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ISLAMABAD: The Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) has directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to ensure that the Model Customs Collectorates (MCCs) must not discriminate against competitors or any importer/exporter of vehicles specifically importers from China. The FTO has issued a very important order against the Customs department where a case of discrimination has been witnessed among the importers of vehicles. Discrimination has been created by the Customs department among the importers of vehicles.

The FTO order said that the complainant imported a consignment of ten buses. Out of these, four buses had been released on the basis of declared value, however, the remaining six buses had not been released. No written explanation had been provided as to why these buses were not being released and no justification had been given. Despite lapse of 19 days and accrual of Rs 54,000 per day as demurrage without any reasons in writing, the department was refusing to release the complainant’s buses despite repeated requests. The department was proceeding with mal-intent and bad faith against the Complainant at the behest of its competitor.

The FTO has termed the Customs department’s action for assessing the Chinese buses at higher rates only relying on export documents are illegal.

The FTO stated that the department’s actions for assessing the buses/goods at higher rates only relying on export documents and without any cogent proof/reasons are illegal and without lawful authority. It is observed that the department cannot rely upon export documents for assessment purposes especially when these documents are still subject to verification although such documents do not pertain to the current consignment, subject matter of instant case, but relate to previous consignment.

Apparently, the complainant has genuine grievances particularly when exporter has verified the contents of invoice submitted to Customs department and four buses were assessed and released on declared transacted value after necessary verifications and inquiry by the Collectorate but remaining six buses were detained without any cogent/explicit reason and remained detained till the filing of instant complaint and released provisionally at higher rate on the basis of unverified export documents that is still in the process of authentication from exporter/Chinese authority which proved the malafide intention on part of the departmental officers/officials, the FTO declared.

The final assessment in 13 buses is also time barred under Section 81 of the Customs Act, 1969. Departmental actions amount to maladministration in terms of Section 2(3) of the FTO Ordinance 2000. As delay in release of buses/goods was not on the part of the Complainant, the department should issue Delay and Detention Certificate to the complainant.

The FTO has directed the FBR to direct the chief collector, Collectorate of Customs (Appraisement)-South to issue instructions to the subordinate collectorates to adopt the procedure as laid down in Act/Rules/Regulations and not to discriminate against any importer/exporter on one pretext or the other.

The FBR will also direct the collector, Collectorate of Customs (Appraisement) East, Customs House, Karachi to revisit the assessment made in remaining six buses, without any cogent reasons! verification and assess the same afresh on the basis of declared value/import data, strictly in accordance with law.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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