Records Management and Requirements

Records Management

Records Management and Requirements

Recordkeeping plays a vital role in any business, but especially when it comes to imports and exports. Records management is key not only to determine revenue, stay in legal compliance, and keep your goods moving, but because this information helps determine trade policy and how we gauge the success of trade agreements, programs, and the impact these things have on our economy and our citizens. 


For these purposes, CBP defines records as:


  • any importation, declaration or entry;
  • the transportation or storage of merchandise carried or held under bond into
    or from the customs territory of the United States;
  • the filing of a drawback claim;
  • the collection and payment of fees and taxes to CBP; and
  • any other activity required to be undertaken pursuant to laws or regulations administered by CBP.


The term “records” includes any information required for the entry of merchandise and other information pertaining to, or from which is derived, any information element set forth in a collection of information required by the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, in connection with an activity described above. The term includes, but is not limited to:


  • statements, declarations, documents;
  • electronically generated or machine readable data;
  • electronically stored or transmitted information or data;
  • books, papers, correspondence;
  • accounts, financial accounting data;
  • technical data; and
  • computer programs necessary to retrieve information in a usable form


That’s a lot of information. Who is required to keep these records? CBP says:


  • an owner, importer, consignee, importer of record, entry filer or other person who:
  • imports merchandise into the customs territory of the United States;
  • files a drawback claim;
  • transports or stores merchandise carried or held under bond; or
  • knowingly cause the importation or transportation or storage of merchandise
    carried or held under bond into or from the customs territory of the United
  • an agent of any person described above; or
  • a person whose activities require the filing of a declaration or entry, or both.


How long must records be kept? CBP says:


Five years from the date of entry (which includes a reconciliation), if the record relates to an entry, or five years from the date of the activity which required creation of the record. 

There are some exceptions to this general rule, however:

  • records relating to drawback claim must be retained until the third anniversary of the date of payment of the claim;
  • packing lists must be retained for a period of sixty calendar days from the end of the release or conditional release period, whichever is later, or, if demand for return to CBP custody (“redelivery”) has been issued, for a period of sixty 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;
  • a consignee who is not the owner or purchaser and who appoints a customs broker shall keep records pertaining to merchandise covered by an informal entry for 2 years from the date of the informal entry;
  • records pertaining to articles that are admitted free of duty and tax pursuant to 19 U.S.C. §1321(a)(2) and 19 CFR 10.151-10.153 and carriers’ records pertaining to manifested cargo that is exempt from entry under the provisions of 19 CFR shall be kept for 2 years from the date of entry or other activity which required creation of the record; or
  • if another provision of the CBP Regulations sets forth a different retention period for a specific type of record, the other provision controls. For example:
  • 10.137 sets forth a retention period of three years from liquidation for records of use or disposition for certain goods whose rate of duty is dependent upon actual use; and
  • 181.12 requires that all supporting records relating to NAFTA Certificates of Origin for exports be maintained for five years from the date the certificate was signed.


You can check out CBP’s complete guide to recordkeeping requirements here.

Or you can contact your Future Forwarding representative. Put your cargo needs, including questions on recordkeeping and developing a records management system in our experienced hands and our knowledgeable, expert team will make sure you have the resources to keep your cargo moving and compliant.  


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