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LAHORE: Customs authorities are accused of imposing duties and penalties on the basis of invoices retrieved from consignments without substantiating their assessments by making confirmation from the shippers and relevant parameters.

Sources in the importers’ community have stated that the authorities even do not establish a correlation between the value of goods declared by the importer and the one retrieved from the consignment during physical examination.

Most of the time, they said, when the department retrieves an invoice from the consignment, which shows the higher value of the goods than the value declared by the importer, the department assumes it as gross misdeclaration and concludes that the value declared by the importer was incorrect.

It is followed by the issuance of a show-cause notice on the presumption that the importers were found to be involved in the suppression of the value of the goods imported by them. Therefore, the department reassesses the value of goods against the self-assessment filed by importers, besides giving them an option of redeeming the goods on payment of a resumption fine and a penalty.

The reassessment is usually 100 times higher than the self-assessment made by importers, they pointed out.

The department further believes that the initial burden of declaring the true particulars of the imported goods is upon the importers, and if they fail to do so, the customs officials have the authority to act according to law. They said provisions of the Customs Act specifically provide that the value of the goods have to be taken as per the value mentioned in the retrieved invoice.

However, the sources in the importer's community have suggested that the customs authorities do not entertain a valid contract and prefer to rely upon the retrieved invoice, whether it is fake or forged. The department makes no effort to enquire about the veracity of the retrieved invoice and the value of goods shown in it.

According to the sources, in the cases where the department does not accept the value of the imported goods, the burden lies upon the department to prove the value they are proposing for duty and taxes.

Ironically, the department ignores the documents produced by importers, comprised bank statements showing the channel through which the payments were made, the contract executed between the parties and other relevant documents.

Neither any enquiry nor any homework is carried out to check the veracity of these documents by the department before relying upon the invoice retrieved from the consignment and imposition of heavy duties and fines.

It is the responsibility of the Customs authorities to correlate the difference between the two invoices and to enquire from the shipper of the retrieved invoice with regard to its veracity, as this burden lies squarely upon the department and in case this exercise is not done, the department could make no arbitrary assessment, they stressed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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