The Customs Department of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) is going to expand the facility of Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) to allow trusted importers to take imported goods directly to their warehouses or factories without wasting time in testing at ports.
To this end, the Customs Department asked interested companies to apply in April. According to sources in the department, about 30 companies have already applied for the same. Institutions that meet certain criteria from among the applicants by the end of this month will be brought under this facility.
Imported products of the companies covered under this facility will be able to be taken directly to their warehouses or factories without any customs clearance at the port on the basis of their declaration. If necessary, officials of the customs department will go to the factory of the importer and inspect the goods.
It does not require the extra time that the importer has to stay in the port for a testing of the goods. This will reduce cost for importers, which will play a positive role in facilitating trade and commerce in the country.
NBR introduced this method in 2019 by providing the facility to three pharmaceutical companies – Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Incepta Pharmaceuticals Ltd – on a trial basis.
However, it has been noted that even after four years, the institutions could not derive much advantage from the measure. The reason was the lack of preparation on the part of the institutions as well as the customs department.
In such a situation, the question has arisen as to whether AEO can be properly implemented after bringing new institutions under this facility.
Asked about past experience in relation to the facility given to the three companies, an official of the customs department told The Business Standard on condition of anonymity that the companies could not start the process in full swing.
"However, the NBR chairman has recently instructed us to solve the existing problems and expand the facility," he added.
Mohammad Enamul Hoque, commissioner of the Customs Valuation and Internal Audit Commissionerate, which oversees the facility, told TBS, "The companies must have their own VAT (value-added tax) software to implement this. But the three companies did not have their own software."
"Again, we did not have the preparation we needed, especially dedicated teams in the customs houses. Now we have overcome those problems," he added.
Mohammad Enamul Hoque now hopes that by solving these problems, this work can be started in full swing by the next financial year.
"About 30 new applications have already been received. At the end of this month, we will be announcing the names of the applicants who meet the conditions," he added.
NBR is giving this facility to trusted traders. It is fixed on the basis of certain criteria. These include having a satisfactory compliance record under the Customs, VAT and Income Tax Act, the applicant being free of guilt for the previous three years, no revenue arrears and the amount of fine, in any case, being less than 1% of the total value.
In addition, the authorised capital of an applicant organisation should be Tk15 crore and the paid-up capital should be Tk5 crore, and the amount of import should be at least Tk5 crore per annum.
According to NBR sources, this will enable companies to ship their imported goods directly from a port to their factories or warehouses. The tariff will be as per their announcements.
"If we have any observations, officials can go to those premises and physically inspect the products. Apart from this, they will also get some benefits," said one of the sources.
If Bangladesh has a mutual recognition agreement with any other country in the world, then the beneficiary will get the same benefit in other countries.
Shams Mahmud, former president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, sees the initiative in positive light.
"If other companies get this facility, it will play a role in making business easier," he told TBS.