The bill will be discussed in the summer session of Parliament next year

Assembly: A separate Customs Act will be enacted as part of the government’s commitment to reform and modernize customs administration. This will mean the separation of the Customs portion from the Sales Tax, Customs and Excise Act 2000.

The proposed reform aims to provide focused attention and ensure consistency in legal provisions as well as application of the customs laws.

Finance minister Namgay Dorji introduced the Customs Bill 2015 consisting of 22 chapters and 202 sections in the National Assembly yesterday. The assembly will deliberate on the bill during the summer session next year.

The existing Act, which is almost 15 years old, he said did not sufficiently meet requirement of the current trading system.

The bill was drafted as per the standards of the Revised Kyoto Convention that aims to simplify and harmonize customs procedures and introduces modern customs techniques around the world. “Even to trade with SAARC countries, a separate customs law is important,” he said.

The bill has been aligned with the international standards and practices to enable the country to derive economic and non-economic benefits such as increased revenue through risk management and automation.

The bill seeks to repeal Part II of the Sales Tax, Customs and Excise Act 2000 and its amendment in 2012 and aims to facilitate faster release of goods and provide conducive environment for foreign direct investment and economic competitiveness.

The Customs bill empowers the government to impose restriction or prohibition on import and export of goods to safeguard national interest. Such restrictions would be in accordance with relevant laws, international conventions, covenants, treaties, protocols and agreements.

According to the bill, export or import of prohibited goods and smuggling of prohibited or restricted goods among other offences would be treated as criminal offence. A person who commits an offence under this provision would be handed over to police with the preliminary investigation report.

The bill also mandates a dispute settlement committee, an appeal committee and an appeal board each to review and redress the appeal submitted by a person on the decision passed by the customs officials. A dispute settlement committee consisting of three members shall be establishment at the regional office, chaired by the regional director.

A five-member appeal committee chaired by the director of the department shall be established at the department’s head office and an appeal board would be established at the finance ministry.

On satisfaction of the dispute settlement committee of the regional office, the appeal committee of the customs department or appeal board of the ministry, any penalty interest or fines imposed on a person may be waived off in whole or part. The department shall prescribe the procedures and conditions for waiver in the rules and regulations under the customs Act.

The parliament session, which began on Wednesday, will also deliberate on Dzongkhag thromde and Yenlag thromde of Pemagatshel dzongkhag and Yenlag thromde of Paro dzongkhag.

MB Subba