Changes likely coming to AMPS system

OTTAWA, (May 13, 2003) — Canadian minister for Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Elinor Caplan admitted last week that the Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS), is still far from perfect and that changes will likely be made.

In a roundtable discussion with trade representatives including the Canadian Trucking Alliance, Caplan said the Ministry would kick off a six-month review of AMPS, which was implemented in October 2002. AMPS is a uniform civil penalty regime to secure compliance with customs legislation through the application of monetary penalties, which are designed to be corrective, rather than punitive. Since introduction, over 8,700 contraventions have been assessed, totaling almost $5 million.

However, industry groups have complained that some penalty amounts are too large, or that companies are being unfairly penalized for honest mistakes and clerical errors. From a carrier standpoint, the “big ticket” penalties have been: delivery prior to release of goods; incorrect use of carrier codes; and bar code violations. Between October and mid-March these three violations cost carriers over $900,000 – about two-thirds of AMPS revenue collected from carriers.

During the discussion, Caplan acknowledged the problems, adding that changes could be made at any time in the process and would not have to wait until the final report of the review is complete this fall.

CTA’s David Bradley, who represented the association at the roundtable, said one key issue that needs to be reformed is the fact that large volume carriers are exposed to significantly more penalties, even for simple mistakes. With graduated penalties and a three-year “reset”, it is difficult for carriers to return to the lower penalty levels, he said.

CTA also contends that some of the penalty levels are too high. Often cited is the delivery before release where fines were increased from $400 to $1000 on first offence, climbing to $3000.

Like many other regulatory issues, CTA wants the Ministry to address carrier and driver concerns that individual enforcement officers may be singling out a carrier or driver for “special treatment.”

Bradley said that, so far, Caplan has been receptive of such concerns, and is optimistic the coming changes would take “a rational approach.”

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