Frequently, we are contacted by people who receive a bill from Customs by mail. By this, they literally mean a bill, with a spot on the bottom that you’re tear off and return with payment like your utility bill. Here’s an example:
As you can see, this is different from the notice of penalty or liquidated damages. A penalty or liquidated damage notice invites the recipient to file a petition for remission or mitigation. Here, there is no such offer; the debt is due, and you are given little time to pay.
Why did I get a bill from CBP?
Well, it means you owe money to CBP. It could be because of failure to pay duties for merchandise imported (regular duties, or anti-dumping or countervailing duties), or you failed to take action after receiving a penalty notice/liquidated damages notice by either not paying the mitigated penalty timely, or by not responding at all.
You can usually figure out what the nature of the debt is by looking carefully at the bill, even if it’s not easily determined at first glance.
If you have no idea why you’re receiving the bill from CBP, it may indicate you did not receive notice of the debt. It may also indicate you are a very, very inexperienced importer that is definitely in need of an education.