Welcome to Weise Wednesday! Every week we will share a brief Q&A with the former U.S. Commissioner of Customs, Mr. George Weise. If you have questions, we encourage you to send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Q:  How does CBP determine whether an importer has acted with negligence, gross negligence, or fraud when errors are made on import transactions?

A:  There is no easy answer for this critical question.  Clearly, CBP will attempt to look at a broad range of factors in making this determination, and its conclusion will be impacted by the experience they have had with the importer in question on past transactions. 

If the importer can clearly demonstrate that 1) they have exercised reasonable care to get their transactions right over an extended period of time by implementing best-in-class processes and procedures and 2) they have consulted with Customs experts in an effort to get it right, CBP is likely to be sympathetic when innocent mistakes are made and determine that only negligence has occurred.

On the other hand, if the importer cannot demonstrate a commitment to the exercise of reasonable care over an extended period of time and CBP finds an absence of underlying processes and procedures in place to get the transactions right – this will not bode well for the importer and is likely to lead to a determination of gross negligence. 

Gross negligence is also often found when CBP determines that the importer was aware, or clearly should have been aware based on the circumstances, that its processes were flawed and not likely to result in correct declarations, but no corrective actions were taken.

Fraud is a much more serious finding. It occurs when CBP finds evidence that the importer was aware that the information filed with CBP was incorrect and would result in under payment of duties or other violations of law, but filed it that way anyway. 

Whenever an importer becomes aware that errors were made that could result in penalties, they should consult with their attorneys as quickly as possible.