Senator Patrick Todd believes businesses have nothing to fear from amendments to the Customs Act because the changes were aimed at ensuring more efficiency in import duty collection, while protecting the nation from unwanted items.
Todd, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, was contributing today to debate in the Senate on the Customs Act Amendment Bill that authorizes the Comptroller of Customs to check on imported goods and documentation of their importers after they have cleared the port.
He said that while the Act seeks to tighten up on revenue collection procedures and ensure faster clearance of goods at the port, there should be no attempt to halt the importation of barrels by individuals who received personal items from relatives.
He said that some businesses have expressed a concern that barrels which Bajans usually receive contain items that end up on the shelves of shops for sale at a cheaper price because they dodged duty payment.
But he noted that Barbadians who have migrated like to deliver items for relatives on the island through barrels, and said, “So the whole issue of sending barrels of foodstuffs, clothing for children and relatives at Christmas time especially, should not be seen as so negative”.
He added however, “Of course we must make sure that the whole process is not abused so we should not have people going to Panama, Miami, Los Angeles and having several suitcases of clothing and other items that we know would end up somewhere in Bridgetown being sold to the public without the important paying of the taxes”.
Addressing the proposed changes in the law, Todd said, “This legislation would empower the Customs Department to ensure that the correct taxes are paid, correctly calculated, duties declared, and best practices are obtained”.
“The intention of this legislation is not to have the importers in a state of perpetual fear of the Customs and Excise Department,” he assured.
He said that the amendments were an improvement because, “provisions under the current legislation did not give the Customs officers the necessary legislative teeth to be able to, with confidence, to go unannounced to business places to secure the various documents and records, and take them away to study very carefully”.
He said as the law stands now, “they have to seek the leave of the Supreme Court. Apply for a Writ of Assistance”, to enter search, seize or take away un-customed or prohibited goods, along with any documents relating to importing and clearing shipments.
“The whole element of surprise is critical if illegal activity is to be detected,” Todd said.