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  4. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA)

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Regulatory Fairness Representative

The signing of SBREFA into law created a Small Business Administration National Ombudsman and ten Regional Regulatory Fairness Boards to oversee the implementation of the Act. One of the recommendations by the National Ombudsman and the Fairness Boards was for each agency to designate an impartial party to serve as a Regulatory Fairness Representative contact for small businesses.

The Executive Director of Trade Relations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection was selected by the Commissioner to serve as the Regulatory Fairness Representative for the agency and is responsible for performing as the link between the international trading community and senior CBP managers. In addition, the Executive Director of Trade Relations is responsible for policy review, planning and counsel to the Commissioner, Department of Homeland Security, and Congress on the quality of service provided to the trade community. As the official representative, the Executive Director of Trade Relations will promote compliance with SBREFA and, to the extent possible, the recommendations of the National Ombudsman and the Regional Regulatory Fairness Boards.

Should you have any concerns which you feel have not been resolved in an appropriate manner, contact the Executive Director of Trade Relations at:

Office of Trade Relations
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Room 3.5A
Washington, DC 20229
Phone: (202) 344-1440
Fax: (202) 325-4290
Email address:

CBP Regulatory Fairness Program Background

On March 29, 1996, the President signed into law the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 1996. The Act was designed to create a more cooperative regulatory environment between agencies and small businesses and requires impacted agencies to (1) perform a regulatory flexibility analysis when a final rule will have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities; (2) "whenever appropriate", provide guidance to assist small businesses in complying with the agency's statutes and regulations and establish a program to respond to small business inquiries regarding such issues; and (3) establish a policy to provide for the "reduction, and under appropriate circumstances for the waiver" of civil penalties incurred by small businesses. A Small Business Administration National Ombudsman and ten Regional Regulatory Fairness Boards were designated to oversee implementation of the Act.

SBREFA provides for the development of a Regulatory Fairness (RegFair) Program by agencies whose enforcement and compliance activities impact small businesses, and furnishes a mechanism through which small businesses may comment on the enforcement and compliance activities of the federal agencies that regulate them. The SBA National Ombudsman provides an annual report to Congress in which each agency is evaluated and rated on their efforts to carry out SBREFA. The evaluation is based upon the agency's implementation of the Act and, to the extent possible, implementation of recommendations developed by the Regulatory Fairness Boards resulting from nationwide hearings with small businesses.

CBP RegFair Program

First and foremost, CBP is a law enforcement agency, mandated to enforce certain statutes and regulations not only for our agency, but for numerous other government agencies as well. The laws we enforce apply to all members of the trade community, regardless of their size. Given that, we have implemented the above requirements set forth in SBREFA and, to the extent possible, the recommendations developed by the Regulatory Fairness Boards based on feedback from their nationwide briefings with small businesses.

This RegFair Program focuses on outreach to the small business international trade community utilizing the CBP Website; trade association conferences; partnership with the Small Business Administration for joint seminars; and CBP contact with the trade community at the port level. When fully implemented, this program will place emphasis on pre-emptive measures that will educate small businesses on the requirements for importing and exporting. Thus enabling the agency to learn about concerns of the small business community, while at the same time improving the trade's knowledge of CBP policies.

In response to the establishment of a policy to provide for the reduction or waiver of civil penalties CBP published in the Federal Register dated June 3, 1997, guidelines regarding violations of 19 U.S.C. 1592 by small entities. This notice provides information on the circumstances and procedures for a small business to follow in order to have a civil penalty waived.

Notification to Small Businesses of Their Rights to Comment

One of the major efforts of SBREFA is to ensure those small business entities that receive, or are subject to an audit, on-site inspection, compliance assistance effort or other enforcement related communications and/or contact by agency personnel, are provided with a means to comment on the activity conducted by such personnel. To implement this provision of the Act, the SBA National Ombudsman developed a general notification statement and requested other agencies to adopt similar language to be incorporated in enforcement or compliance activities as the mechanism to inform small businesses of their rights.

The SBA National Ombudsman and members of Congress have interpreted SBREFA as requiring that notice be given to small businesses at the time the regulatory enforcement and compliance activity takes place. While this may not be practical in all cases, CBP will include notification in such forms of communication as this CBP website, the Federal Register, Importing Into the United States, Informed Compliance Publications, and other forms as appropriate.

Your Rights to Enforcement Fairness

Our objective is to ensure a fair regulatory enforcement environment. If you feel you have been treated unfairly or unprofessionally, you may contact the Office of Trade Relations at 202-344-1440. You also have a right to contact the Small Business Administration's National Ombudsman at 1-888-REGFAIR or to file a confidential comment regarding the fairness of this enforcement action.

This agency strictly forbids retaliatory acts by its employees. As such, you should feel confident you will not be penalized for expressing your concerns.

Last Modified: Mar 04, 2024