The Union Budget 2021-22 has made some interesting changes with respect to Customs laws. While some of these changes have been made in light of forthcoming commitments to the adoption of international Customs Conventions which is the seventh edition of the Harmonized System of Nomenclature coming into force from 1 January 2022, other changes include facilitating the ease of doing business by pushing greater electronic adoption in filing customs documents and executing amendments in documents on record.
Ease of Doing Business, for some time now, has become the go-to initiative of the Government of India. The Union Budget this time has proposed some innovative steps to carry forward this message and facilitate the customs trade across the ports in the country.
To encourage more paperless processing, and possibly to shoehorn the Indian Customs Electronic Gateway (ICEGATE) portal – that provides e-filing, registration and payment services to the Exim trade, into a more progressive and interactive avatar, a Common Customs Electronic Portal (CCEP) has been proposed. The CCEP is to be the next step for seamless interaction between the trade and Customs authorities and if a considerate integration with the GSTN, DGFT and other electronic gateways can be achieved, will be a significant step in furthering paperless processing in Indian Customs to be aligned to global best practices.
One perennial complaint from the trade has been the delay in filing and processing amendments to documents which are already in process in the ICES EDI system of Customs. A primary reason for this delay was often the lack of availability of a proper officer with access to the relevant ICES module, lack of technical awareness to operate the correction module and various other systemic ‘ghosts in the machine’. The Budget 2021 has attempted to address this problem by allowing specific amendments on a self-assessment basis by the concerned importers or exporters, without waiting for a manual approval from the concerned officer.
It is also proposed that notifications that grant conditional exemptions (not general exemptions) will have a sunset period of two years from the date of notification. This will go a long way in culling exemption notifications which either lose their relevance or become outdated for whatever reason. In case a renewal of an exemption is required, the trade would automatically be alert and can lobby the government pre-emptively and proactively to extend the time limit of an exemption notification. This would also help in facilitating a participatory approach within the trade and industry.
To further scrap dwell time at Customs ports, it has been proposed to allow importers to file a Bill of Entry at least one day prior to the arrival of cargo. This is a limited step taken to adopt standards being followed all over the world. While some importers are given the facility to file deferred Bill of Entry in India, the accepted standard internationally from the European Union to the United States ranges at a time gap for advance Bill of Entry from 7-14 days. Given that our electronic systems are notorious for being ‘not-available’ at crucial times, a mandatory filing of at least one day in advance will help in moving cargo faster through the system rather than waiting for the process to start once the goods arrive at port.
Overall, on the Customs front, this has been an interesting Budget, one which shows that considerable thought has been put into evolving the Customs regime into a future proof, interactive and self-reliant regime.
This article was originally published in Times Now News on 15 March 2021 Co-written by: Rajat Bose, Partner; Neeladri Chakrabarti, Consultant. Click here for original article
Contributed by: Rajat Bose, Partner; Neeladri Chakrabarti, Consultant
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