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HQ 221245

October 19, 1990

DRA-4 CO:R:C:E 221245 GG


Assistant Regional Commissioner of Customs Commercial Operations
Pacific Region
1 World Trade Center
Suite 705
Long Beach, California 90831-0700

RE: Request for Internal Advice on rejected merchandise and same condition drawback claims; 19 U.S.C. 1313(c); 19 U.S.C. 1313(j); untimely return to Customs' custody; physical transfer into foreign trade zone essential for exportation purposes; destruction outside zone permitted although valuable waste must be accounted for; proper party must file claim; certificates of delivery unnecessary for rejected merchandise drawback claims.

Dear Sir:

This is in response to your January 20, 1989, and March 1, 1990, requests for internal advice on the issue of rejected merchandise and same condition drawback claims submitted by Nike, Inc., and the Nissho Iwai American Corporation (NIAC). The purpose of this memorandum is to resolve particular problems found in these claims and to provide guidance on the ongoing and future drawback programs of Nike, Inc.


Nike, Inc. is a wholesale distributor of athletic footwear, with its headquarters located in Beaverton, Oregon. It engages NIAC to perform certain financing and import-export services on its behalf. Nike, Inc. purchases, through NIAC, substantially all of the athletic footwear it acquires from overseas suppliers for U.S. and foreign sales. Since 1980, Nike, Inc. and NIAC have been filing drawback claims on athletic footwear. They have been doing so under both the rejected merchandise and the same condition provisions of the drawback law.

The claims have been filed in three places: Portland, Maine; Memphis, Tennessee; and Portland, Oregon. 53 claims for both rejected merchandise and same condition drawback have already been paid. In 1987, Customs audited the outstanding drawback claims. As a result of questions raised by the audit, the remaining claims remain unliquidated.

The audit revealed a number of problems. There were 5 areas of concern with respect to the rejected merchandise drawback claims:

1) Many of the shoes claimed to be defective had been worn by the consumer, which, according to Nike, Inc., precluded specification testing. An examination of the shoes by Customs prior to their destruction revealed that the wear on the shoes was sometimes extensive. The company did not present any specifications which could have been used to determine whether the defects were due to their breach. In addition, shoes with very slight defects were claimed for drawback but similar defects were observed at retail stores, which raised questions about Nike, Inc.'s quality control standards and what constitutes a defect for drawback purposes.

2) Nike, Inc. justified drawback based on warranty reimbursements from foreign factories in lieu of proof that the shoes were not manufactured to specification. However, in some instances, the company's accounting records did not provide a clear audit trail to show that foreign manufacturers had been billed and had reimbursed Nike, Inc. for the drawback shoes.

3) Nike, Inc. requested extensions of the statutory 90-day period allotted to return rejected shoes to Customs' custody. Several Customs' field offices granted the extensions, but did not specify their length. In some instances, Nike, Inc. returned shoes more than a year after their release, even though Customs had orally advised the company that the extensions were only for one year.

4) Drawback entries reflect that the defective shoes were deemed exported by being sent to a foreign trade zone under zone restricted status. However, in a significant number of cases, and with Customs' approval, only the paperwork, and not the shoes, was admitted into the zone. The shoes were then destroyed outside of the zone.

5) Nike, Inc. filed many of the drawback claims, although it was not the importer of record and may not have been the actual owner named in the import entries.

The problem unique to the same condition drawback claims were:

6) The importer, NIAC, and the ultimate consignee, Nike, Inc., filed all of the claims, although Nike International exported the merchandise.

Finally, both kinds of claims shared a common problem:

7) There were no certificates of delivery tracking the merchandise exported (or, in the case of the rejected shoes, destroyed) back to the imported merchandise.


1) Whether use of merchandise renders it ineligible to be claimed as a basis for rejected merchandise drawback?

2) Whether the exporter-claimant must tie the defect in the merchandise to a failure by the manufacturer to follow specifications?

3) Whether the payment of a warranty claim that is based on a failure to meet a quality-control standard is sufficient evidence that the merchandise failed to meet a specification within the meaning of 19 U.S.C. 1313(c)?

4) Where the exporter-claimant requested extensions of the 90- day return period for defective merchandise, and received an unlimited written extension as well as an oral instruction to return the merchandise within a year of release, may Customs deny drawback when the return took place after more than a year had elapsed?

5) Must rejected merchandise be physically admitted into a foreign trade zone to be considered exported for drawback purposes, or would a paper transfer suffice? Can destruction occur outside of the zone?

6) May an exporter who is not the importer of record or the actual owner named in the import entry, receive a duty refund under the rejected merchandise drawback law?

7) Is the importer of record or the ultimate consignee, who is not the exporter, entitled to same condition drawback?

8) Are certificates of delivery required to track merchandise that is designated as the basis for rejected merchandise and same condition drawback claims?


Section 1313(c) of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1313(c)) authorizes drawback on merchandise not conforming to sample or specifications if such merchandise is returned to Customs' custody for exportation within 90 days after release from Customs' custody. The legislative purpose behind allowing a duty refund under these circumstances was to prevent financial hardship on importers who, because they were not allowed to inspect the merchandise prior to its release, were only able to discover after the duty had already been paid that the merchandise was so far from specifications that it was useless to them.

The first issue raised is whether used merchandise may be included as a basis for a rejected merchandise drawback claim. While supervising the destruction process, Customs officers observed that many of the shoes that Nike, Inc. was going to claim drawback on had been worn extensively, in some cases to the point of consumption. This fact, together with the discovery that some retailers encouraged the trade-in of used shoes to induce further sales, led Customs to question whether the returns were because of defects or, alternatively, generous refund offers. An examination of the legislative history of 19 U.S.C. 1313(c) reveals that use of merchandise before its return to Customs' custody, would not in and of itself preclude drawback; in 1953, Congress' stated purpose in extending the return time of rejected merchandise from 30 to 90 days, was to ensure that the claimant would have a reasonably adequate time to discover latent defects or "those which can only be ascertained by test or use." See S. Rept. 632, 83rd Cong. (1953), reprinted in 1953 U.S. Code Cong. and Adm. News, p. 2283 at 2294. Clearly, some use would be allowed under the law.

Although the shoes could be used, it was incumbent upon a claimant to establish that the shoes were returned because they failed to meet sample or specifications, and not, as suggested above, because of a trade-in policy or generous company attitude towards general customer dissatisfaction with the product. In this regard, the courts have held that a rejected merchandise claimant must establish the specifications by competent evidence. See, e.g, Revillon Freres Trading Co., Ltd., Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. United States, T.D. 49213 (1937); Border Brokerage Company - A.G. Grasher v. United States, 53 Cust. Ct. 6, C.D. 2465 (1964). There are two ways in which a claimant can demonstrate to Customs' satisfaction that merchandise did not conform to sample or specifications: 1) by presenting specifications and showing that the defect was caused by a failure to meet those specifications; or 2) by proving that the imported merchandise failed to meet a warranty guaranty as to length of service, and the credit allowed for it amounted to 90% or more of the purchase price. A discussion of this second method will follow, but we will first address the issue of whether drawback eligibility was adequately proved by demonstrating that the shoes were defective because they were not manufactured according to specifications.

The courts have allowed drawback based on unwritten and oral specifications, but they have also stated that the term "specifications" means something more than mere speculation. See, e.g., Lansing Company, Inc. v. United States, 77 Cust. Ct. 92, C.D. 4675 (1976); and Border Brokerage Company, 53 Cust.Ct. at 11. The term "specifications" is defined in The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, as "a detailed and exact statement of particulars, especially a statement prescribing materials, dimensions, and workmanship for something to be built, installed, or manufactured"; and in Black's Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, "specifications", as used in law relating to manufacturing, means "a particular or detailed statement, account, or listing of the various elements, materials, dimensions etc. involved". The three companies here did not provide Customs with any information that, under these definitions, could be considered to be specifications, but did attempt to justify some of its claims by referencing the internal defect codes it assigned to the returned shoes. These codes, consisting of 3-digit numbers, identified various problems, such as loose stitching, sole separations, or dye transfers. However, none of the companies has conclusively linked these defects to a failure of its manufacturers to follow specifications. Absent such a link, Customs cannot determine whether the problems were caused by a manufacturing defect or rather, were the result of a design defect or consumer abuse or consumption of the shoes. The possibility of a design defect was raised when Customs observed recurring problems in some of the returned shoes. This is significant because the intent of 19 U.S.C. 1313(c) was to redress only manufacturing defects rather than poor designs that were incorporated into the specifications.

An inability to tie defects to a failure by the manufacturer to follow specifications, will not prove fatal to a 19 U.S.C. 1313(c) drawback claim where the claimant has documentation that shows that it received reimbursement under a warranty guarantee as to length of service. Treasury Decision 69-120(3) (T.D. 69- 120(3)) provides that when imported merchandise fails to meet a warranty guarantee as to length of service, then the article may be considered to be not conforming to specifications within the meaning of 19 U.S.C. 1313(c), if the credit allowed for it amounts to 90% or more of the purchase price. Some of the supply agreements in effect between Nike, Inc. and its foreign manufacturers make provision for a 100% reimbursement for defective shoes returned to the factory within a specified time; such agreements would qualify as warranty guarantees under T.D. 69-120(3). The age of the shoes is immaterial as long as they are returned within the period specified in the warranty. Other Nike, Inc. supply agreements which also provide for full reimbursement for defective shoes, but place no time limitation on their return, appear to extend lifetime guarantees and may also be considered to be warranty guarantees as to length of service. Regulatory Audit has indicated that there is evidence that many of the rejected merchandise claims can be supported by detailed billings of up to 75% of the dollars claimed. To the extent that Nike, Inc. has documentation that proves that it billed, and received a reimbursement of at least 90% of the purchase price from, a manufacturer under a warranty guarantee as to length of service, then the company can receive a refund of duties if it fulfills all other requirements of the drawback law. The key factor is that the company must have records that show that it billed a manufacturer for defective shoes under a qualifying warranty reimbursement provision, and that its billing was honored by the manufacturer. The records must sufficiently identify and detail drawback items in the accounting records to enable Customs to readily trace and identify those same items in the drawback claims.

The next issue concerns extensions of time to return rejected merchandise to Customs' custody. Under the statute, merchandise not conforming to sample or specifications must be returned to Customs' custody for exportation within ninety days after its initial release. The district director has the authority under 19 U.S.C. 1313(c) and section 191.142(b)(4) of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 191.142(b)(4)) to extend this period in writing, and Customs has previously allowed an extension when it was persuaded that the latent nature of defects impeded the timely discovery of a failure to meet a specification. See, e.g., Customs Service Decision (C.S.D.) 81- 176 and C.S.D. 85-53. Nike, Inc. requested extensions because it discovered that the vast majority of its defective returns occurred more than 90 days after release from Customs' custody. The delays were attributed to the length of time the shoes remained in warehouse and retailer inventory before being sold to consumers, who then had to wear the shoes until the alleged defects surfaced. Following their return to the retailer, the shoes then were shipped to Nike, Inc. for examination and sorting. In a memorandum to Customs dated December 1, 1980, Nike, Inc. estimated that the entire process could take between 65 and 250 days.

Several districts responded to Nike, Inc.'s extension requests by giving written approvals, which did not specify the length of the extensions. As a result, many shoes were returned more than a year after their release from Customs' custody. The auditors state that this occurred despite the fact that the districts had advised Nike, Inc. that, based on the 65-250 day projection, the maximum extension allowed would be one year. The open-ended written approvals take precedence over the oral instructions to return the merchandise within one year, because both the statute and the regulations require an extension to be in writing, and do not specifically limit the extension period to one year. Consequently, Nike, Inc. should not be denied drawback solely because it returned the shoes to Customs' custody more than a year after their release where an extension was granted. In the future, the districts should specify the length when granting extensions. It may be helpful to consider that Congress contemplated extensions that would be "reasonably adequate" for the discovery of latent defects or those which could only be ascertained by test or use.

Also of concern was whether a paper transfer to a foreign trade zone, and destruction of footwear outside of the zone, would satisfy the requirement in 19 U.S.C. 1313(c) that the rejected merchandise be exported. As we noted earlier, in many instances Nike, Inc. is said to have transferred defective shoes directly from its warehouses to the destruction sites without first admitting the shoes in a foreign trade zone. Several districts knew of this procedure and reportedly authorized it.

The fourth proviso of section 3 of the Foreign Trade Zones Act of 1934, as amended (19 U.S.C. 81c), provides that articles which have been taken into a zone from Customs' territory for the sole purpose of exportation, destruction or storage shall be considered to be exported for drawback purposes. The language of the statute clearly requires that the merchandise be physically taken into the zone. Furthermore, the person transferring the merchandise into the zone must declare on Customs Form 7539 that the merchandise was actually transferred into the zone for the sole purpose of exportation, destruction, or storage, and also must obtain on the same form a certification from the foreign trade zone operator that the merchandise was received in the zone. See section 191.165 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 191.165). The mere filing of the Customs Form 7539 without the admission of the shoes into the zone would not satisfy the requirement that the articles have to be taken into the zone.

Merchandise admitted into a foreign trade zone for the sole purpose of exportation, destruction, or storage will be given zone-restricted status on proper application. See sections 146.44 and 191.162 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 146.44 and 191.162). The drawback claimant must request zone restricted status in order to for its shoes to be considered to be exported for drawback purposes. Once in zone-restricted status, merchandise can only be transferred to Customs' territory under certain limited circumstances, which are described in section 146.70 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 146.70). This regulation specifically authorizes the transfer of zone- restricted status merchandise into Customs' territory for destruction. However, this would only be a constructive transfer from the zone; legally, the shoes would be considered to have remained in the zone in zone-restricted status although they had been physically removed for the limited purpose of destruction. The consequence of this is that any valuable residue that results from the destruction process must be accounted for; it must be taken back into the zone where it can be stored, exported, or destroyed, or returned to Customs' territory for consumption if the Foreign Trade Zones Board determines that such a return would be in the public interest. See C.S.D. 80-67. Notwithstanding the foregoing discussion, an otherwise eligible claimant should not be penalized for its failure to follow the correct procedure with respect to these particular entries, because it acted with the approval of Customs. If any similar transactions occur in the future, however, the rejected merchandise must be admitted into the foreign trade zone.

In the course of its audit, Customs discovered technical deficiencies in the drawback claims. Specifically, ineligible claimants may have filed some claims, there were no certificates of delivery or powers of attorney, and drawback rights were not transferred. Some of these deficiencies apparently resulted from the confusion about respective drawback rights and obligations that arose due to the close relationship and intertwined transactions between the separate corporations of NIAC, Nike, Inc., and Nike International. As stated earlier, NIAC is the importer/financier and buying agent for Nike, Inc., while Nike International, which is a subsidiary of Nike, Inc., purchases shoes from its parent for overseas distribution. These 3 corporations are separate legal entities, and cannot be considered to be a single entity for drawback purposes. Accordingly, each is subject to the applicable drawback laws and regulations.

Several of the technical problems involved the rejected merchandise drawback claims. The filing of some claims by ineligible parties was of particular concern. Section 191.142(b)(6) of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 191.142(b)(6)) provides that drawback is only payable to the exporter-claimant who is also the importer of record or the actual owner named in the import entry. Difficulties became apparent when Customs reviewed a sample of 18 claims and discovered that: 1) NIAC was the importer of record for all 18 claims; 2) 11 of the drawback entries listed Nike, Inc. as exporter, while no exporter was listed on the 7 remaining claims; conversely, the applications for zone admission/zone restricted status showed NIAC as the exporter in 14 instances while Nike, Inc. was exporter the remaining 4 times; 3) Nike, Inc. was listed as the drawback claimant on 14 drawback entries while NIAC was shown on 4.

NIAC could only have filed a rejected merchandise drawback claim and obtained a duty refund if: 1) it "exported" the merchandise; 2) it was the importer of record or the actual owner listed on the import entry; and 3) it had evidence that the shoes failed to meet sample or specifications. The documents examined by the auditors indicate that NIAC was the importer of record, but, as noted in the preceding paragraph, there is conflicting information about which company "exported" the shoes. Under section 191.166 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 191.166), the exporter for purposes of rejected merchandise drawback, in situations where exportation is accomplished through admission into a foreign trade zone, is the transferor of the defective merchandise into the zone. The transferor is the person named in the foreign trade zone operator's certification on the notice of transfer or the drawback entry. Therefore, if NIAC were the transferor, and it had proof that the shoes failed to meet sample or specifications, it could have filed claims because of its status as importer of record. With respect to the pending claims, it appears that only Nike, Inc., and not NIAC, received warranty reimbursements from the factories. NIAC's inability to produce evidence showing that the shoes failed to meet specifications would preclude it from obtaining drawback on any of these particular claims.

To file claims, Nike, Inc. must establish not only that it was the exporter, but also that it was the importer of record or the actual owner named in the import entry. Nike, Inc. delegated the task of importing the shoes to NIAC, therefore it would have to prove that it actually owned the shoes.

The regulations that were promulgated in 1931 in response to the enactment of the rejected merchandise drawback statute, stated that the importer could apply for drawback; under the law in effect at that time, the importer was the consignee who was also deemed to be the owner of the merchandise. See section 484 of the Tariff Act of 1930, 46 Stat. 722 (1930)(amended 1983); and section 483 of the Tariff Act of 1930, 46 Stat. 722 (1930)(repealed 1983). In 1951, Customs, in an effort to simplify the handling of drawback applications, extended the right to file rejected merchandise drawback entries to the actual - in addition to the deemed - owner of the merchandise. See T.D. 52757. However, the actual owner had to file a declaration that supported his ownership claim. Although owners' declarations are no longer required, Nike, Inc. would still have to submit information with the entry that showed that it actually owned the shoes. Sample entry summaries indicate that prior to 1981, NIAC was the importer and the shoes were listed on the accompanying invoices as being "for the account of NIAC"; from 1981 to 1986, NIAC was the importer but the invoices reflected that the shoes were imported "for the account of Nike, Inc."; and in late 1986, Nike, Inc. was included on the CF 7501 as the ultimate consignee. Evidence that the shoes were imported "for the account of Nike, Inc.", and that Nike, Inc. was the ultimate consignee, is persuasive, but is not in itself conclusive, in determining whether Nike, Inc. qualified as the actual owner named in the import entry. Certainly, some weight should be given to the fact that Nike, Inc. was the consignee, because, although it does not prove actual ownership, it does comport with the intent of the original 1931 regulations that the benefit of rejected merchandise drawback should extend to consignees of defective merchandise. This intent was thwarted to some extent when the definition of importer of record was changed in 1983 to exclude consignees.

The audit revealed other information that bolsters Nike, Inc.'s ownership claim. An examination of the supply agreements between NIAC and Nike, Inc. indicates that Nike, Inc. had a proprietary interest in the shoes at the time of their entry. Although the terms of those agreements specify that NIAC, as Nike, Inc.'s "purchasing agent", would place orders and buy the shoes from the manufacturers, pay all transportation and insurance charges as well as customs duties, and retain title until it resold and delivered the shoes to Nike, Inc. in the United States, they also required NIAC to resell the shoes exclusively to Nike, Inc. The restrictions placed on NIAC's right to dispose of the shoes, and Customs' view from a valuation standpoint that the two-tiered sales arrangement created no more than a bona fide agency relationship between NIAC and Nike, Inc., all indicate that Nike, Inc., not NIAC, was the actual owner of the shoes at the time of entry. To the extent that these supply agreements were in effect at the time that the pre-1981 invoices listed the shoes as "for the account of NIAC", then Customs may discount the contradictory information on the invoices.

If Nike, Inc. can establish that it exported previously imported shoes, that it had proof that those shoes failed to meet specifications, and that it followed all pertinent regulations, then it would be eligible, as the actual owner of the shoes, to file claims and obtain a duty refund under 19 U.S.C. 1313(c). Claims already pending may be amended to reflect this information if the merchandise that is the subject of the claims has been exported within 3 years. See section 191.61 and 191.64 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 191.61 and 191.64).

Regulatory Audit requests guidance on whether certificates of delivery are required for tracking/identifying/transferring rejected merchandise drawback rights from NIAC to Nike, Inc. The regulations pertaining to this kind of drawback, found in section 191.142 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 191.142) do not require the filing of certificates of delivery. The reason for this is that, because the only person authorized to file a rejected merchandise drawback claim is an exporter who is also the importer of record or the actual owner listed on the import entry, then theoretically the merchandise will not have been transferred to a party who had no connection with - and thus no proof of - its importation. This is in contrast to the situation found in manufacturing and same condition drawback, where the exporter is not the importer. Under these types of drawback where the exporter-claimant is not the importer, a certificate of delivery or a certificate of delivery and manufacture is required to identify the imported, duty-paid merchandise which is the basis for drawback, and to prevent an overpayment of drawback.

The auditors encountered several problems with the same condition drawback (19 U.S.C. 1313(j)) claims. Perhaps the most significant concerns which entity filed the claims. Unlike rejected merchandise drawback, whose purpose is to reimburse the importer or actual owner of the defective articles, same condition drawback targets the exporter as the beneficiary of the duty refund. See, e.g., C.S.D. 88-14. In the present case, the auditors reviewed a sample of 19 claims and found that, without exception, Nike International was the exporter. However, NIAC, the importer, filed 17 of the claims while Nike, Inc., the ultimate consignee, filed the remaining two. This is a clear-cut situation where the only party eligible to file a claim was the exporter, Nike International; claims filed by other parties would be invalid. Nike International may be able to file amended claims on shoes which had not been exported more than 3 years previously.

If, in the future, Nike International does file same condition drawback claims, it must document the transfer of shoes from NIAC and Nike, Inc. to its custody with certificates of delivery. See section 191.141(b)(1) of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 191.141(b)(1)).


1) Use of defective merchandise prior to its return to Customs' custody does not necessarily affect its eligibility to be the subject of a rejected merchandise drawback claim.

2) When the claimant is not basing a rejected merchandise drawback claim on a warranty reimbursement from the manufacturer, it must show by competent evidence that the defect was caused by the manufacturer's failure to follow specifications.

3) An claimant under 19 U.S.C. 1313(c) can demonstrate that the defective merchandise did not meet specifications by showing that it billed the manufacturer, and received a credit of at least 90 percent of the purchase price, for a failure to meet a warranty guarantee as to length of service.

4) A claim under 19 U.S.C. 1313(c) may not be denied on the ground that the claimant failed to return the goods to Customs' custody in a timely manner, if the extension fails to state a time limit.

5) Defective merchandise must be physically admitted into a foreign trade zone in zone restricted status to be considered exported for drawback purposes. Destruction can occur outside the zone with the district director's approval. However, the transfer outside of the zone is only a constructive transfer and any valuable waste resulting from the destruction process must be taken back into the zone where it must be stored, exported, or destroyed, unless the Foreign Trade Zones Board determines its return to Customs' custody would serve the public's interest. 6) Rejected merchandise drawback is payable only to the exporter who is the importer of record or the actual owner named in the import entry.

7) Under same condition drawback, only the exporter is entitled to same condition drawback.

8) Certificates of delivery are not required to trace merchandise that is the subject of a rejected merchandise drawback claim, because only the importer or the owner named in the entry documents is entitled to claim drawback under 19 U.S.C. 1313(c). However, under 19 U.S.C. 1313(j), certificates of delivery would be necessary where the exporter did not import the merchandise, in order to show eligibility for same condition drawback.

You are instructed to liquidate the drawback entries at issue in accordance with the holdings contained in this response to your request for internal advice.


John Durant

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