EC – Proposes ‘Single Window’ to modernise and streamline customs

The European Commission has today proposed a new initiative that will make it easier for different authorities involved in goods clearance to exchange electronic information submitted by traders, who will be able to submit the information required for import or export of goods only once. The so-called ‘EU Single Window Environment for Customs‘ aims to enhance cooperation and coordination between different authorities, in order to facilitate the automatic verification of non-customs formalities for goods entering or leaving the EU.

The Single Window aims to digitalise and streamline processes, so that businesses will ultimately no longer have to submit documents to several authorities through different portals. Today’s proposal is the first concrete deliverable of the recently adopted Action Plan on taking the Customs Union to the next level. It launches an ambitious project to modernise border controls over the coming decade, in order to facilitate trade, improve safety and compliance checks, and reduce the administrative burden for companies.

Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for the Economy, said: “Digitalisation, globalisation and the changing nature of trade present both risks and opportunities when it comes to goods crossing the EU’s borders. To rise to these challenges, customs and other competent authorities must act as one, with a more holistic approach to the many checks and procedures needed for smooth and safe trade. Today’s proposal is the first step towards a fully paperless and integrated customs environment and better cooperation between all authorities at our external borders. I urge all Member States to play their part in making it a true success story.”

Each year, the Customs Union facilitates the trade of more than €3.5 trillion worth of goods. Efficient customs clearance and controls are essential to allow trade to flow smoothly while also protecting EU citizens, businesses and the environment. The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the importance of having agile yet robust customs processes, and this will become ever more important as trade volumes keep on increasing and new challenges related to digitalisation and e-commerce, such as new forms of fraud, emerge.

Currently, the formalities required at the EU’s external borders often involve many different authorities in charge of different policy areas, such as health and safety, the environment, agriculture, fisheries, cultural heritage and market surveillance and product compliance. As a result, businesses have to submit information to several different authorities, each with their own portal and procedures. This is cumbersome and time-consuming for traders and reduces the capacity of authorities to act in a joined-up way in combatting risks.

Today’s proposal is the first step in creating a digital framework for enhanced cooperation between all border authorities, through one Single Window. The Single Window will enable businesses and traders to provide data in one single portal in an individual Member State, thereby reducing duplication, time and costs. Customs and other authorities will then be able to collectively use this data, allowing for a fully coordinated approach to goods clearance and a clearer overview at EU level of the goods that are entering or leaving the EU. 

This is an ambitious project that will entail significant investment at both EU and Member State level, in order to be fully implemented over the next decade or so. The Commission will support Member States in this preparation, where possible, including through funding from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, to enable them to reap the full, long-term benefits of the Single Window. 

Source: European Commission, 28 October 2020

East African countries set-up of cargo control unit

KRA-Customs-Transit-Control

Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner-General John Njiraini announces the implementation of a common customs and transit cargo control framework to rid Mombasa port of corruption

Four East African countries on Tuesday agreed to fast-track implementation of a common customs and transit cargo control framework to enhance regional trade.

Commissioners-general from the Kenyan, Ugandan, Rwandan and Tanzanian revenue authorities said adoption of an excise goods management system would curb illicit trade in goods that attract excise duty across borders.

They said creation of a single regional bond for goods in transit would ease movement of cargo, with taxation being done at the first customs port of entry.

The meeting held in Nairobi supported formation of the Single Customs Territory, terming it a useful measure that will ease clearance of goods and reduce protectionist tendencies, thereby boosting business.

Implementation of the territory is being handled in three phases; the first will address bulk cargo such as fuel, wheat grain and clinker used in cement manufacturing.

Phase two will handle containerised cargo and motor vehicles, while the third will deal with intra-regional trade among countries implementing the arrangement.

The treaty for establishment of the East African Community provides that a customs union shall be the first stage in the process of economic integration.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) commissioner-general John Njiraini said the recently introduced customs and border control regulations were designed to enhance revenue collection and beef up security at the entry points.

“At KRA, we have commenced the implementation of a number of revenue enhancement programmes particularly on the customs and border control front that will address security and revenue collection at all border points while enhancing swift movement of goods,” he said.

To address cargo diversion cases, the regional revenue authorities resolved that a joint programme be rolled out to reform transit goods clearance and monitoring processes. Source: DailyNation (Kenya)

The Single Customs Territory Experiences ‘IT-connectivity’ Startup Problems

EAC-logoSince July 2014, EAC revenue officers work together to facilitate trade within the community. Some improvements remain made; the Single Customs Territory (SCT) does present some advantages. Since the single customs territory is operational, clearing processes are established in the country of destination while the goods are still at the port of Dar es Salaam”, explains Leah Skauki, a SCT liaison officer at the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).

Once the declaration is over, when custom duties and taxes are paid, TRA verifies the physical goods. “The office grants a notification testifying that the goods fulfil all requirements in order to get the exit note.” Within the new system, the number of weighbridges and non-tariff barriers are reduced because “truck drivers only have to show the documents which certify that the goods have undergone verification.”

Massoundi Mohamed Ben Ali, Administrative Director in Charge of Human Resources and Import – Export at the Bakhresa Grain Milling Burundi, is pleased with the new development. “Before the system was implemented, Bakhresa used to import 3800 Tonnes of wheat (40 trucks) and we were obliged to declare each truck with a different clearing agent. We now fill in one statement with one clearing agent. The procedures are done quickly with a small of amount of money”, he points out.

Clearing agents testify that the number of statement on the borders is reduced. “Before, transporters had to fill in a transit declaration (T1) on each border”, one of the clearing agents in the Dares Salaam port relates.

Aimable Nsabimana, a focal point of SCT in Dar es Salaam for the Burundi Revenue Authority, indicates that the computerised system they use is different in each country.”It is not easy to exchange data. We are forced to print documents for verification. And when the goods arrive in Tanzania, they are in the hands of the TRA which has its own software”, he notes.

Inter-connectivity of software would facilitate verification and avoid fraud. This opinion is shared by many clearing agents: “If we were interconnected, the Tanzanians would be able to easily access Burundian data and vice versa”, one of them says.

Léonce Niyonzima, programme and monitoring officer at OBR and the national coordinator of SCT, agrees that the lack of interconnectivity causes delays in the transmission of documents.

He says that all EAC countries should have been interconnected by June 2014, but due to technical problems Tanzania and Burundi still lag behind. “There is a technical committee responsible for monitoring and evaluation which will draw up the balance sheet of the challenges before ending the pilot stage at the end of this year.”

The Single Customs Territory is funded by Trademark East Africa with an amount of USD 450 thousand for the redeployment of staff, travel expenses, inspection and supervision, information technology, office equipment and assistance. Source: http://www.iwacu-burundi.org

Government heeds the call – Tax Holidays for SEZs

Minister Pravin Gordhan and his 'budget team' on their way to parliment [Picture credit-SARS]

Minister Pravin Gordhan and his ‘budget team’ on their way to parliament [Picture credit – SARS]

After more than a decade of fruitless marketing and billions spent on capital investment, Budget 2013 brings some hope of a turn-around and better fortunes for economic development zones in South Africa.

Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan announced, what is an unprecedented move. to bolster support for government’s Special Economic Zone (SEZ)programme. Investors in such zones are expected to qualify for a 15% corporate tax rate, and in addition, a further tax deduction for companies employing workers earning less than R60,000 per year.

This is a significant development in that the previous dispensation under the Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) programme only afforded prospective investors a duty rebate and VAT exemption on imported goods for use in the Customs Controlled Area (CCA) of an IDZ. The reality is that these benefits were simply not enough to woo foreign company’s to set up shop in our back yard, let alone existing big business in South Africa to relocate to these zones. Mozambique, next door, has had much success as are other African countries through the offering of company tax holidays with the introduction of export-focussed special manufacturing facilities.

The SEZ (so it would seem) differs little from the IDZ approach save the fact that the former does not require the location of the economic zone at an international airport, seaport or border crossing. As such, an existing IDZ may ‘house’ a special economic zone, thus maximizing return on investment.

Recent developments in SA Customs realise a provision permitting foreign entities to register as importers or exporters under the ‘foreign principal’ clause in the Customs and Excise Act. Approval of such is dependant on the foreign principal establishing a business relationship with a South African ‘Agent’. This ‘agent’ is required to be registered with the SA Revenue Service as the party representing a ‘foreign principal’ in customs affairs. At this point, the provision is being applied to business entities in BLNS countries who import or move bonded goods into or from South Africa.

Future global application of this provision could boost the possibilities of a broader range of investor to favourably consider SEZ opportunities in South Africa. This option will, no doubt, not go unnoticed by the big audit firms seeking to broker ‘cross-border’ customs facilities for their multi-national clients. I perceive that more introspection is still required concerning ‘non-resident’ banking facilities and transfer pricing issues to enable the global application of the foreign principal concept. But after all this seems a good case for trade liberalisation. Add to this the forthcoming launch of Customs new integrated declaration processing system that will (in time) offer simplified electronic clearance and expedited release facilities for future SEZ clients.