Customs tests ACE payments

Customs tests ACE payments

WASHINGTON -- For selected volunteer importers, July 15 will be a milestone date: the first time that they will be able to make monthly duty payments to Customs and Border Protection.

Customs announced Monday that it had started a pilot program to test payments via the Automated Commercial Environment, one of the computer system's key commercial features. If all goes well, Customs can make the system available to a wider clientele, said Bill Inch, deputy director of modernization.

"If it meets the grade, we'll turn the system on beginning in September," Inch said. "Our goal is to have 1,100 companies using ACE by January 2005."

Late last year, 41 companies representing some 25 percent of all U.S. imports began using ACE to receive monthly activity statements. Now 34 of them will begin making automated duty payments, Inch said.

Another145 companies and brokerages have signed up for ACE accounts, and will be among to next group to begin using the system.

Inch said that importers, and operational and financial personnel at Customs are going through three days of training before they begin the trial.

All of this activity is in the "Release 3" phase of ACE. The release is a few months late, compared with the timetable that developers established in 2001.

After Sept. 11, 2001, Customs decided to add antiterrorism features which delayed ACE development. Inch said that ACE has continued on track since then.