Customs investigating small packages
There is concern at Jamaica Customs Agency that persons importing goods are abusing the minimum value for imports in order to evade customs duties.
Director of marine wharves at the Jamaica Customs Agency, Kevin Carter, says that the de minimis value of US$50, the maximum value on imports that will not attract customs duty, benefits a lot of persons and indications are that some persons are out to beat the system.
"What we're observing is that miraculously, too many items come in at less than US$50 and that is where we are having a challenge," Carter said in the latest edition of the JNN/FG 'The Exchange'. The programme examined the growth of digital entrepreneurship in Jamaica and the role that Customs plays in facilitating its development.
Carter says Customs stands ready to assist persons using the ports to do business. He says that for exports, it is made easy by a single charge of $3,500 for each declaration of goods being exported. Carter says it is done to recover the cost of processing.
On the imports side, the Customs director says the situation is dynamic and depends on the commodity being imported, with several matters to consider, but that most charges relate to Customs Duty and General Consumption Tax (GCT).
"There is the question of the tariff classification. Some items might attract 20 per cent duties. There is GCT, unless the goods are exempt. There is also the Customs Administration Fee. We may have an Environmental Levy and special consumption fee, but the bulk of it has to do with Customs Duty and GCT," Carter said.
Regarding the attempts to evade customs duties, Carter says there is increasing vigilance at the ports. He says Jamaica Customs is using various tools.
"We are utilising our risk assessment, doing our profiling and reviewing values and invoices," Carter said, noting that Customs has found that there are many instances where persons are 'slicing the invoices' deliberately. The practice of slicing is where consignments are broken up into smaller packages of lesser value.
"It's happening quite frequently, although we don't have any percentages. I wouldn't say it is very chronic, because you do have very honest importers out there," Carter added.
Pressed as to whether Customs gives consideration to imports that are valued at less than US$50 because of discounts, Carter said that Customs will do their assessment on the amount.
"If it's proven that it is a legitimate purchase and the discounts are within guidelines, we will accept it; however, if we see any evidence of it being manipulated or ridiculously reduced, then we will question that value and we will use our valuation methods to arrive at the appropriate cost of the item," he said.
Jamaica Customs is also advising persons using any of Jamaica's ports, whether air or sea, to do the necessary research to ensure that goods being imported conform to customs rules and to be prepared to substantiate declared values using receipts or other documentation.