The customs authority has made it mandatory for importers to submit the bill of entry within five working days of arrival of imported goods at the ports.
A provision to this effect has been incorporated in the Finance Bill-2020 to expedite the process of releasing the imported goods from seaports, land ports or airports as well as ease congestion at the ports.
Proposed by the finance minister in parliament on Thursday, the provision came into effect on June 11 as per the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1931.
Up until June 10, the maximum submission period was 30 days.
In case of not releasing goods within the stipulated time of five days, the customs will take penal measures as per the clause of irregularities in the Customs Act-1969, said a senior customs official.
A rule will be framed specifying the penal measures for non-compliant importers, he added.
After submission of the Import General Manifest (IGM), the importers have to submit their respective bills of entry to the customs officers concerned under Section 79, sub-section (1B) of the Customs Act.
The customs authority has also brought in stricter punitive provisions for importers making false declarations of import-export goods.
Traders have to pay a penalty that is at least two times but not more than four times the amount of the tax evaded through false declarations. The customs authority can also confiscate the goods brought under false declarations.
Previously, there was no mention of minimum penalty while the maximum penalty was three times the tax evaded.
The importers or exporters may also face imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or a fine up to Tk 50,000 or both for resorting to such irregularities.
Officials said the delay in submission of documents such as the bill of entry results in congestion at the ports, as the customs-related activities begin only after the submission of documents.
Many countries have brought about amendments to their customs acts for faster submission of the bill of entry and achieved better results, they said.
Customs assessment procedures are completed within four days of submission of the bill in around 97 per cent of cases at the Dhaka Customs House and in around 84 per cent of cases at the Chattogram Customs House, the officials said.
Importers, however, are of the view that the time frame should be extended to two weeks, as many of them face transportation problem, labour shortage and also in some cases cannot release goods for public holidays.
During the general holidays from March 26 to May 31 amid Covid-19 outbreak, imported goods continued to pile up at the port beyond its capacity, as importers did not take delivery of their goods due to closure of factories.
Solaiman Parsee Faisal, managing director of Faisal Polymer Limited, said no importers kept their goods at the ports for a long time deliberately, as they have to count store rent for not having goods cleared timely.
He also said the time for submission of bill of entry should be extended by some more days.
Mohammad Iqbal Jamal, former co-convener of budget implementation committee of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said a scope should be given to importers to explain the reasons for the delay in submission of the bills of entry.
And the customs may grant a waiver of the penalty if the importers can show valid reasons, he added.
He also said the importers may face problem to have goods cleared in the event of any disasters or unusual situation.
Source: Financial Express