WCO – Two new Instruments on Customs Valuation to Support Customs and Economic Operators

At its 52nd Session, held from 17 to 19 May 2021, the Technical Committee on Customs Valuation adopted two instruments (Advisory Opinions 4.18 and 24.1) concerning royalties and licence fees under Article 8.1 (c) of the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement (Agreement) and the Customs valuation treatment of imported goods bearing the buyer’s own trademark, respectively. 

These two instruments were adopted after a virtual session which extended over three days, having regard to the current circumstances relating to the pandemic. It rewards the efforts constantly being made by the Technical Committee to improve the certainty of the interpretation and uniform application of the provisions of the Agreement in all member countries of the WTO. Practical instruments of this kind help Customs, the private sector and the Members in the fair control of Customs valuation, the facilitation of international trade and the optimization of Customs revenue.

In the first instrument, the Technical Committee gives its opinion on the valuation treatment of income tax deriving from the royalty paid to the country of importation’s tax authorities in accordance with the terms of the licence agreement signed by the importer and the seller, who is also the licence holder.

The second instrument relates to the valuation treatment of the trademark belonging to the buyer and provided free of charge to the seller for use in connection with the production of the imported goods.

These instruments adopted by the Technical Committee, once they have been approved by the WCO Council, will be available on the WCO Publications website and published in the WCO Customs Valuation Compendium.

Source: WCO, 27 May 2021

WCO launches Trade Tools, a new online database for the Harmonized System, Origin and Valuation

The World Customs Organization (WCO) is proud to announce the release of its new online tool, www.wcotradetools.org, which compiles information to support international trade actors in the classification of goods and the determination of the corresponding Customs tariffs and taxes. This new database offers a single point of access to the Harmonized System, preferential Rules of Origin and Valuation, through a completely new, user-centric and ergonomic interface.

In addition to a new interface design and new search engines, this new platform offers the following key features: 

  • Ability to cross-reference information by using a comparison tool in the Harmonized System (HS) and Rules of Origin
  • A direct overview of the most recent HS updates, highlighting the changes introduced
  • A system for tracking the evolution of the HS codes across editions, using a “History” tool
  • A facility for searching through the Product Specific Rules in more than 200 Free Trade Agreements, and access to the corresponding HS entry.

The new platform will also promote cooperation among the different teams within Customs administrations, as well as with Customs brokers and companies, through various features such as the possibility to tag information, write comments and share folders. It offers the possibility of further enhancing use of the platform; users can search through the extensive databases, as well as organizing and storing the content according to their personal preferences.

This new tool includes the 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017 editions of the HS, around 200 Free Trade Agreements with their preferential Rules of Origin/product specific recommendations, and the set list of Valuation texts, including those of the Technical Committee on Customs Valuation.

In addition to this new professional database, the WCO is also proud to announce the release of its new online bookshop, www.wcoomdpublications.org, where users can navigate through the range of WCO publications, purchase them, and subscribe to the Organization’s online services, including WCO Trade Tools. The website has benefited from a complete revamp, to facilitate users’ access to the publications and enhance their navigation experience.

For more information, please contact the Publications & Data Solutions Service: publications@wcoomd.org.

WCO News – October 2020

The WCO has published the 93rdedition of WCO News, the Organization’s flagship magazine aimed at the global Customs community, which provides a selection of informative articles that touch the international Customs and trade landscape.

This issue looks more specifically at Customs valuation, a technical but fundamental subject. Since its inception, the WCO has always been closely associated with the different multilateral systems used to value imported goods. As the Technical Committee on Customs Valuation established by the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation has just celebrated its 50th Session, we thought it appropriate to retrace the history of the rules used to determine the value of imports, the challenges raised by their implementation and existing opportunities for Customs to enrich their knowledge and improve their practices in this area.

The “Panorama” section covers various topics such as the development of electronic tariff platforms in Africa, the improvement of the food clearance process in India, the construction of an advanced digital platform for trade and logistics in the United Arab Emirates, enhanced collaboration between Australia and Korea through officer placement, and, finally, the perspective of Customs experts on issues deemed important in their own country or area of work.

Following on from the previous edition of the magazine, we have compiled articles related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the “Focus” section. The WCO Secretariat presents, in particular, the new procedures and new tools adopted to ensure continuity of activities by the Organization’s working bodies. As for capacity building, it is discussed in an article describing the remote delivery of Mercator Programme Stocktaking and Forward Planning missions by the WCO team overseeing the HMRC-WCO-UNCTAD Programme.

The “Flash info” section includes a long article on the new approaches to measuring corruption and integrity which have been adopted by the WCO Secretariat team in charge of the Anti-Corruption and Integrity Promotion (A-CIP) Programme, and what lessons can be learned from their experience so far.

Finally, this issue’s “Point of view” article highlights the benefits of using systematic non-intrusive screening equipment and automatic detection to screen baggage upon arrival at airports.

It has been our great pleasure to produce another edition of WCO News and we trust that you will enjoy reading this issue, whether it be the paper version or the new mobile-friendly digital one.

Source: WCO, 28 October 2020

WCO’s “Guidelines”on Customs-Tax Cooperation

customs-taxThe “Guidelines for strengthening cooperation and exchange of information between Customs and Tax authorities at the national level” have been formulated with the support of WCO Members and development partners, especially the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The Guidelines aim to provide reference guidance to Customs and Tax authorities who wish to go further in their cooperation and develop operational models which enable agencies to work together to their mutual benefit.

Although there is no limit to the ways in which these two agencies can work together, and countries should consider new and innovative methods based on their organizational structure, needs and operational requirements, the Guidelines highlight some overarching principles and associated benefits concerning enhancement of Customs-Tax cooperation.

The WCO Guidelines for Strengthening Cooperation and the Exchange Of Information between Customs and Tax Authorities at the National Level are intended to supplement the ongoing initiatives in this domain. The aim is to provide general, overarching principles for cooperation which take account of operational considerations, bearing in mind the different organizational structures and national requirements of countries. It is expected that these Guidelines will be useful to Member Customs administrations in developing a sustainable cooperation mechanism (including a MoU where needed) tailored to their unique situation, in close cooperation with their respective Tax authorities

In particular, the Guidelines provide a comprehensive overview of the enablers for mutual cooperation and the exchange of information, address the scope and remit of information exchange, cover different information exchange mechanisms, list the type of activities that Customs and Tax authorities may undertake together, and provide key principles and points to consider when developing a Memorandum of Understanding/Agreement (MOU/MOA). Source: WCO

BEPS Impact on Trade and Customs

Transcript of video
Todd Smith, principal in KPMG LLP’s Trade & Customs practice: We had over 350 people attend the webinar on Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS) from a Customs Perspective. I think the reason is because there hasn’t been a lot of discussion on how BEPS will impact customs.

I read all of the action items that the OECD published in October to identify where there would be crossover or an overlap on customs as it relates to BEPS. There clearly is going to be quite an impact.

For one thing, there is a lot of transparency that is being created overall by the BEPS initiatives, and customs auditors around the world are increasingly cooperating with the tax administrations around the world, so there will be a treasure trove of information for the customs auditors found within the Master File, the Local File and the CbC report, and just as tax administrators will use that information because of the information sharing, customs auditors will also use that information to identify targets for audits.

It will tell them, for example, where there is a related party transaction where they may not have had that information previously.

One of the big areas that we feel the customs function will be impacted by BEPS is where you have a situation where a company may need to convert a commissionaire to a buy-sell. When this happens, the importer of record could change, and more importantly the value that’s declared to customs under a commissionaire structure oftentimes is the third-party customer price. And when that entity converts to a buy-sell entity, the new buy-sell entity becomes the importer of record. It needs to achieve a margin, and the only way really to do that is to import that same product at a lower price.

And so the challenge is to convince the customs administration that the new price with the limited-risk distributor, for example, which is lower in its related party price, is still considered arm’s length, even though it’s less than the previous import value at the 3rd party customer price. Source: KPMG

Recommended reading

New WCO Instrument on Transfer Pricing and Customs Valuation

New WCO InstrumentAn important new instrument was finalised at the 42nd Session of the Technical Committee on Customs Valuation which took place in Brussels from 18 to 22 April 2016 under the Chairmanship of Ms. Yuliya Gulis of the United States.

The instrument contains a case study illustrating a scenario where Customs took into account transfer pricing information in the course of verifying the Customs value.

The WTO Valuation Agreement sets out the methodology for establishing the Customs value, used as the basis for calculating Customs duties. The Agreement foresees that Customs may examine transactions between related parties where they have doubts that the price has been influenced by the relationship.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has developed Guidelines for establishing the transfer price, that is the price for goods and services sold between controlled or related legal entities, in order to determine business profit taxes where businesses are related.

Over recent years, the similar objectives but different methodologies of transfer pricing and Customs valuation have been noted, and it has been recognised that business documentation developed for transfer pricing purposes may contain useful information for Customs. An earlier instrument of the Technical Committee, Commentary 23.1, confirmed this principle.

The new case study provides an example of Customs making use of transfer pricing information based on the transactional net margin method. On the basis of this information, Customs accepted that the sale price in question had not been influenced by the relationship.

The OECD has provided valuable input to the Technical Committee discussions in the development of the new instrument which provides helpful guidance to both Customs administrations and the business community.

Both the WCO and the OECD advocate closer cooperation between Customs and tax administrations in order to strengthen governments’ ability to identify the correct tax and duties legally due and enhance trade facilitation for the compliant business sector.

WCO Secretary General, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, has congratulated the Technical Committee on the work achieved : “This new instrument is an important step for the WCO and demonstrates its relevance by providing guidance on the management of Customs valuation in an increasingly complex trade landscape, whilst maintaining consistency and strengthening cooperation with Tax authorities.”

The case study (Case Study 14.1) will be made available in the WCO Valuation Compendium, subject to approval by the WCO Council in July 2016.

Further information on this topic can be found in the WCO Guide to Customs Valuation and Transfer Pricing, available via this link