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Many global traders aren't taking full advantage of techniques that could save them "substantial amounts of money," according to attorney Tom Travis of Miami, Fla.-based Sandler & Travis Trade Advisory Services, Inc. Mistakes, he said, fall into two categories: either companies don't meet all of the requirements for conducted trade in a legal manner, or they are unaware of trade programs and other duty-saving techniques. "Fallout from 9/11 and a spate of recent product-safety concerns have created a wealth of new regulations," Travis said. "If you're not on top of the details, you're at risk for customs audits and other expensive problems." In particular, he said, many companies haven't moved their sourcing to countries that are part of duty-preference programs such as the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Others don't know that they are eligible for refunds under duty-drawback rules. Travis recommended that companies undertake a complete analysis of data collected and submitted in connection with U.S. Customs' Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), before shifting their sourcing. Such an exercise would allow them to identify countries that are considered "high risk" by Customs. Travis said companies should keep comprehensive records of all transactions, in order to qualify for preferential country-of-origin programs such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). Another potential side effect of improper documentation is the overpayment of duties. "It's difficult to get the money back once you've paid it," said Travis. He further recommended that traders take care in ensuring that goods are properly valued, in order to reduce the risk of audits. Finally, they should be vigilant about making sure that all filers are authorized, with brokers having a valid power of attorney on hand to perform Customs business on their clients' behalf. "This will keep you out of costly legal trouble," he said.
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