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Custom Brokers Face Hardship in Clearance Under Faceless Assessment

Chennai:

Port Wings News Network:

EXIM Trade believed that it is undoubtedly another milestone for Customs clearance with an aim to reduce dwell time further under “Ease of Doing” program, when the Union Government introduced Faceless Assessment.

The EXIM trade  rejoiced and welcomed the new procedure wherein the Import Bill of Entry earlier assessed by an officer in the Port of Filing will be assessed by an Officer working in other Customs Stations without meeting the Agents in person to explain any query related to import items/valuation/duty exemption applicability etc., everything done away with through online.

But, when the Faceless Assessment is introduced on pan-India basis vide CBIC Circular No.40/2020-Customs, dated 04.09.2020, effective from 31 October 2020, after trial move, the trade really had to face hardship in getting Bills assessed on time as the Officers sitting remotely raised more queries on valuation, applicability of Notification benefits under FTA between India and Asian Countries and  many more.

MINIMUM 5-10 DAYS DELAY

Consequently, the bills are getting assessed after a minimum 5-10 days from Bill of Entry filing date. At times the duration exceeds 15 days. Further, when the officers are not satisfied with document evidence and query replies, they simply recommend for merit duty, which is against the principle of Free Trade Agreement between SAARC countries and discourage importers using import raw materials, which are freely allowed for import as per EXIM Policy 2015-20.

Though the intention of Government is to make the assessment procedure simple and time saving, but in reality, the other way happened. The importers and agents start realizing the old system “holds good” as the Faceless Assessment takes more time and increase logistics cost. After due representations from the EXIM trade, Chambers, FFFAI to Ministry of Commerce, the CBIC issued Guidelines for Faceless Assessment vide Circular No.45/2020 dated 12-10-2020.

Further, the CBIC board introduced Carotar Form I, Section II  and Section III to be issued by Supplier and Importer with an aim to curtail fraudulent claim of duty benefits under Free Trade Agreement giving powers to officer to verify the genuineness of origin of goods also to assess under merit duty if the documents found to be fake.

Most of logistics people welcomed the new system of Faceless Assessment as it will completely avoid personal contact of officials and reduce time and cost of operation, But in reality, there are lot of online queries raised for supporting documents, declarations, 100% open order, denying duty exemption benefits for the importer by the assessing officer forced on client to clear goods at increased cost to save time.  Mr Vijay Balan, an entrepreneur in Logistics expressed his experience with new system of Faceless Assessment and Carotar declaration. “While the new system pave way for avoiding personal contact of officers by agents, but the trade has to bear increasing logistics cost unnecessarily on account of numerous queries by officers resulting delay in clearance. The very purpose of the introducing faceless assessment system getting defeated,” he said.

One of Custom Brokers, Mr.K.Venkattu, welcomed the Faceless Assessment and Carotar Form requirements to curtail duty evasion and fraudulent claims by some importers, physical presence avoided, time saving etc., are some of the merits of the system. “But the implementation has some issues like no proper procedure to recall bills, so many queries raised by FAG, 100% examination in open order, various documents need to be verified, delay in BE allotment and assessment by FAG officers, FTA bills ordered for BG/ 100% merit duty are some of the difficulties faced by trade,” he said.

However, CBIC should conduct more seminars to solve the issues faced by trade. Further, the trade members feel the allotment of bills to RMS has been reduced drastically from 80-85% to 30-40% resulting in accumulation more of bills under assessment resulting in delayed clearance. The members wish is to bring back earlier 80% under RMS clearance. All are aware when a new system is introduced, there are some bottlenecks prevent smooth flow of system and it is the responsibility of the Board to get feedback and suggestions from the EXIM trade and service providers to find suitable remedy to make the it more transparent and  effective for the intended purpose for which it is introduced.

(Special Article by KS Jagannathan)

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