The amendments to the Customs Act will give the Comptroller of Customs a very clear and properly demarcated provision within the existing legislation to undertake post clearance audits.
Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler made this announcement today in the House of Assembly while introducing amendments to the Customs Act.
Sinckler said that a post clearance audit was an examination of the books and records of an importer or company to verify the valuations, that were relied upon for the release of items into the local commercial sector, were properly done.
The St Michael North West MP said it would mean that the Customs and Excise Department would need to have the capacity both under law and in administrative practice to be able to examine records and books in relation to the items that were released under good faith by the department to allow business to continue.
“The purpose of post clearance audit is not for Customs to have the ability to just merely to turn up at your premises or harass you to get information out of your system, but to facilitate trade,” Sinckler explained.
“If Customs has the capacity to be able do this, ex post facto the goods being removed, it means that they can feel a degree of confidence to allow those goods to move out of port, knowing that even if they were under-invoiced they can return and properly re-evaluate the goods and have the correct duties paid or have the correct amount refunded to the person who may have overpaid.”
The Minister of Finance told parliament that with such a system in place, it would allow the Government to plan properly in relation to the revenue collection of the Customs and Excise Department.
He recalled that in 2009, a small post clearance audit department was established in the Customs and Excise Department and it had worked reasonably well to a point.
Sinckler further recalled that the department proved to be inadequate given the volume of goods being imported and exported out of the country.
He said policymakers also realized that in the execution of its work, it did not have the appropriate level of legal cover to allow its officers to carry out their jobs.
Outlining the work being done by the officers in the post clearance audit division, Sinckler said: “The job entails the officers under the instructions of the Comptroller of Customs to be able to go to the premises of any importer or company, and requiring that the information relating to the items which may have been released be made available so that examinations can be done on site.
“Originally information was being requested and the work would have been done from a desk at the office. The law does not currently allow for the Comptroller of Customs outside of a Writ of Assistance from the High Court to seize that information as required or enter onto premises as is necessary to have that information” he pointed out.