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ISLAMABAD: The Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) has directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to immediately clear over 3,000 stuck non-commercial postal/courier consignments of shoes, chocolates, confectionary items, apparel, perfumes, and medicines illegally stopped by the customs authorities.

According to an order, the FTO has declared this act of the FBR’s customs officials as maladministration. This Own Motion has been initiated, on receipt of multiple complaints, arising out of stuck up courier consignments of marginal value like shoes, chocolates, confectionary items, apparel, perfumes, medicines and alike.

Pursuant to Ministry o Commerce’s SRO 598(1)/2022 notifying such items in the category of banned items, approximately 3,000 plus consignments of smaller quantities of goods or gifts, sent from abroad, without any payment to be made in foreign exchange from Pakistan, are stuck due to their non-clearance by Customs authorities.

The above state-of-affairs has caused immense hardship to the bona fide aggrieved taxpayers and citizens of Pakistan and is, thus, tantamount to maladministration, in terms of Section 2(3) of the FTO Ordinance, 2000.

The OM was referred to the secretary, Revenue Division, for comments in terms of Section 10(4) of the FTO Ordinance, read with Section 9(1) of the Federal Ombudsman Institutional Reforms Act, 2013. In response thereto, Chief (F&C), FBR, Islamabad, submitted parawise comments dated 05.07.2022, stating that MoC issued SRO 598(1)/2022 dated 19.05.2022 and banned import of certain items by adding Sr No 52 to Sr No 85 in the Appendix-A of Import Policy Order.

The subject ban on the import of said items is applicable on all courier service providers. Resultantly, a large number of consignments are stuck up at different ports. However, the FBR is bound under the law, to implement regulatory order referred above. Further stated that, owing to this blockage and hardship, being faced by the citizens of Pakistan, FBR took up the matter with MoC.

A series of meetings took place recently to discuss and resolve this issue. It is hoped that the matter will be resolved soon. Further, Facilitation and Compliance Wing of FBR issued a clarification, vide letter No 1(I)E&C/2022 dated 25.05.2022, for facilitation of passengers at airports in respect of personal baggage. As regards resolution of courier issue, the FBR is striving hard and consistently endeavoring to get clarification from MoC, so that courier consignments, being stuck, are cleared as early as possible.

In view of the supra, it is evident that a multitude of non-commercial postal and courier consignments of marginal/de-minimise value, pertaining to bona fide aggrieved taxpayers and innocent citizens of the country, have got stuck up at various Customs stations, pending clearance due to harsh connotation of SRO 598(1)/2022 dated 19.05.2022. This Office, vide its recommendations in a similar matter, taken up in Complaint No.1815/ABD/CUST/2022 13.05.2022, has issued detailed findings which are inter alia applicable in the subject OM.

It is also observed that very spirit, behind the subject SRO, was not to adversely impact non-commercial bona fide imports of marginal value, made through postal services or air courier, of gifts sent from abroad or de-minimize goods and commodities falling under section 19C and relevant Chapter of Customs Rules, 2001 but it was basically for incoming foreign origin commercial consignments at larger scale so as to save precious foreign exchange of the State.

The FTO has recommended the FBR to direct Chief (F&C) to issue clarification, in due consultation with the Ministry of Commerce, for processing and clearance of stuck postal and air courier consignments of marginal and de-minimize value on similar lines as has been done in the case of personal baggage of passengers at international airports w.r.t. SRO 598(1)/2022 dated 19.05.2022, as per law and report compliance within 60 days.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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