The bill was introduced in Parliament in November last year

NA: The economic affairs committee of the National Assembly yesterday presented the Customs bill to the house. The bill aims to modernise the country’s customs administration system.

The bill was introduced in the house last year.

Presenting the bill, the chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, Novin Darlami, said stakeholder meetings were held before the committee presented the report in Parliament yesterday. “We have met all stakeholders and held discussions on the bill,” he said.

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 a conducive environment for foreign direct investment and economic competitiveness.

The bill empowers the government to impose restrictions or prohibit 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.

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

The existing Act, which is 15 years old, according to officials, does not sufficiently meet the requirements of the current trading system. Hence, the proposed legislation aims to provide focused attention and ensure consistency in legal provisions as well as application of the customs laws.

The bill proposes that a person shall pay a fine of 50 percent of the value of the goods evaded in addition to the amount of customs duty if he or she does not declare willingly or mis-declare imported or transited goods. The person also should not under-voice the value of goods imported or export.

The bill was drafted as per the standards of the Revised Kyoto Convention that aims to simplify and harmonise customs procedures and introduces modern customs techniques around the world.

In the absence of a separate customs law, officials say even to trade with SAARC countries is not easy. The proposed law has been aligned with international standards and practices to enable Bhutan to derive economic and non-economic benefits such as increased revenue through risk management and automation.

The bill makes export or import of prohibited goods and smuggling of prohibited or restricted goods as criminal offense. A person who commits an offense under this provision would be handed over to police with the preliminary investigation report.

MB Subba