CBIC Provides Customs Relief Measures Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The Government of India announced a countrywide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) in coordination with Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) is issuing various customs relief measures for the smooth conduct of assessment and clearance of goods.

This article covers the following measures taken by CBIC:

  • Electronic Communication of PDF Gate Pass and Final OoC Bill of Entry
  • Exemption of Customs Duties and Health Cess on Medical Equipment
  • Clearance of Goods Without Original Certificate of Origin
  • Acceptance of Undertaking in Lieu of Bond

Electronic Communication of PDF Gate Pass and Final OoC Bill of Entry

To implement social distancing and to minimise the physical interaction between the people, the CBIC has decided to provide electronic communication of PDF-based final electronic OoC (Out of Charge) copy of BoE and gate pass to the importers/customs brokers. This electronic communication would reduce the interface between the customs authorities. Also, the importers or customs brokers do away with the requirement of taking bulky printouts from the service centre as well maintenance of voluminous physical dockets in the Customs Houses.

The final electronic OoC copy of BoE and electronic gate pass will be emailed to the concerned customs broker or importer once the Out of Charge is granted. The electronic gate pass copy will be used by the gate officer or the custodian to allow exit of the imported goods from the customs area. This facility will be made effective from 15 April 2020.

Also Read: CBIC Further Clarifies on the GST Compliance Extension

Exemption of Customs Duties and Health Cess on Medical Equipment

The CBIC has exempted levying customs duty and health cess on medical equipment to combat COVI-19 pandemic. This exemption is available until 30 September 2020. This exemption applies to the following medical equipment:

  • Artificial respiration or other therapeutic respiration apparatus (known as ventilators)
  • Face masks and surgical masks
  • Personal protection equipment (PPE)
  • COVID-19 testing kits 
  • Inputs for the manufacture of above items*

*The importer should follow the procedure set out in the Customs (Import of Goods at Concessional Rate of Duty) Rules, 2017

Clearance of Goods Without Original Certificate of Origin

While clearing the goods from customs port, physical copy of the original Certificate of Origin (CoO) is one of the mandatory documents under the Customs Act, 1962. The board has given a relaxation of submitting the CoO to mitigate the difficulties faced by importers on account of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This relaxation is available for the import consignments where a preferential treatment of goods under a Free Trade Agreement has been claimed and digitally signed copy or unsigned copy of CoO is submitted. Also, these import consignments will be provisionally assessed in terms of section 18 of the Customs Act, 1962. The final assessment will be done after submission of the original CoO certificate by the importer.

Acceptance of Undertaking in Lieu of Bond

As per the Customs Act, a taxpayer has to obtain notarised stamp papers for furnishing bonds as security. It will be difficult for the taxpayer to submit the same during this countrywide lockdown. The CBIC has approved the relaxation of the requirement to provide bonds prescribed under section 18, section 59, section 143, and under notifications issued in terms of section 25 of the Customs Act, 1962.

Because the importer/exporter may find it difficult to furnish the bond until the situation normalises, the relaxation will be available up to 30.04.2020. This relaxation is available to the taxpayer in compliance of conditions as listed below:

  • The content of the undertaking should be the same as the content of the bond.
  • The undertaking should be signed by the Import Export Code (IEC) holder concerned on their business letterhead and submitted through the registered email ID of the IEC holder or their authorised customs broker.
  • The undertaking should include the commitment from the IEC holder to provide the proper bond on or before 07.05.2020.
  • The undertaking should not be treated as a substitute for security.
  • Any subsequent movement of warehoused goods to another warehouse shall be allowed only to manufacturer/actual user importer or Authorised Economic Operators (AEO) or status holders.
  • For a change of ownership after warehousing, this facility shall be considered only when the prospective buyer is a manufacturer or actual user importer or AEO or status holder.  

This relaxation is available to the following categories of the importers/exporters:

  • Government/Public Sector Undertakings (Central/State/UT Govts or Administrations and their undertakings)
  • Manufacturer/actual user importer
  • Authorised Economic Operators
  • Status holder
  • All importers availing warehouse facility in terms of section 59 of the Customs Act, 1962

However, this relaxation may be given at the request of other categories of importer/ exporter, with any additional safeguards as fixed by the jurisdictional Commissioner. Also, the importers/exporters who are availing this relaxation shall ensure that the undertaking furnished in lieu of bond is duly replaced with a proper bond before the stipulated period, i.e. 07.05.2020A

Apart from the above procedural reliefs, the CBIC is expeditiously processing the GST refunds and customs drawback claims, providing 24×7 customs clearance to avoid supply chain disruption, establishing Novel Coronavirun Helpdesk for importers and exporters, actively resolving the tickets on various portals like CBIC Mitra and ICEGATE Helpdesk etc.

For any clarifications/feedback on the topic, please contact the writer at dvsr.anjaneyulu@cleartax.in

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