the discount.

  6. A foreign shipper sells goods at a delivered price but invoices them at a price f.o.b. the place of shipment and omits the subsequent charges.

  7. A foreign shipper indicates in the invoice that the importer is the purchaser, whereas he is in fact either an agent who is receiving a commission for selling the goods or a party who will receive part of the proceeds of the sale of the goods sold for the joint account of the shipper and consignee.

  8. Invoice descriptions are vague, listing only part numbers, truncated or coded descriptions, or lumping various articles together as one when several distinct items are included.

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