Dated 14th August, 2020

 
The taxability dispute on ocean freight has been finally decided by the Gujarat High Court, which held that taxing ocean freight is ultra vires and leads to double-taxation

Turant customs- a solution for speedy clearance of goods


INTRODUCTION

Board has come up with number of initiatives under the flagship of Turant Customs program, aimed at providing “Faceless, Contactless and Paperless” customs administration, in order to enhance the efficiency in custom clearance process. This article deals with all such initiatives in relation to this matter right from the beginning introduced by Board through different circulars stated here under:-

Circular No. 09/2019- Custom, dated 28.02.2019

The next generation reform in the name of Turant Customs was introduced by CBIC vide Circular No. 09/2019, dated 28.02.2019 for ease of doing business in form of comprehensive package of various elements to be implemented from time to time.

Circular No. 05/2020- Custom, dated 27.01.2020

Contactless Assessment was first implemented vide Circular 05/2020, dated 27.01.2020 by implementing the facility of automated clearance in IEC on pilot basis at two customs locations- Chennai Customs House and Jawaharlal Nehru Customs House from 06.02.2020.

Circular No. 15/2020- Custom, dated 28.02.2020

Facility of automated clearance of Bills of Entry has been extended to all the Customs formations where the Customs EDI System is operational, with effect from 05.03.2020.

Circular No. 19/2020- Custom, dated 13.04.2020

With the motive to reduce interface between the Customs authorities and importers/exporters/Customs Brokers, Board has enabled communication of PDF based Final electronic Out of Charge (eOoC) copy of Bill of Entry and eGatepass to the importers/Custom Brokers w.e.f 15.04.2020 on all ports.

Salient features of the Final eOoC and eGatepass are as under:-

  1. Final Out of Charge copy of Bill of Entry:-

    DG Systems has enabled functionality to immediately email the PDF version of the Final eOoC copy of BE generated after OoC to the Customs Broker and/or the importer, if registered. This copy will have the following features:-
    • Digitally signed by CBIC and encrypted QR Code to verify the authenticity of the document using Mobile App ICETRAK.
    • A version is also embedded in QR Code to ascertain whether the document is indeed the latest version. It can be verified at ICEGATE Enquiry.
  2. eGatepass:- The physical printout is replaced by the PDF eGatepass generated and electronically communicated to the importers/Customs Brokers with the following salient features:-
    • Only contains the details referred to by the Custodians or the gate officer to allow actual movements of goods- like details IGM/Bill of Lading, Containers, Packaging etc.
    • Availability of dual QR Codes (i) foe entire eGatepass documents and, (ii) foe each container/package covered under the Gtaepass.

Circular No. 28/2020- Customs, dated 05.06.2020

The faceless assessment (commonly known as anonymised assessment or virtual assessment) was previously launched as a pilot programme in Chennai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Gujarat and Visakhapatnam primarily covering specific chapters of articles such as chapter 85, 86 to 92, 39, 50 to 71 and 72 to 83 of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975.

After the success of the pilot programme, now the Board is ready to roll out the Phase 1 of this reform. The Phase 1 of the reform has commenced from 8th June, 2020 at Chennai and Bengaluru for articles covered under chapter 84 and 85 of the Custom Tariff Act, 1975. The Board has issued Notification No. 50/2020-Customs (NT) to empower the assessing officers of Chennai and Bengaluru who is physically located at particular jurisdiction to assess Bill of Entry. When imports made to a different custom the customs automated system would assign the Bill of Entry for faceless assessment. Notification No. 51/2020-Customs (NT) has been issued to empower the jurisdictional Commissioners of Customs (Appeals) at Bengaluru and Chennai to take up the Appeal filed against the orders of faceless assessment. This notification empowers Commissioners of Customs (Appeals) at Bengaluru and Chennai I and II to take appeals whether the assessment of Bill of Entries are done at other jurisdictions. The Nodal Commissioners will take part in this faceless assessment as an administrator in this process. Also the concerned Principal Chief Commissioners/ Chief Commissioners shall set up a dedicated cells called as Turant Suvidha Kendras, for the various functions and roles as mentioned in the Instruction No.09/2020 dated 05.06.2020 in every customs stations.

The TurantSuvidhaKendras will serve the following services –

  • Accept Bond and Bank Guarantee
  • Carry out any other verifications that may be referred by Faceless Assessment Groups
  • Defacing of documents/ permits licenses, wherever required
  • Debit of documents/ permits/license, wherever required
  • Other functions determined by commissioner to facilitate trade

Circular No. 32/2020- Customs, dated 06.07.2020

Continuing with earlier initiatives and with a view to further prepare the grounds for applying the reforms pan-India, board has now decided to take certain measures, which are detailed in this alert.

TurantSuvidha Kendra (TSK) in All Customs Formations

TSK was set up vide Circular No. 28/2020-Cus, dated 05.06.2020 for the purpose of implementation of 1st Phase of Faceless Assessment at Bengaluru and Chennai. Considering the benefits Board has decided to extend TSKs to all the Customs formation by 15.07.2020 for carrying out the functions as per Instruction No. 09/2020-Cus, dated 05.06.2020.

The broad scheme of the TSK is stated herein below:-

  • Documents verification at Assessment and Customs Compliance Verification(CCV) stages will be based on the documents uploaded in the e-Sanchit except in exceptional situation for defacement and validation physical submission of documents will be made at TSKs.
  • No change in verification of documents during examination for validation of goods.
  • Establishment of one or more TSKs for the convenience of the trade.
  • Storage of documents produced in TSKs in electronic form.

Other Initiatives

CBIC has enabled w.e.f 06.07.2020 certain functionalities in ICEGATE which would reduce the need for physical interaction between Customs and trade and also speed up the Customs clearance process. These new functionalities are explained below:-

Registration of Authorised Dealer Code, Bank Accounts through ICEGATE

Board has enabled a functionality within ICEGATE login which benefits the exporters in following ways:-

  • Allowing the exporters to make an online request registration/modification of their Authorised Dealer (AD) and Bank Accounts for the purposes of remittances and availing export benefits through e-Sanchit .
  • Completion of approval process of registration/modification of AD Code and Bank Accounts details within same working day of receiving the application.
  • Allows them to electronically submit Passbook copy or Bank Authorisation letter through e-Sanchit.
  • Access to Dashboard to view the status of approval and acceptance at PFMS, for quick rectification.

Automated Debit of Bond After Assessment

Importers or their representatives are no longer required to physically visit Customs House for physical debit of Bonds, instead ICES will now automatically debit the Bond and reflect the same in the first copy of the Bill of Entry, provided details of the Bond are provided during submission of the Bill of Entry.

Simplified Registration of Importers/ Exporters in ICEGATE

In order to enhance trade facilitation as well as improve the efficiency of the Customs processes Importers/Exporters are provided Simplified Registration without the requirement of digital signature and just on the basis of verification provided in associated GSTIN. This would enable their Customs clearances through electronic interface and would help them in their management of imports and exports being its management of Bank Accounts, Ledger View, IGST Refund Status, Query Reply etc.

Circular No. 34/2020- Customs, dated 30.07.2020

Board has decided to begin the 2nd phase of All India roll-out of Faceless Assessment w.e.f. 03.08.2020 by including Delhi and Mumbai Customs Zones and extending the scope of Faceless Assessment at Chennai and Bangalore Customs Zone. It is clarified that the Customs Zones and the imports already covered under 1st Phase would continue and be treated as subsumed under the 2nd Phase. Stated under are the Customs Zones covered under 2nd Phase of Faceless Assessment along with the details of imports primarily under the specified Chapters of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975:-

S.No.

Chapters of Tariff Act

Appraisement Group

Customs Zones

Remarks

1

84

5

Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi

Delhi is covered in 2nd Phase

2

85

5A

Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi

Delhi is covered in 2nd Phase

3

89 to 92

5B

Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi

Pilot programme newly started in Bengaluru and Chennai

4

50 to 71

3

Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi

Pilot programme newly started in Bengaluru and Delhi

5

29

2A

Mumbai I, II & III

Newly introduced Zones

CONCLUSION

Based on the above context it can be concluded that the importers and exporters under theTurant Customs Programme has been provided the benefit of Faceless Assessment on pan-India basis leading to reduction in the physical contact in this prevailing pandemic situation along with other benefits of smooth custom clearance. Also they will lead to significant speed up in Customs process due to initiatives taken to provide same day registration of AD Code and Bank Accounts along with providing simplified registration without digital signature.


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Bhaskar Thakkar

Chief Executive officer

BT Associates, India

thakkar@btassociate.com

Twenty years of experience in tax practice. Specialist in structuring & planning and tax optimization under indirect tax. Lead eastern India indirect tax practice of Ernst & Young in past.