Office Audits Likely to Replace Customs Checks 

THE government is looking to further relax norms for clearing import consignments in line with global practices, to facilitate quicker imports and reduce transactions costs.
However, importers will have to face stringent audits at their premises in exchange for these fast track rules.
The proposal being considered will allow the release of imported goods at Customs offices on a self assessment basis without examination, a finance ministry official said.
Thus, while the importer can have possession of the goods quickly, interests of the government are protected by resorting to post clearance audit at the premises of the importer, looking at all individual transactions undertaken over a period of time, a discussion paper put out by the CBEC said.
The proposal is at present with the Central Board of Excise and Customs, the apex government body for indirect taxes.
The new regime will make Indias rules consistent with the Kyoto Convention of World Customs Organisation.
The principle of Customs control is the proper application of Customs laws and compliance with other legal and regulatory requirements, with maximum facilitation of international trade and travel, "the convention says.
This audit is likely to be on the lines of the ones of manufacturers and service providers in respect of their excise and service tax liability where a system of self assessment is already being followed.
Importers will have to keep certain records for five years and make these available to the audit team.
However, the move has failed to enthuse the industry. This would bring back inspector raj from the back door, said Ajai Sahai, director general, Federation of Indian Export Organisations.
He said the authorities should instead only go for random audits of companies or ones based on specific intelligence against a company. His fears may be unfounded as the manufacturers and services providers have not had any fundamental issue with the system of self assessment and audits.

Economic Times, New Delhi, 23-10-2010

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