ACE, AES, CBP, EEI, HS… US exporters have to deal with a lot of regulations — and a lot of abbreviations. Here we discuss the importance of filing exports on the Automated Exports System and offer an overview on how exporters can ensure ongoing compliance.

What is the ACE?

One of the many duties of US Customs and Border Protection is regulating international trade. As the name suggests, CBP is responsible for customs, including cargo screening. Companies must report their imports and exports to CBP and they do so using the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) portal. The ACE portal is found on the CBP website.

What is the AES?

In the United States, filing an export declaration is performed electronically using what’s known as the Automated Export System (AES). To do this you log on to the ACE portal on the CBP website. Once you have logged in, you must enter all the shipment information on to AESDirect.

AES acts as the central collection point for key export data required by multiple agencies, and replaces the previous paper-bound process which both exporters and Customs found to be expensive, labor intensive, and prone to manual errors. AES was designed specifically to ensure compliance with export-related laws and regulations, improve trade statistics, reduce duplicate reporting to multiple agencies, and improve customer service.

But making the process automated doesn’t mean that it’s challenge-free. Exporters must still understand the requirements behind filing a proper export declaration. The Electronic Export Information — EEI — the actual data that exporters submit includes the exporter’s name, address and identification number. It also includes detailed information about the products being exported, including their classification and licensing requirements. Exporters must also perform proper due diligence when inputting the required data. This means that if you’re still manually keying your data into AES, and/or entirely reliant on manual controls for oversight, then you’re at risk of exposing your company to shipment delays, or even worse, penalties for non-compliance.

Three Good Reasons Why Should You File with AES

There are three very good reasons why you should ensure that you correctly file your exports with AES.

Civil and Criminal Penalties

Firstly, breaking the law is not an option. There are civil and criminal penalties for not filing your export information or for filing incorrect information. Your company can be fined up to $10,000 per violation — and it is possible that you will face criminal charges.

Cost and Cycle Time

Do you want your shipment stuck in limbo? An accurate AES filing helps to ensure that your shipment is released in a timely fashion and without incurring expensive delays. Delays are costly, both financially and to your reputation. Nobody wants an unreliable trading partner. Increased cycle times have a knock-on effect not only to your customer, but to your customer’s customers too.

US Customs and Border Protection

Finally, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses AES data to ensure that all exports are compliant with export regulations. These regulations aim to ensure that exporters do not send critical goods and technologies — either by accident or on purpose — to sanctioned individuals, organizations or countries.

Rules, Exceptions and Exceptions to Exceptions

Most exports require AES filing, but there are exceptions. If your merchandise is valued at $2,500 or more by Schedule B number you need to file. Schedule B is the US export classification system. A Schedule B number is a 10 digit code that relates to a product. That sounds pretty straightforward. But with most legislation there are rules, and exceptions to the rules, that make things a little more complicated. Let’s look at some of these.


Did you know that the origin of your goods can impact whether you need to submit EEI data? Let’s say you are exporting ten items in a single shipment. All ten items are classified the same, are not controlled goods, are all of domestic origin, with a declared value of $300 each. In this case, as the total value exceeds the $2,500 threshold, you must file.

However, let’s say five of the same items were foreign-sourced. In this instance an AES filing is unnecessary because by origin, the goods would only have a combined declared valued of $1,500.

O Canada!

You don’t need to file EEI data with AES if you are exporting to Canada. That means you could happily export goods valued at $25,000 every month and never need to report this to AES. Easy, right? Yes, except there are exceptions to this exception. If you export self-propelled vehicles — or other goods that require an export license or a license exception — to Canada, you must file with AES.

Diamonds Are Forever

You must also report to AES if you export rough diamonds. No matter where they go, or what their value, rough diamonds require an AES filing.

There is something else to bear in mind: Even if you don’t need to file EEI data, you must explain why using the appropriate AES exemption statement.

The Buck Stops With You

A number of parties can take responsibility for submitting the AES filing. Generally speaking, the United States Principal Party in Interest (USPPI) submits EEI data to AES.

The USPPI can be a wholesaler, distributor or manufacturer based in the United States. It could also be a third party which has negotiated the sale between a US seller and a foreign buyer. If you are the exporter then, for the most part, you will be the USPPI.

Having said that, the USPPI can outsource the responsibility of submitting EEI data to an authorized third-party, such as a freight forwarder.

Under certain circumstances, the Foreign Principal Party in Interest (FPPI) can also submit the EEI. The FPPI is the final consignee. If the FPPI uses a freight forwarder based in the US to arrange the export, then a US agent of the final consignee can submit the filing.

Here’s where it gets tricky… As an exporter, it is your duty to ensure all relevant exports have been filed with AES. Therefore, if you authorize a third-party to do this for you, you will need to make sure that you have proof of filing and that each filing includes complete and correct information. This means you still need to track all AES filings no matter who submits them. Ultimately, you are the one responsible for any violations. The buck stops with you.


Submitting to AES

There are two ways you can file EEI data to AES. We will have a quick look at them here.

Option 1: DIY

The first option is for your company or an authorized third party to file electronically using AESDirect. In order to do so, you or your authorized agent must log on to the ACE portal on the US Customs and Border Protection website. Once you have logged in, you must enter all the shipment information on to AESDirect. Obviously you will need an ACE account to do this. If you don’t have one, you can find the application on the CBP website.

Every item in your shipment must have the proper classification information such as Schedule B numbers and the Harmonized System (HS) codes. The HS code is a 6 digit number, known as a subheading. HS codes classify globally traded products.

As discussed above, Schedule B numbers relate to the US export classification system; HS numbers are international. Authorities around the world use HS codes to identify the import duties and tax rates payable on goods.

Therefore, it is important to include HS codes in most international export documentation and commercial invoices. Get the HS codes right and your goods will sail through customs; get it wrong and customs delays and disputes will arise.

Option 2: Software Solutions

Alternatively you use a software solution such as PRECISION Global Trade Management. PRECISION Global Trade Management automates export processes, documentation production and customs reporting. It records and stores all shipment data in a clear, consistent manner that is repeatable across customers, shipments and countries. In addition, PRECISION Global Trade Management automatically alerts you to critical export shipping and/or regulatory controls. This includes proactive export screening and license determination.

The solution provides for integrations to customs authorities for electronic export declarations. This includes AES. Using PRECISION, you can file on your own behalf, without involving a third-party. If you are the exporter and thus the USPPI, you bear the responsibility for ensuring all your exports meet the required regulations.

Leveraging a software solution also means you don’t have to re-enter the information into a separate system. This is quicker and more efficient, but crucially it also mitigates the risk of human error. When you are entering a long series of HS and Schedule B numbers it is easy for a mistake, such as a typo, to occur. PRECISION Global Trade Management allows you to ensure that EEI data is correctly filed and your obligations have all been met.


About Precision Software – Trusted Global Trade and Transportation Execution

Precision Software, a division of QAD Inc., provides industry-leading global trade management, transportation execution and multi carrier shipping software solutions from a single, integrated platform. Preeminent industry leaders in every region of the world rely on Precision’s global support centers to leverage thousands of carriers and manage millions of shipping transactions every day. Our open architecture easily integrates with Enterprise Resource Planning, Warehouse Management Systems and legacy solutions. An ISO-certified company, Precision Software assists companies to minimize shipping costs, optimize first mile and last mile deliveries, automate free trade agreement compliance, avoid customs delays and mitigate the risks associated with dynamic trading environments to maximize their competitive advantage. Precision Software’s customers span multiple industries including banking and finance, life sciences, high technology, retail, industrial, automotive, higher education and public sector as well as logistics providers. For more information about Precision Software, visit