ISLAMABAD: The government has suggested amendments to the Customs Act to extend the warehousing period for perishable and non-perishable imported goods.

The changes have been proposed in the latest finance bill. Under Section 98 of the Customs Act, non-perishable and perishable imported goods may remain in a warehouse for six months and three months, respectively.

The customs collector can extend this period for three months for non-perishable goods and one month for perishable products. However, the government has now suggested empowering the chief customs collector to give another similar extension in the warehousing period.

The government also aims to appoint the chief collector as the appellate authority in cases involving cancellation of user ID of a trader. The ID is issued to fill in import or export declarations in customs computerised system. The collector can suspend or cancel a trader’s user ID for failing to comply with the conditions of registration or other violations of the Customs Act.

At present, a trader cannot appeal against the cancellation under the Customs Act, and therefore has to approach high court to challenge the collector’s decision.

The new amendments will also allow the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to notify the imposition of fixed, system-based penalties through a notification in cases of offences such as invoice or packing list not found with the cargo, delay in filing of goods declaration, etc.

A new section has been introduced in the Customs Act to allow the customs officer to penalise the port authority or terminal operator which is not giving relief to traders from demurrage charges in such delays.

The latest finance bill also seeks to empower the FBR to prescribe uniform for officers of the Pakistan Customs Service, as is the case in China, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, the United States, Iran, India, Jordan, etc.

Currently, staff of land customs and preventive staff of up to grade BS-16 are uniformed.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2017