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Laxmi Yadav, Mumbai October 29 , 2020
The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has assured the Federation of Custom Brokers’ Association in India that there will be no delay in inbound shipment clearance at ports in the country after the next couple of weeks due to the implementation of faceless assessment for customs clearance.

The faceless assessment for customs clearance introduced by CBIC across the country in the first week of September 2020 in a phased manner, has led to 15-20 days delay in shipment clearance at ports as against 2-3 days before the implementation of faceless assessment.

The first phase of the faceless assessment has started in Chennai and Bengaluru ports with an aim to bring transparency and remove red tape. It has now been introduced at other ports in the country as well.

The CBIC has decided to roll out nationwide faceless assessment for imports at all ports by October 31, 2020 whereby assessing officers physically located in a particular jurisdiction will assess bills of entry of imports of a different customs station or port, which will be assigned to them through an automatic system. The processing will be done without any direct interaction between the importer and customs authorities.

Now the delay in customs clearance of imported consignments has reduced to 4-5 days which will be ended over next couple of weeks, stated Parthiv Dave, founder, Federation of Custom Brokers’ Association in India.

The CBIC has assured Dave led Federation of reducing delay in customs clearance of imported consignments in 15 days.

Earlier the Federation had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi informing about the difficulties faced by customs brokers since implementation of faceless assessment which led to rise in numerous hidden costs.

“After the implementation of faceless assessment the dwell time of assessment has increased due to which the transaction cost has increased. This has caused a slowdown in the manufacturing process and also the economy of India. The shipping companies are charging EXIM rate in foreign currencies in a haphazard manner,” stated the trade association in the letter.

“The concept of introduction of faceless assessment was to bring an end to cut down the physical appearance and illegal gratification whereas the results are quite different. The officers even do not know how to assess the Bill of Entry (knowingly/unknowingly) and have started giving multiple means of queries, giving unnecessary examination orders, etc. The Bill of entry is idle for several days unattended by the assessing officer at different faceless assessment locations. The status of the Bill of Entry is untraceable at the faceless assessment point. The customs brokers are forced to appoint middle-men to look after their assessment work at other ports resulting in additional costs on the customs broker, which is indirectly passed on to the importer. It may kindly be noted that the illegal gratification has not been stopped, whereas, it has grown enormously. Hence, the importers are left with no choice but to surrender the assessing officers just to save their business. The goods are required at the factory for the production purpose of the importer. The traders who have sold their goods in advance are also suffering in this situation. It appears that ease of doing business does not prevail,” stated the letter.

Hence, it has suggested to the authority that instead of implementing fully faceless assessment the focus should be on a risk management system (RMS).

In the last 10 years, the percentage of RMS clearance of Bill of Entry has gradually increased and that is the best option for ensuring uniformity in assessment across the country, said Dave.

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