To cut short the time for customs clearance and to effectively check smuggling, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) is exploring deals with customs authorities in other countries that will give it access to data on shipments before they land in Indian shores.

CBIC has on 22 July signed a data sharing deal with the Maldives Customs Service in this regard and is seeking similar deals with other countries, the indirect tax authority said in an update to its officials.

The deal with Maldives allows exchange of information on consignments prior to their arrival. “The memorandum of understanding, a first of its kind between India and another customs administration, will enable automatic exchange of customs data between the two countries on a real time basis,” the CBIC communication posted on its website said. The data will be used for both trade facilitation and customs compliance using risk management techniques, it said. The government is pursuing similar deals with seven other nations, CBIC said without naming the countries.

India had in May made the proposal for such an arrangement at a World Customs Organisation meeting in May and at a meeting of customs authorities in BRICS nations earlier this month. Mint reported on 14 July that India has sought commitment from individual BRICS member countries for initiating exchange of pre-arrival customs data on a real time basis, which will facilitate genuine trade and curb trade mis-declaration. Customs and revenue authorities pay great attention to classification of goods, their valuation and country of origin to check invoice manipulation, smuggling and abuse of free trade agreements.

Both customs and Goods and Services Tax (GST) authorities are now extensively using intelligence gathered from various sources to nail instances of tax evasion even as procedures are increasingly made faceless and digital. Earlier this week, CBIC rolled back the requirement for periodic renewal of licenses and registration issued to customs brokers. These licenses, once issued, will now remain valid for lifetime subject to riders. Customs brokers are persons licensed to act as an agent on behalf of the importer or an exporter for handling shipments at any customs station.

CBIC has in recent months made several changes in its procedures to cut red tape and to avoid physical interface between merchants and officials. These were meant to speed up assessment and clearance of shipments in a more anonymous way. The idea is to reduce the time and cost involved in cross-border trade and to improve the business climate.

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