If you are an exporter who submits their electronic export information through the Automated Export System (AES), you are well aware of the change that took place on May 2016 when AES filing moved from the AESDirect legacy system to the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) platform.
Although the required speed of the change caused consternation among many in the export community (including export software vendors like Shipping Solutions), the switch came off pretty much without a hitch. And I've gotten very positive feedback from our customers about the new ACE interface.
If you are an exporter who relies on a third party like your freight forwarder to handle the ACE filing for you, you might only be vaguely aware of the change (if you are aware of it at all). In this case, you probably haven't set up an account on ACE since you aren't doing the filing.
While there's no requirement to set up an ACE account if you aren't doing your own AESDirect filings, you are missing an opportunity to use the ACE platform to help ensure your company is complying with U.S. export regulations.
Two Reasons All Exporters Need an ACE Account
1. So you can take control of your export filings.
The most important reason to have an ACE account is so you can do your own AES filings.
Yes, you can rely on a third party to file on your behalf. Yes, in a routed export transaction, the foreign principal party in interest (FPPI) usually asks the freight forwarder to do it. Yes, most exporters pay someone else to do it for them.
But as my mother always told me, "If most of your friends jumped off of a cliff, would you do it too?" Just because most people do things one way doesn't make that the best and smartest way to do it.
As the exporter, your company is legally liable for the accuracy of the information that gets filed through AES. It doesn't matter who's filing the information, you are the one who's responsible.
My favorite export compliance quote comes from the Office of Export Enforcement (OEE): "You can outsource responsibility, but you can't outsource liability."
There's simply no better way to ensure the accuracy of your export information than doing the filing yourself. And you'll save some money in the process!
2. So you can access reports.
Even if I haven't convinced you to do your own AES filings, there's still a very important reason to create your own ACE account. The new ACE platform makes it easy to audit your export information submitted to AES regardless of who does the filing.
On the old AESDirect legacy system, you had to submit a written request to the Census Bureau, and they would send you the last 12 months of data. To stay current with your exports, you had to make a new written request every year.
While the ACE platform requires you to request report authorization for your company's EIN number, once you do so you can create three different reports at any time and for no charge. Data for the last five years as well as the current year is available.
These three reports are:
- The 201 Filer report: This report shows all shipments submitted by the filer who is requesting the report for a given date range.
- The 202 USPPI report: This report shows all shipments submitted on behalf of the USPPI who is requesting the report for a given date range. This option will include shipments filed by the USPPI and shipments filed by others, such as a freight forwarder.
The 203 Routed report: This report provides a subset of data elements for five previous years as well as the current year for shipments flagged as routed export transactions.
I do think that U.S. Customs and Border Protection goes out of its way to make applying for report authorization more difficult than it needs to be be. But once you are set up, you are good to go. Information is knowledge, and knowledge is an important part of export compliance.
With your ACE account and reports, you can verify:
- What you filed.
- What someone else has filed on your behalf.
- What information a third party has filed using your company's tax ID number in a routed export transaction.
Keep in mind that even if you’re not filing yourself, you can get reports of all the filings done by a third party using your tax ID number. This is important. First, it allows you to make sure the information you provided to the AES filer was reported correctly.
Second, it allows you to see if your company's tax ID number was used for an export that was done by someone else. Yes, it happens!
A Shipping Solutions user told me that they had discovered that their freight forwarder had used their tax ID number for a bunch of shipments that went out on a single day, even though most of the exports weren't theirs!
If this exporter hadn't been running the ACE reports, they wouldn't have known what was going on and might have found themselves the subject of an audit. Even though they certainly wouldn't have been held liable for these errors, think of the time and money they would have had to invest in order to comply with an OEE audit.