Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda to link tax systems

KAMPALA: The Ugandan, Kenyan and Rwandan tax bodies are working out a deal that will link their tax systems with cargo being verified in Mombasa to boost tax collections, after international taxes missed targets.

Annual tax collections for the financial year 2012/13 recorded a 1.86% deficit with sh7.15trillion collected, some sh135.19b off targets.

Allen Kagina, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) commissioner general, revealed that the tax body will create a central processing area for all customs clearances to improve service delivery.

“Verification of taxes will be done in Mombasa while payments will be done in Uganda. Discussions are still on going,” she said.

“The business community will also be able to use one insurance bond for East Africa to cover all transactions.” The total value of imports into the country declined 1.41% to sh11.6trillion in the financial year 2012/13 from sh11.8trillion the year before resulting in lower than anticipated international trade taxes.

Fuel imports and a lower exchange rate missed targets by sh123b shortfall. Better than expected collections in value added tax, withholding tax on bank interest and import duty on dutiable goods overshot targets by sh268b.

Uganda’s annual tax collections have increased by 15% year-on-year with higher compliance by small and medium enterprises.

Gross Domestic Product grew at 5.1% below 5.4% target to undermine tax collections.More than 80% of Uganda’s sh13trillion national budget is to be funded through taxes this financial year.

Measures are being taken to increase the number of tax payers through partnerships between local authorities and the URA.

Henry Saaka, the commissioner domestic taxes, noted that the tax body will target whole, retail and construction businesses this year as collection targets hit sh8trillion from sh7trillion. The tax register has risen to 245,000 tax payers from 128,000.

Mobile services in districts of Kiboga, Kisoro, Kaberamaido, Moroto, Mubende, Luwero, Kalangala, Kamwenge and Kapchorwa are set to boost figures.

“The e-tax programme has been embraced much more than we had anticipated. We now have a much cleaner than tax register,” Saaka said.

Waiswa Abudu-Sallam, URA’s debt collection manager, noted that the tax body will attach property, publish shame lists and issue travel bans for tax payers that default on tax payments whenever voluntary compliance fails. The URA’s Dickson Kateshumba, noted that joint Ugandan, Kenyan and Rwandan single customs initiative will reduce delays at the port of Mombasa, reduce costs of business, and make the East African region more competitive.

Ugandan destined merchandises takes up 70% of the total cargo at the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

The URA is in discussions with the Kenyan Revenue Authority for a waiver for some 1,000 Uganda bond containers that have remained unclaimed for over two years at the port. Ambassador Richard Sezibera, the secretary general of East African community noted at a consultative meeting in Kampala that imports into the region will triple in the next five years. This will boost tax collections.

Customs authorities seize foreign currency of worth Rs 25.5m

ISLAMABAD: Customs authorities have seized foreign currency of worth Rs 25.5 million at Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad.

On 28-07-2013, Customs officials at Benazir Bhutto International Airport seized 920,000 UAE Dirhams from a Dubai bound passenger. According to details, a senior Customs officer received information that on 28-07-2013 an attempt would be made to smuggle huge amount of foreign currency from BBI Airport to Dubai.

The Customs officials at BBI Airport kept a strict vigil over all Dubai bound passengers. At about 2.30am when most of the passengers departing for Dubai via flight No. EK 615 had been boarded the plane, hand carried bag of a passenger namely Kashif was found suspected of containing currency at scanning machine of Airport Security Force. The Customs staff present there examined the bag which led to the recovery of 600,000 UAE Dirhams.

The examination of laptop bag of the passenger also led to the recovery of 320,000 UAE Dirhams. The passenger was immediately taken into custody. Later on the entire recovered currency 920,000 UAE Dirhams which is equivalent to PKR 25.50 million was seized by Customs officials for violation of Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947 and the Customs Act, 1969.

The passenger was placed under arrest after lodging FIR. Initial investigation revealed that the entire foreign currency was in the form of UAE’s highest denomination bank note i.e. 1000 UAE Dirham note. The passenger revealed that he exchanged Pakistani currency into foreign currency from various currency dealers of Rawalpindi; however, he could not produce a single receipt issued by an authorised currency dealer.

It is pertinent to mention that according to Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947 an international outbound passenger cannot take with him more than US$ 10,000 or equivalent foreign currency.


Agar urges WB team to conduct Indo-Pak cross-border trade assessment study

Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s President Muhammad Haroon Agar has urged the World Bank Group on Trade and Transport Facilitation to execute Indo-Pak cross-border trade assessment study from Khokrapar-Monabao Border to start trade on the pattern of Wagha-Attari.

Exchanging views with the delegation of World Bank Group on Trade and Transport Facilitation headed by its Task Leader Ms Diep Nguyen-van Houtte, he appreciated the initiative of WB’s study on improvement of Wagha Border and emphasised that for cross-border trade, Pakistani borders lack sufficient infrastructure and modern integrated check-posts and indispensable services. Customs and border procedures are not ideally oriented for trade facilitation. Single window facility as per international trade practices is essential.

He further suggested that Pakistan Railways Network is almost collapsed and Cross-Border Trade is totally dependent on Road Transport which is very costly due to high consumption of costly fuel so a study to revive Pakistan Railways for trade with Afghanistan and India is also need of time.

Haroon Agar said that to enhance trade with India, KCCI has formed Bombay-Karachi Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry which is recognised by both Indo-Pak governments. KCCI had provided its proposals for Trade Liberalisation, Negative List, 3 agreements and opening of Khokrapar-Monabao Border to facilitate the businessmen of Sindh & Balochistan. He asserted upon the need to establish Purpose-Built Warehouses and Cool-Chains at the Indo-Pak Borders at Wagha and Khokrapar.

He said that currently only 137 importable items are allowed from India through land-route of Wagha. More or all items should be allowed to be imported and exported from India from land-route. Presently the trade via road at Wagha-Attari Border is allowed in open trucks and container services should be introduced to save time of loading and unloading. There is a dire need to establish integrated check-posts equipped with modern facilities, lab testing, electronic data exchange facilities, scanners at the borders, he told.

President KCCI voiced that for Indo-Pak cross-border trade further increase in trading hours, new infrastructure, arrangements to resolve all issues like mutual cooperation, harmonisation of Customs procedures, provision of laboratories facilities, scanners, weighbridges, cold houses, automation of business processes and containerised services are imperative. Sharing views on trade via Khokrapar border he said that road network needs to be constructed before making the said dry port operational. Hyderabad Dry Port for Customs Clearance of Goods is not feasible and it is 400KM from Zero-Point of Khokrapar-Monabao Border. Railways facilities at Khokrapar Station also need upgradation for trade utilisation. All facilities as introduced and installed at Wagha-Attari Border need to be established at the Khokrapar-Monabao Border to facilitate trade.

World Bank Group on Trade and Transport Facilitation Task Leader Ms Diep Nguyen-van Houtte apprised that responding to the request of the Government of Pakistan for World Bank support in trade and transport facilitation particularly in improvement of Wagha Border, World Bank’s initial scoping mission was on visit to Pakistan to conduct site visits and hold discussions with Public and Private sector in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. In this connection, the mission sought proposal from KCCI. The delegation recognised the active role of Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry for promotion of trading and industrial activities in Karachi and elsewhere.

This mission informed that they will also visit the Khokrapar-Monabai Border for physical analysis. The WB team member included Hasan Zaidi (Transport Specialist), Manzoor-ur Rehman (Senior Transport Specialist), Charles Kunaka (Senior Trade Specialist), Clayton Kersweel ( Senior Customs and Trade Facilitation Specialist), Erik Nora (Operations Officer), Michel Zarnowiecki (Senior Customs and Border Management Specialist/Consultant), Amjad Bashir, (Operation Officer-IFC), Pierre Kattar (Communications and Media Consultant-IFC), Arsala Deane (Trade Facilitation Consultant-IFC), and Robert Struthers (Customs and Border Management Consultant-IFC).

Gold imports reach $346.255m in FY2012-13

LAHORE: The gold imports during fiscal year 2012-13 surged by 101.69 percent as against the same period of last year.

According to data revealed by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), during the period under review, 6,745 kilogram of yellow metal worth of US$ 346.255 million was imported as compared to the import of 3,267 kg valuing $171.674 million during the year 2011-12.

On month on month basis the gold imports in June 2013 registered an increase of 176.17 percent and decrease of 42.03 percent when compared to the imports in June, 2012 and May, 2013 respectively.

Gold imports in June 2013 stood at $40.252 million against the imports of $14.575 million in June 2012 and $69.439 million in May 2013 respectively.

The overall imports of metal group, registered an increase of 18.17 per cent during the year 2012-13 against the same period of last year.

The metal imports in to the country during the period under review were recorded at $3.23 billion against imports of $2.82 billion during same period of last year.

On month on month basis, the metal group imports in June 2013 increased by 8.72 percent and decreased by 11.18 percent when compared to the imports in June, 2012 and May 2013 respectively.

The imports of the metal group in to the country increased from $288.042 million in June 2012 to $313.148 million in June 2013 while in May 2013 it remained $352.562 million.

Imports of iron and steel scrap registered a growth of 19.34 percent during July-June (2012-13) as compared to the imports during July-June (2011-12).

Iron and steel scrap imports into the country were recorded at $654.091 million during the year 2012-13 against imports of $548.093 million during same period of last year.

Imports of iron and steel went up by 15.44 percent by growing from $1.34 billion during last year to $1.611 billion this year whereas the imports of aluminum wrought and worked decreased by 0.88 percent by going down from $125.16 million to $124.081 million.

The imports of all other metal and articles were recorded at $601.417 million during the period under review against the imports of $583.277 million in last year posting a growth of 3.11 percent.

Customs seize 124kg gold bars at Shahjalal airport

DHAKA: Bangladeshi Customs officials at Shahjalal International Airport seized 1,064 gold bars weighing around 124 kilograms from the luggage chamber of a Biman flight.
“This is the biggest ever haul at the airport in the 42 years history of Bangladesh,” said Wazed Ali, assistant commissioner of customs.
No one was arrested in connection with the seizure.
Following a tip-off, customs officials searched at BG-702 about half an hour after it landed at the    airport. The flight came from Dubai via Kathmandu.
“We searched the luggage chamber around 2:30pm and found 1,064 gold bars wrapped in black cloths,” said Kamrul Hassan, assistant commissioner (preventive) of the airport customs.
The market value of the bars was around Tk 54 crore, he said.
The customs officials, however, could not conclude from where the consignment of gold bars was smuggled in.
Kevin J Steele, managing director (MD) of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said he was aware of the incident and they were currently investigating the matter in both Dhaka and Dubai.
Asked who might have sent the consignment, an official of Airport Armed Police Battalion said in such cases the smugglers never mention the names and addresses of the sender and receiver anywhere in the consignment.
The official suspected that a gang of smugglers with the help of some unscrupulous Biman officials might have been smuggling the gold bars.
The Biman MD said “We must wait for the report of the investigation. But it appears that the gold might have been put inside the aircraft in Dubai.”
“In Dubai, Biman does not have its own staff who can work on the ramp, it has a handling agent, DNATA, there,” he added.
Kevin also said he had asked for a list of all DNATA staff, who worked on the ramp of this flight in Dubai.
The seized gold bars will be deposited to the government treasury, said customs officials.
Wazed Ali said as far as he could recall, the seizure of 56kg of gold was the second largest haul at the airport in the late 80s.
On Tuesday, a man was arrested with 146 gold bars weighing 17 kilograms at Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong.
On July 6, customs officials recovered 25.3 kg gold bars from a Biman flight. These gold bars were found unattended and unclaimed.

Nigeria: Customs intercepts N500 million rice, drugs

Katsina: The Nigerian Customs Service, Katsina State Command has intercepted banned goods comprising rice, vegetable oil and drugs worth over N500 million, deputy comptroller general in-charge of enforcement, Mr. Saka Yunusa Alao, has said.

Mr. Alao, who made the disclosure yesterday in Katsina during an inspection tour to the state, said two trailers loaded with various restricted drugs, one trailer of vegetable oil, 2, 680 bags of foreign rice, 60 used cars and 25 motorcycles used for smuggling rice were the items intercepted by Customs in the state.

Alao reiterated the service determination to rid the state of smuggling, saying, “There will be no hidden place for smugglers in Katsina. We will continue to pursue them to the last point because it is duty bound on Customs to stop importation of banned goods. We will protect our borders”.

He said the activities of smugglers are contributing greatly to the increasing rates of unemployment among youths, hence, the need for the Customs officers and men to discourage the trend.

The deputy comptroller general said he was in Katsina to interact with officers and men of the service with a view to sensitizing them on the current crusade against smuggling of banned commodities.

Customs arrest pregnant woman with 16 parcels of Indian hemp

Lagos: Operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service attached to Seme Area Command, Badagry, Lagos have arrested a pregnant woman with about 16 parcels of substance suspected to be Indian hemp.

The suspect, identified as Mariam, was on her way to Cotonou, the capital of Benin Republic, when she was arrested. The suspect gave birth in the cell. The Customs Area Comptroller, Abdul Saleh Othman, stated that the suspect and the Indian hemp have been handed over to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for further investigation.

Othman said the suspect developed complication while in their custody after delivering a baby boy, and that she was rushed to a hospital at Apapa where she was discovered to be HIV positive.

The Seme Customs boss, while warning criminals to stay away from his command, said the operational unit of the command has been re-invigorated to meet the six-point agenda of the Comptroller General of Customs. He stated that anybody or group of persons arrested for alleged involvement in crime will be made to face the law.

Speed up revenue collection, Member Customs tells officials

KARACHI: Member Customs Nisar Muhammad Khan continued to convene meetings of the Customs officials on the second consecutive day at the Customs House on Friday.

According to the details, Khan convened the meetings with the officials of Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) Preventive, MCC Export and Transit Trade officials.

Collectors, Deputy Collectors, Additional Deputy Collectors, Director General Transit Trade and other officials were also present in the meetings.

During the meetings, the Member Customs reviewed the performance of the MCC Preventive, MCC Export and all the officials.

He stressed upon the enhancement of the efficiency of the departments and the officials in Customs and called for evolving a comprehensive strategy in order to achieve the targets on time.

Sources in the Customs House told Customs Today that the Member Customs expressed his satisfaction over the current performance in the new fiscal year 2013-14.

In the meetings, the officials assured the Member Customs that they will achieve the set revenue target in first quarter of the fiscal year 2013-14 and will continue to attain the targets throughout the current fiscal year.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Member Customs on Thursday also convened several meetings with the high-ups of the MCC Enforcement, MCC Appraisement and MCC East- Wharf and MCC West-Wharf and also asked them to work on the given plan.

It may be mentioned here that it was the first visit of Member Customs Nisar Muhammad Khan after his appointment as Member Customs.

Sources told this scribe that the officials in the Customs House were of the view that the meetings would prove to be fruitful in order to enhance the efficiency and revenue generation.

12 collectors vacate posts in customs revamp

MANILA:  Several Bureau of Customs  district collectors have complied with the directive of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon to vacate their posts in preparation for a reassignment in the first round of a wide-ranging reform in the agency.

As of 4 pm Saturday, at least 12 collectors from various ports and sub-ports in the country submitted their letters of relinquishment to Biazon.

The BOC has 17 major port collectors and 37 sub-port collectors nationwide.

Biazon on Friday issued a memorandum directing the customs officials to vacate their current assignments or designation in writing on or before Monday.

One of those who complied was Port of Manila collector Rogel Gatchalian, one of the so-called “Three Kings” at the bureau said to be politically well-connected, who heads the three Metro Manila revenue districts and who reportedly does not want to be removed or reassigned elsewhere.

“This is to give the commissioner a free hand to decide… and to show that I’m not clinging to my post,” Gatchalian said in a text message to reporters.

Gatchalian also denied that he had the backing of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

Gatchalian, who had been in his post for three years, said he wanted “to disprove the allegation that Senator Enrile is meddling with the affairs in the bureau in my favor.”

The two other so-called “kings” of the bureau are Ricardo Belmonte, younger brother of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and customs collector at the Manila International Container Port, and Carlos So, collector at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Gatchalian, Belmonte and So were not included in the first major revamp of district collectors undertaken by Biazon early this year despite the failure of their districts to meet revenue targets last year and in the first five months of 2013.

Belmonte is said to be backed by his brother, and So by the influential Iglesia ni Cristo.

Belmonte has yet to file his letter of relinquishment but said in an interview on Friday he was willing to do so.

“We are always ready for a revamp. At anytime that the commissioner says you go here, we follow,” he said, adding that the upcoming reshuffle of bureau officials was an “ordinary thing.”

Biazon downplayed the perceived power and influence of the “Three Kings.”

“There are 17 kings (in Customs), not three. That is figurative speech. There are 17 collection districts, 17 kings and subkings. They are expected to submit their letters by Monday. If not, I will still carry out the reassignments,” Biazon said.

“I don’t acknowledge or recognize kings; they’re collectors under the authority of the commissioner. If there were those who were not included in the previous reshuffle, it was because it was my discretion and not because somebody imposed it on me. I am the commissioner of Customs, I have the authority, I have the discretion and I exercise that discretion,” he said.

Other district collectors who relinquished their posts were Edward James Dy Buco, Port of Davao; Ronnie Silvestre, Port of Clark; Adelina Molina, Port of Subic; Edward Dela Cuesta, Port of Cebu; Oswaldo Geli, Port of Surigao ; and Darwisha Shuck, Port of Zamboanga.

“We have to follow the order. It is a lawful and a valid order,” Dela Cuestsa said.

Subport collectors Noah Dimaporo (Harbour Center), Jemima Sy-Flores (North Harbor), Josefa Villasenor (Nasipit Port in Agusan del Norte), Pendatun Alim (Dadiangas Port in General Santos City),  and Pedro Quiñones (Parang Port in Maguindanao) have also submitted their letters of relinquishment to Biazon.

Cagayan de Oro Port district collector Lourdes Mangaoang have yet to submit her letter but signified her intention to vacate her post.

Biazon’s directive came following a stinging public rebuke from President Benigno Aquino III in his State of the Nation Address on July 22.

Biazon said the revamp of district collectors was just the first round of the process of reassignments to be implemented in the agency.

He said he would submit his recommendations on which collectors would be retained and which ones would be replaced “subject to the approval of the Department of Finance”.

“The replacements are subject to the approval of the DOF. Under the law, I may designate the person to be assigned to a particular post but it has to be approved by the secretary of finance,” he said.

Biazon also called on unidentified “powerful forces” outside the bureau not to interfere in the revamp.