Archives For customs compliance programme

Customs LawThe following article and its ensuing piece of legislation would seem to suggest that current Customs’ automated risk management is not doing its job, or at least is not as successful as authorities would often have one believe. Will this legislation signal a return to good old-fashioned ‘manual’ customs investigative work based on human intelligence? What the Congressman appears to overlook is that it is the US importers who are liable for correct clearance of foreign supplied goods. If CTPAT (and any other AEO scheme for that matter) have any worth, then surely the USCBP would look at de-accrediting US importers who fall foul of its import compliance levels? For many, the question remains – how successful (or even relevant) are the post 9/11 Customs Security measures? Besides creating significant expense budgets for Customs administrations, lucrative business opportunities for scientists, technology vendors, standards bodies, and of course consulting opportunities for the hundreds of audit firms and donor agencies – are the benefits, cost-savings and efficiencies in our current era of “Security” that visible? For many traders, all of this has been accepted as little more than the cost of doing and remaining in business. Period!

Congressman Dan Lipinski introduced legislation that will help American manufacturers grow their businesses and add jobs by cracking down on foreign companies that illegally avoid paying millions of dollars in customs duties. The Customs Training Enhancement Act (click on hyperlink to view the Bill) will facilitate the sharing of information between the private sector and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, enabling the government to do a better job of identifying schemes that cheat American taxpayers by importing foreign goods without paying duties.

The bill, which was folded into Democratic and Republican versions of more comprehensive Customs legislation in the previous Congress, further advances the goal of levelling the playing field so American businesses have a fairer shot against their foreign competitors.

“Blatant cheating by foreign firms has become more widespread at a time when American employers and workers are already at a serious disadvantage. This is not only bad for American business, but it hurts taxpayers by robbing the federal government of taxes it is rightfully owed,” Rep. Lipinski said. “The Customs Training Enhancement Act offers a common-sense approach by allowing impacted industries to  provide our Customs agents the critical intelligence they need to spot the cheaters.”

Since 2001, importers and exporters of goods into the United States have avoided paying $600 million in duties, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which estimates that 90 percent of all transhipped or mislabelled items originated in China. Foreign companies have avoided duties by misclassifying and undervaluing products or by shipping goods from one country to another on their way to the United States in order to disguise the country of origin.

Under Rep. Lipinski’s bill, Customs and Border Protection would be required to seek out companies and trade groups that have information that can identify misrepresented shipments. That information, in turn, would be shared directly from these industry experts to Customs agents working on the front lines.

The Customs Training Enhancement Act is modelled on a successful program forged between the steel industry and Customs and Border Protection in which company and industry officials have taught Customs agents how to spot products that have been deliberately mislabelled.

“The steel industry has shown us a public-private partnership that saves taxpayers millions of dollars while costing the federal government very few, if any, resources,” Lipinski said. “We need to expand this program and fight back against the lying and cheating by foreign companies that are hurting American taxpayers, businesses, and workers. The Customs Training Enhancement Act is an important first step.” Source: www.lipinski.house.gov

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Authorised Economic Operators (AEO), a scheme focusing on compliant companies to facilitate trade starts before the year ends. The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Public and Corporate Affairs Assistant Commissioner Sarah Banage recently disclosed that AEO is meant to enhance compliance “by removing barriers for the most complaint taxpayer”.

“Under the scheme, the benefit of being complaint will be red-carpet treatment offered by URA,” she stated, adding, “we want to demonstrate that there are rewards for being compliant.” Banage cited electronic submission of declaration without supporting documents, pre-arrival clearance of cargo, and self-management of bonded warehouses as some of the benefits. Others are: priority treatment when cargo is selected for control, choosing the place for examination, automatic renewal of licences and withholding tax exemption status.

Because the relationship between URA and its clients is “symbiotic”, it is expected that there will be an increase in taxes, Banage argued. Potential beneficiaries of AEO are: agents, importers, exporters, shippers, internal container depot operators, and others involved in international shipment of goods, among others.

To be eligible, Banage said, one should be involved in international trade, have a good compliance history, be financially sound, install and use customs automated systems like e-tax and should implement the AEO compliance programme. To be authorized, companies/organizations will apply to the commissioner, after which a preliminary consultation is done.

“We will then determine who should formally apply. Officials will adjudicate submitted documents before a site is inspected to ensure compliance with guidelines,” she said. Subsequently, a one-year certificate will be issued.

“An AEO is an individual, a business entity or a government department that is involved in international trade and is duly authorized by the Commissioner of Customs of Uganda Revenue Authority.”

Banage said that implementing AEO does not only have short-term results but also resultant long-term benefits to the business community. These include reduction of the cost of doing business and increased turnover over time, among others. In the middle of April, customs officials held a breakfast meeting at Serena hotel, Kampala where Chief Executive Officers of major organizations were sensitized about the plan.

Later, customs officials interacted with personnel of the Auditor General, Export Promotion Board, the Trade, Industry and Cooperatives ministry, the Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries ministry and Uganda National Bureau of Standards. Also at Serena, it was meant to “share with them the programme in order to capture their ideas,” according to Banage.

Weeks ago, URA asked companies to express interest in joining the scheme. Over 20 organizations applied and are currently involved in talks expected to culminate in attaining AEO status. “Admission to the scheme will depend on how the companies implement the compliance programme. By December, some companies should be authorized,” Banage added. Among others, those expected to benefit from the first phase are importers, clearing agents and transporters.

Regarding the East African Community (EAC), customs administrators have adopted an AEO policy framework. It was adopted in 2010 as a basis for implementing trade facilitation initiatives that drive economic development for the EAC. Under AEO’s mutual recognition arrangement, a government formally recognizes the AEO programme of another country, thereby granting benefits to the AEOs of that country. Under a regional project, companies in the five countries receive benefits related to the scheme. Among the benefits is priority treatment at customs points. Source: The Observer (Kampala)