ISLAMABAD: In a major move to launch a crackdown against smuggled goods, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) announced on Saturday that special joint teams would visit major shopping areas, particularly large retailers, in major cities across the country, to check documents of imported goods available for sale to consumers.
The crackdown will be initiated from Sept 1, FBR chairman Shabbar Zaidi said.
The teams will check import documents of foreign goods to ensure compliance with various requirements of the law, he said, adding the board had started a phased programme to combat sale of smuggled goods in the local market.
Starting from Sept 1, drive is aimed at discouraging sale of smuggled goods in local market
Soon after taking charge of the FBR, Mr Zaidi had urged traders to refrain from dealing in smuggled goods and categorically stated that “whosoever is found involved in any way dealing with the sale, purchase or storage of the same will be dealt with strictly”.
Under the provisions of the Customs Act, 1969, the FBR has powers to seek import documents for imported goods available for sale to consumers from the person dealing in such goods.
An official source in the FBR told Dawn that the joint teams would constitute officials of the Inland Revenue Services and Customs while officials of security agencies will extend back-up support to the teams.
The joint teams will also intensify drive against currency smuggling, particularly foreign exchange hold-up by people.
It has been observed that local markets are flooded with mis-declared imported goods cleared at Pakistani ports in connivance with customs officers. Besides, goods are smuggled through porous border from Afghanistan and Iran.
According to the source, the FBR is seriously considering various measures to control the menace of mis-declarations at the ports occurring in connivance with the customs officers. The government had yet to reshuffle these officials despite the start of new financial year, he added.
The FBR spurred into action following the discovery of massive mis-declaration of goods after data from Web-Based One Customs System Glo was analysed recently. The data revealed that around 62 per cent of the total 69,000 goods declarations showed differences in assessed value and declared value of goods. On the other hand, around 21pc of the mis-declarations were made in weight and quantity.
Instead of taking action against the customs officers involved in the crime, the FBR has opted for visiting shopping malls to check import documents of goods at the retail level.
The warning about the drive comes at a time when the country’s business community is already protesting against the government’s tax measures, especially fixed tax regime and requirement of computerised national identify card.
An official statement issued here says that the exercise of verification of documents of imported goods does not represent a ‘raid’ on the premises or any coercive action against the traders. The purpose of this exercise is only to ensure that relevant import documents are available and foreign goods available for sale are properly backed by documents.
It has further been decided that such exercises will be undertaken on ‘test’ check basis. All teams will be conducting respective identification as being officially designated and each team will be headed by a senior official. In case, if for any reason such documents are not readily available at the shops/offices, the teams will provide adequate opportunity to the retailers to submit the papers after reasonable time.
The member Customs (operations) and member (IR-Operations) have been directed to supervise the activity and provide assistance to the joint teams wherever required. The director general (intelligence and investigation) of Customs and the director general (intelligence and investigation) of Inland Revenue have also been directed to constitute joint teams.
The traders can lodge complaints against any undesirable activity by the special joint teams by reporting at the helpline 051-111 772 772 or email Helpline@fbr.gov.pk. The purpose of taking this step is to expedite drive against smuggling and protect the local economy of the country.
The government is taking various steps to curb these undesirable practices and inter alia some actions to this effect have also been incorporated in the Finance Act, 2019, says the announcement.
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2019