Customs agents investigating synthetic turf Importers evading tariffs via relabeling containers to fake true country of origin

The Synthetic Turf Council (STC) has learned that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is investigating U.S. importers of synthetic turf that may be willfully evading tariffs placed on synthetic or artificial turf.

Based on publicly available information, the STC and industry participants have filed hundreds of e-Allegation violations that question whether the synthetic turf that is being imported into the U.S. is properly coded and subject to tariffs. CBP is using this data and other information in order to conduct its investigation.

According to CBP, e-Allegations provide a means for the public to report to CBP any suspected violations of trade laws or regulations related to the importation of goods into the U.S. These types of violations include misclassification of merchandise, false country of origin markings, health and safety issues, valuation issues and intellectual property rights.

The STC has also learned that as new tariffs on synthetic turf have been put in place, shipping companies have accelerated their marketing efforts by offering to relabel containers through intermediate destinations (called ‘transshipping’) to hide the true country of origin. This involves taking a shipment for a fee from a country that has a tariff in place, unloading it in a country that does not, repacking and shipping the container to the U.S. The result obfuscates the country of origin and determination of tariffs.

“The STC applauds CBP for taking a look at importers of synthetic turf who may not play by the rules,” said Dan Bond, President and CEO of the Synthetic Turf Council. “The goal is to create a level playing field for market economy manufacturers.”

This past weekend at the G20 Summit, Presidents Trump and Xi agreed to halt new trade tariffs for the next 90 days. A tariff increase on synthetic turf from 16 to 25 percent was scheduled to go into effect January 1st. CBP has the authority to target and examine shipments that come into the U.S. and to work with other federal agencies to request additional duties and civil and criminal penalties if warranted. Additionally, CBP can investigate prior imports to assess rate advances or penalties. The STC will be monitoring the investigation closely in the next few months.