We help importers navigate the complex Customs regulations in order to mitigate the risk of noncompliance with these regulations.

Maher M. Shomali

by Maher Shomali


Thomsen and Burke’s Customs practice covers a wide range of U.S. import issues involving the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including compliance with CBP’s requirements during the entry process (classification, valuation, etc.) and mitigation of fines and penalties for failures to comply with these requirements. Thomsen and Burke assists clients with the following Customs Services:

Customs Services

Tariff Classifications

When goods are imported into the United States, they must be classified in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). It used to be CBP’s responsibility to classify the goods, but it is now the responsibility of the importer to use “reasonable care” to classify the goods. Failure to do so may lead to import delays, increased duties, detention or seizure of the merchandise, or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties. This is why many companies importing from overseas territories like China use third-party inspectors to make sure that reasonable care is taken before they are shipped (learn more about pre-shipment inspections and audits).

Importers have two options: request a binding, administrative ruling from CBP, or use the services of experts in customs law and procedures to assist them. This will include using fleets for importing these goods, as well as implementing the services of companies such as Tenstreet. Thomsen and Burke’s Customs practice is designed to assist importers with Tariff Classifications under the HTSUS, either through a formal ruling from CBP or a self-assessment, in order to avoid the potential delays and penalties associated with misclassification.


Importers are also required to determine the value of goods during the entry process. CBP sets forth different methods of appraisement that must be followed by the importer. The preferred method is Transaction Value, which is the price actually paid or payable for the merchandise when sold for exportation to the U.S., plus other amounts (costs, commissions, assists, etc.). Secondary methods of valuation include Transaction Value of Identical Merchandise, Transaction Value of Similar Merchandise, Deductive Value, Computed Value and Values if other Values Cannot be Determined.

Like misclassifications, improper valuation can lead to paying a greater amount of duty than necessary, or conversely, fines and penalties for under declaring the value of merchandise. Thomsen and Burke helps importers determine the proper method of appraisement to utilize in a transaction and accurately value the imported merchandise.


Do you disagree with a Tariff Classification made by CBP, or want to correct the Tariff Classification previously entered with CBP? A Customs Protest provides importers with a legal vehicle to administratively contest CBP decisions related to imported merchandise. The Protest filing requirements are complex, and must be followed carefully to ensure that the protest is valid, receives proper consideration by CBP, and if necessary, a refund of the duty is paid to the importer. The importer should also supplement the filing with a detailed analysis as to why the protest should be granted.


Country of Origin and Marking

Country of Origin (COO) Marking is used to clearly indicate to the ultimate purchaser where the product is made, which can affect the admissibility, rate of duty and eligibility of the merchandise for preferential trade agreements. Almost every article of foreign origin (or its container) must be marked. Exceptions to this rule may include goods that are not intended for sale in the form in which they are imported, or are in transit.

For goods made in one country with no foreign inputs, determination of the country of origin is easy. It is the country of production. For example, the COO of goods made in China – is China – and must be marked “Made in China” or “Product of China.” However, goods processed in multiple countries using both domestic and foreign materials, which is common in today’s global manufacturing environment, complicates the COO determination.

Buy America Act and Trade Agreement Act Compliance

When procuring products, the U.S. Government may acquire only U.S.-made or designated country end products. The laws implementing the U.S. Governments preference for these products are the Buy American Act (BAA) and Trade Agreement Act (TAA), and complying with these Acts present several challenges to companies. Thomsen and Burke’s Customs Practice is designed to answer the critical questions during the U.S. Government procurement process: Does the BAA or TAA apply to my procurement? Are the products compliant with these standards? What is the Country of Origin for BAA or TAA purposes? This will help companies avoid penalties, including the termination of contracts and liability under the False Claims Act.

Seizures and Forfeitures

CBP has the legal authority to seize goods for violations of the Customs laws, including prohibited and restricted merchandise, undeclared merchandise, and Intellectual Property violations. If you receive a Notice of Seizure, it is important to act quickly. Most claimants of seized property elect to file a petition for administrative relief from the forfeiture, but the petition period is normally limited to 30 days. The petition must include a description of the property involved, and the facts and circumstances relied upon by the petitioner to justify remission or mitigation. Claimants also have the option to file a claim in federal district court.


Whether it’s a single Tariff self-classification, or a formal COO assessment, Thomsen and Burke’s Customs Practice will help importers navigate the complex Customs regulations in order to mitigate the risk of noncompliance with these regulations.

Disclaimer: This document may be considered Attorney Advertising. It is provided for informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. Its distribution does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Each situation is unique and the techniques used will differ depending on the facts and circumstances. Therefore, this document does not describe the work that may performed in any particular matter.