Are toilet seats bought by the kilogram or on a per piece basis? Should tableware or porcelain be measured by weight or as a unit? Likewise with a coffee table — weight or number? The answers may seem obvious but they’re not. Differences in commercial practices and customs guidelines on the measurement of some goods may have wreaked havoc with the country’s trade statistics, not to mention sparking a plethora of disputes and delays in the clearance of consignments.
The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), India has now begun a review of standard unit quantity codes (UQC) to address the issue and help improve the ease of doing business while reducing the scope for disputes. India has already identified ‘trade across borders’ as one of the areas where it can show substantial improvement in ease of doing business.
India is ranked 119 on this count in the World Bank’s latest rankings.
“There are issues particularly in some tariff lines… We are now looking at how we can bring about uniformity,” said a government official. For instance, UQC for products under Heading 6911— tableware, kitchenware and other household articles, and toilet articles of porcelain or china—is in kilogram.
However, the trade transacts in units or by number of pieces. Moreover, there is no uniformity in UQC declarations by traders. These are not the same for a particular item at different customs locations. The World Customs Organization has prescribed standard UQCs that are used internationally. India implemented mandatory standard UQCs from 2013 as part of export-import declarations.
There are inconsistencies in the way these have been applied. Variance in codes is approved by field officials, which makes the system subject to discretion and interpretation. CBEC has reached out to the industry to arrive at ways in which the matter can be addressed.
“Use of standardised UQC as prescribed in Customs Tariff Act, 1975, is a challenge at times faced by trade due to different market practices,” said Rahul Shukla, executive director, PwC.
“The same has been recognized by the customs authorities and they have supported the trade in resolving it as well on case-to-case basis. Shukla said the proposed move by CBEC to take another look at UQCs prescribed in the Customs Tariff Act and align them with practice was a positive move and in line with the continued commitment to trade facilitation.
“It will help if CBEC can consider allowing multiple UQCs for the same commodity or adopting a particular UQC which is used more frequently by trade,” he said. India jumped 30 places to 100 in World Bank’s overall ease of doing business rankings in the latest listing released in October after undertaking various reforms to improve the environment. Source: By Deepshikha Sikarwar, The Economic Times, India, 8 January 2018.