It is an understatement to say the Customs department is an important component, as we all know this agency is the mainframe with responsibility for checking and verifying all imports and exports into and from Trinidad and Tobago, and collection of the correct taxes.
What Customs has to deal with is the importers who employ mediocre customs clerks and brokers as managers of their internal customs department.
With Customs’ implementation of the online upgraded Customs Asycuda system, import documents could be prepared by clerks and brokers, and payments to Customs could be made within 24 hours (as long as the local shipping agent can upload their import waybill/manifest on the Asycuda).
What one must be cognisant about is the manual process at the Port of Port of Spain, whereby the import documents must be screened by Customs to make sure they are authentic imported invoices submitted, and the transactional values are in true values (for example, a description could read peas, and it is really air-conditioning).
The TT$20,000 benchmark to clear shipments through Customs AS A NON-TRADE should be revised to TT$15,000 (as importers are using this loophole to import high-value goods by breaking down the values to suit the requirements by Customs).
For example, an importer with a shipment worth TT$100,000 will break down the shipments to $10,000 by ten shipments, to equal the value.
To increase the hours of Customs means overtime. The Chamber of Commerce has been lobbying to cut out overtime, and this is the reason Asycuda was implemented.
Freight charges have increased, and the reason is the war and Covid. At least we have a reason for the base freight. Could someone say what is the reason for the increase of the local charges?
The Shipping Association must look in to this, whereby importers paying freight in Trinidad must pay in US$, and we all know the challenges to obtain forex.
The importer must now pay at the rate of exchange of $6.90 to the US (meaning if your freight is US$100, you have to pay TT$690), while the Central Bank rate of exchange is TT$6.78.
Are the agents breaching Central Bank policy by collecting freight in USD? And having to pay a black market price of 6.90 for USD?
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