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Tax Alert – Faceless, Contactless & Paperless Customs Administration

17 July 2020

In the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, with the objective of reforming customs clearance process, a radical step has been taken by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (“CBIC”) by launching its flagship program ‘Turant Customs’. The program aims to provide a “faceless, contactless & paperless” customs administration. Simultaneously, CBIC has introduced a few other initiatives also to leverage technology to enhance the efficiency in the customs clearance processes, leading to speedy clearances, transparency in decision making, ease of doing business and very importantly, reduce physical contact in the prevailing pandemic situation.

Accordingly, CBIC has issued circular no:32/2020-Customs dated 06 July 2020, to roll-out the measures, as follows, to prepare the ground for implementation of the above said reforms across India, in a phased manner.

Turant Suvidha Kendra (TSK):

TSKs initially set-up at Bengaluru and Chennai, is set to be extended to all customs stations across India in July 2020, as a step in advance for the pan-India rollout of faceless assessment. The pan-India roll-out is expected to be carried-out in a phased manner and the announcements are likely to be made very soon.

Key features of TSK are the following:

  • Automated clearance of Bill of Entry (BoE), digitisation of customs documents, paperless clearance and faceless Assessment.
  • E-verification of documents for assessment and ‘Customs Compliance Verification’ (CCV), basis documents uploaded in e-Sanchit
  • Physical submission of documents at TSK only in exceptional situations
  • Documents requiring verification during examination for validation with goods would continue to be done during examination, as at present
  • One or more TSKs may be set-up for the convenience of the trade
  • Suitable procedures to be devised for handling and safe keep of documents

Registration of Authorised Dealer (AD) code, bank accounts through ICEGATE

Exporters are presently required to register their AD Code and bank account(s) for purposes of remittances and availing export benefits respectively at every customs station. Functionality to be enabled within ICEGATE login for exporters to make an online request for registration/modification of their AD Code/Bank Account(s) and also electronically submit the passbook copy or bank authorisation letter through e-Sanchit. The exporters would also have access to a dashboard to view the status of approval and acceptance at PFMS, for quick rectification at their end.

Concerned customs officer shall complete the approval process for registration/updation of the details in ICES within the same working day of receiving the applications, if all documents are submitted in the ICEGATE. In case of any deficiencies, the same shall be communicated to the exporter via the customs automated system, who would then make the required rectification through the ICEGATE portal.

Automated debit of bond after assessment

Presently, importers or their representatives are required to physically visit the Customs House for physical debit of bonds after the BoE is returned (to the importer) for the payment of duty.

Henceforth, ICES would automatically debit the bond and reflect the same in the first copy of the BoE, provided the details of the bond are provided during submission of the BoE. Trade is also encouraged to use a continuity bond to avoid procedures related to repeat submission of bonds.

Simplified registration of importers/exporters in ICEGATE

Simplified registration module is created in ICEGATE portal to manage imports/exports without the requirement of digital signature. Post registration, various functionalities like management of bank accounts, ledger view, IGST refund status, query reply, etc. shall be available in the ICEGATE portal.

BDO Comments:

These measures are expected to significantly build efficiency of customs formations, reduce turn-around time in customs clearances, promote transparency, reduce physical interface and transaction cost. Digitisation of documents and electronic verification would aid in deepening the monitoring mechanism and the customs administration within the organisation and help integrate the taxpayer system. If managed properly, these initiatives would help business smoothen the ‘On-site Post Clearance Audit’ (OSPCA) conducted by customs authorities at the premises of the importers and exporters, introduced by the government few years back.