Customs

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Customs, Tolls or Duties of the Corporation of Kinsale (1788)

Customs” means the Government Service which is responsible for the administration of Customs law and the collection of duties and taxes and which also has the responsibility for the application of other laws and regulations relating to the importation, exportation, movement or storage of goods.[1]

Officers from US Customs and Border Protection boarding a ship

Each country has its own laws and regulations for the import and export of goods into and out of a country, which its customs authority enforces. The import or export of some goods may be restricted or forbidden.[2] A customs duty is a tariff or tax on the importation (usually) or exportation (unusually) of goods. Commercial goods not yet cleared through customs are held in a customs area, often called a bonded store, until processed. All authorized ports are recognized customs areas.

At airports, customs functions as the point of no return for all passengers; once passengers have cleared customs, they cannot go back.

Functions of Customs[edit]

Traditionally customs has been considered as the fiscal subject that charges customs duties and other taxes on import or export. For the recent decades the views on the functions of customs have considerably expanded and now covers three basic issues: taxation, security and trade facilitation[3].

The terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, has become the factor that prompted a significant strengthening of the security component in the operations of the modern customs authorities, after which security-oriented control measures for supply chains have been widely implemented for the aims of preventing risk identification. The most complete guidelines for customs security functions implementation is provided in the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade (SAFE)[4], which have already received five editions in 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2018.

The trade facilitation objectives were introduced into routine of customs authorities in order to reduce trade transaction costs. The contemporary understanding of the “trade facilitation” concept is based on the Recommendation No. 4 of UN / CEFACT “National Trade Facilitation Bodies”[5]. According to its provisions (Para. 14) “facilitation covers formalities, procedures, documents and operations related to international trade transactions. Its goals are simplification, harmonization and standardization, so that transactions become easier, faster and more economical than before”.

Red and green channels[edit]

In many countries, customs procedures for arriving passengers at many international airports and some road crossings are separated into red and green channels.[6][7] Passengers with goods to declare (carrying goods above the permitted customs limits and/or carrying prohibited items) go through the red channel. Passengers with nothing to declare (carrying goods within the permitted customs limits and not carrying prohibited items) go through the green channel. However, entry into a particular channel constitutes a legal declaration, if a passenger going through the green channel is found to be carrying goods above the customs limits or prohibited items, he or she may be prosecuted for making a false declaration to customs, by virtue of having gone through the green channel. Each channel is a point of no return, once a passenger has entered a particular channel, they cannot go back.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States do not officially operate a red and green channel system; however, some airports copy this layout.

Blue channel[edit]

Airports in EU countries such as Finland, Ireland or the United Kingdom, also have a blue channel. As the EU is a customs union, travellers between EU countries do not have to pay customs duties. Value-added tax and excise duties may be applicable if the goods are subsequently sold, but these are collected when the goods are sold, not at the border. Passengers arriving from other EU countries go through the blue channel, where they may still be subject to checks for prohibited or restricted goods. Luggage tickets for checked luggage travelling within the EU are green-edged so they may be identified.[8][9] In most EU member states, travellers coming from other EU countries can simply use the green lane.

Red point phone[edit]

All airports in the United Kingdom operate a channel system, however some don't have a red channel, they instead have a red point phone which serves the same purpose.

Privatization of customs[edit]

The Customs-and-duty House at the port of Haifa, Israel

Customs is part of one of the three basic functions of a government, namely: administration; maintenance of law, order, and justice; and collection of revenue. However, in a bid to mitigate corruption, many countries have partly privatised their customs. This has occurred by way of contracting pre-shipment inspection agencies, which examine the cargo and verify the declared value before importation occurs. The country's customs is obliged to accept the agency's report for the purpose of assessing duties and taxes at the port of entry.

While engaging a pre-shipment inspection agency may appear justified in a country with an inexperienced or inadequate customs establishment, the measure has not been able to plug the loophole and protect revenue. It has been found that evasion of customs duty escalated when pre-shipment agencies took over.[10] It has also been alleged that involvement of such agencies has caused shipping delays.[2] Privatization of customs has been viewed as a fatal remedy.[10]

Summary of basic custom rules[edit]

European Union[edit]

The basic customs law is harmonized across Europe within the European Union Customs Union. This includes customs duties and restrictions. Customs tax from €22 to €150. In addition, see regulations of each member state.

For customs declarations in the EU and in Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, the "Single Administrative Document" (SAD) is used as a basis.[11]

Germany[edit]

Up to €22, there are no taxes. From €22 up to €150, it is necessary to pay VAT (EUSt in Germany), which is 7% or 19% depending on the goods. From €150 it is necessary to pay VAT and customs.

Romania[edit]

Customs may be very strict, especially for goods shipped from anywhere outside the EU. Up to €10 goods/package.

Italy[edit]

Customs in Italy takes additional 22% VAT (Value-added tax) for goods imported from outside the European Union even if the VAT is already paid to the origin country sender.

Czech Republic and Slovakia[edit]

Up to €22, there are no taxes. From €22 up to €150, it is necessary to pay VAT (DPH in Czech/Slovak), which is 21%. From €150, it is necessary to pay VAT and customs. Customs may range from zero to 10% depending on the type of imported goods.

North America[edit]

United States[edit]

The United States imposes tariffs or "customs duties" on imports of goods: 3% on average.[12] The duty is levied at the time of import and is paid by the importer of record. Individuals arriving in the United States may be exempt from duty on a limited amount of purchases, and on goods temporarily imported (such as laptop computers) under the ATA Carnet system. Customs duties vary by country of origin and product, with duties ranging from zero to 81% of the value of the goods. Goods from many countries are exempt from duty under various trade agreements. Certain types of goods are exempt from duty regardless of source. Customs rules differ from other import restrictions. Failure to comply with customs rules can result in seizure of goods and civil and criminal penalties against involved parties. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforces customs rules. All goods entering the United States are subject to inspection by CBP prior to legal entry.

South America[edit]

Argentina[edit]

Customs may be very strict. Up to u$300 overall, there are no taxes. From u$300 to u$1500, tax is 50% of the value of all acquired goods sumed up.

"Magic mail"[edit]

Juan Pablo Escobar writes, in My Father Pablo Escobar, "At the time Pablo Escobar was trafficking cocaine, Colombia's major airports had what was known as "magic mail", a sort of parallel customs system that made it possible to bring anything into the country without leaving a paper trail – in exchange for a fat bribe."

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "International Convention on The Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures".
  2. ^ a b Chowdhury, F. L. (1992) Evasion of Customs Duty in Bangladesh, unpublished MBA dissertation submitted to Monash University, Australia.
  3. ^ Kormych, Borys (2018). "THE MODERN TRENDS OF THE FOREIGN TRADE POLICY IMPLEMENTATION: IMPLICATIONS FOR CUSTOMS REGULATIONS". Lex Portus. 5: 27–45.
  4. ^ "WCO SAFE FRAMEWORK OF STANDARDS" (PDF).
  5. ^ "UN/CEFACT. Recommendation No.4 National Trade Facilitation Bodies. ECE/TRADE/425".
  6. ^ "Dual-Channel System (Customs Clearance)". Ica.gov.sg. Retrieved 2015-09-02.
  7. ^ "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 19 March 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 March 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  8. ^ "EUROPA - Taxation and Customs Union / Baggage controls". Ec.europa.eu. 2007-02-21. Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-28. Retrieved 2007-01-19.
  10. ^ a b Chowdhury, F. L. (2006) Corrupt bureaucracy and privatization of Customs in Bangladesh, Pathok Samabesh, Dhaka.
  11. ^ "The single administrative document (SAD) - Taxation and customs union - European Commission". Taxation and customs union. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  12. ^ "Federation of International Trade Associations, country profile: United States". Fita.org. Retrieved 2012-01-06.

External links[edit]