Keeping records organized can be a tedious task. Furthermore, when it comes to past shipments and transactions, sometimes it feels like there’s no point in keeping all those papers and digital documents around. But what many shippers, freight forwarders, and 3PLs don’t realize is that the government has strict regulations regarding record keeping as it relates to international shipping.
The CBP (Customs Border Protection) has detailed specific legalities for what needs to be kept, as well as the periods of time each type of document is required to be kept. As you might expect, there are some not-so-fun consequences for failing to adhere to CBP record keeping laws. Let’s take a look at these laws as mentioned on the U.S. CBP website:
- 163.4 Record retention period.
(a) General. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of this section, any record required to be made, kept, and rendered for examination and inspection by Customs under §163.2 or any other provision of this chapter shall be kept for 5 years from the date of entry, if the record relates to an entry, or 5 years from the date of the activity which required creation of the record.
(b) Exceptions. (1) Any record relating to a drawback claim shall be kept until the third anniversary of the date of payment of the claim.
(2) Packing lists shall be retained for a period of 60 calendar days from the end of the release or conditional release period, whichever is later, or, if a demand for return to Customs custody has been issued, for a period of 60 calendar days either from the date the goods are redelivered or from the date specified in the demand as the latest redelivery date if redelivery has not taken place.
(3) A consignee who is not the owner or purchaser and who appoints a customs broker shall keep a record pertaining to merchandise covered by an informal entry for 2 years from the date of the informal entry.
(4) Records pertaining to articles that are admitted free of duty and tax pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1321(a)(2) and §§10.151 through 10.153 of this chapter, and carriers’ records pertaining to manifested cargo that is exempt from entry under the provisions of this chapter, shall be kept for 2 years from the date of the entry or other activity which required creation of the record.
(5) If another provision of this chapter sets forth a retention period for a specific type of record that differs from the period that would apply under this section, that other provision controls.
Above is the comprehensive that the CBP has put in place regarding record retention. The laws are pretty straight forwarder and easy to follow, and with shipping CRM software, storing attachments and historic records should be relatively simple. Make sure that your company is using a cloud-based management system for file storage to keep yourself from losing data. Storing files on physical hard-drives is a risky process that can end you up in legal trouble if the wrong files are destroyed from an accidental system failure.
If you have any questions about record keeping practices, need recommendations for shipping CRM software, or would like to learn more about CBP law, our team at Interlog USA is happy to help! Please don’t hesitate to contact one of our team members with your list of questions and we’ll be sure to respond in a timely manner!