Customs lacks ‘harmony’ but upgrades IT

| 02/11/2010

(CNS): Although the country’s custom’s department is promising importers a more efficient service with the upgrading of its IT systems officials said there seems to be a lack of urgency when it comes to implement an internationally recognized harmonised customs tariff. The collector of customs says that if the tariffs were standardized government would more accurately predict the money it expects to take and he believe it would also increase the take to government coffers. Although the idea of implementing the international harmonization codes has been discussed for several years despite the departments pleas there is still no legislation.

Calling on local business to lobby their elected officials Colin Powery the top customs officer told members of Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce at the Be Informed meeting that he believed it was a “lack of political will” which was holding up the introduction of the harmonization system.

“The customs service has made several presentations to Cabinet about this,” Powery said adding that he believed it would boost customs collections and make predictions about that revenue far more accurate.

The current Customs Tariff Law sets out the duty people must pay on all dutiable goods and it is a very long and sometime confusing list. The lists are so long and confusing that customs officers admitted they themselves sometime do not know what rate a particular item should be charged at.

In the first quarter of this financial year Powery said customs collected CI$35.4 million in duty therefore he believed if the trend continued the department would be on target to collect almost $142 million in duty putting it on target to exceeding the estimates for revenue in this year’s budget. However he pointed out that there “was tremendous potential” with the harmonisation code for government to increase the amount it collects through the increase in efficiency the international harmonization would bring.

One local business owner however raised some concerns about the harmonisation. Billy Adam the owner of Hobbies and Books said he believed the reluctance to implement the system came down to the fact that it would be an enormous undertaking for small businesses to manage especially if they did not have sophisticated computer systems for their importation records. “It will be very time time-consuming and difficult for people to use and add to the cost of doing business in Cayman,” he said.

The customs officers agreed that there had been some reluctance from local business but once the system was in place they said it would in fact make life easier for local traders.

In the meantime, however, customs officials said that the improvements in the department’s computer systems would mean business owners would soon be able to do their customs paper work and pay their duty on line. Officials said as importers were able to stay at their desks customs officers would in turn enable customs officers to get out from behind theirs and work more on compliance to ensure local businesses were paying their duty in accordance with the law.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Did I hear correct that Customs is the main agency for border control??? Then why haven’t we heard about the steps they are taking to keep all the guns from our shores.

    If they are the main agency for border control they need to step up their security measures because there are more guns & drugs on this island than ever.  Obviously the procedures you have in place aren’t working too well.       But then again this may mean SOME of the unfriendly overwieght custom officers would actually have to put down their patties and get up from their desk and earn their salaries.

    Stop the lip service and do something to protect our borders.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Start by changing Custom procedures

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yes, make your IT changes for efficiency of your department but also make some REAL changes to your border security for the safety of our community.

    I find it ironic that Mr. Powery outlined that "Customs is the main agency on the frontline of border control" during his address of the Chambers Be Informed meeting yet, no one spoke of what precautions are being taken to keep all of the guns from entering our borders.  Since you have acknowledged that you are our main agency of border protection you have the responsibility to report how you are protecting us.

    On a weekly basis you hear of a gun crime taking place on the island, Customs what are you doing to keep the guns out. We need answers. Have you increased your inspections and if so by how much? We never hear of any reports at least Immigration and RCIP report to the public on their raids and the outcome.

    Collecting revenue is important to the government purse but it will continue to be spent on legal aide, prison inmates etc. if we don’t keep the guns and drugs out of our borders. 

  4. A-nony-mouse [Not Mickey!] says:

    There is another reason why HM Customs is not "harmonizing" these codes.  It lies in a provision of the WTO called the Information Technology Agreement or (ITA).  Under this convention, ALL IT and related components and devices are DUTY FREE.

    This means all duties on computers, telephones, printers, fax machines and any component thereof is DUTY FREE worldwide.

    This, plus the DUTY FREE status of computer software (intellectual property) when it is declared for import under the proper codes would be a serious blow to revenues on this island.

    Ask Customs why they are violating recognized international agreements??  This is why the foot dragging on the harmonized codes. When I asked why this was happening, I was told it was BECAUSE the Cayman Islands does not operate under the International Customs Codes.  I asked this back in 2001, which iswhen ITA came into force WORLDWIDE.  Same answer now perhaps??