New Customs Tariff Law (2012)

| 20/05/2014

Even in the best of times, clearing merchandise through the Cayman Islands Customs was like a bad dream. The newly introduced Customs Tariff Law 2012 has turned that bad dream into a major real-life nightmare. The new tariff codes require 8-digit codes with various import duty rates to be input into Customs entry forms. There are 5,000 different item codes which are contained in a 230 page PDF document.

This means that a small business importer bringing, say, 150 different small items for resale must first find the correct code and import duty rate for each of these items from the list of 5,000 possible codes. This task takes a day or more to categorize the items, then for each item the specific freight on that item must be calculated so as to include the amount of duties to be paid on both the cost of the merchandise and the freight.

Even before full implementation people clearing Customs are now finding out that it takes 4-7 hours waiting in line at Customs to pay import duties that are at best exorbitant. Then hours more are needed for Customs to check that the codes, duty rates, freight on each item and import duty calculations arecorrect.

The implications of this will be felt by every man, woman and child in the Cayman Islands in more ways than one. While it is true that the average person does not ever have to go to Customs or directly pay import duties, everyone who buys products locally that are imported is paying the total costs that importers pay, plus the profit added by those importers. We can all therefore expect a substantial price increase that will result from the increased labour costs by merchants which this new and improved law will bring.

The present number of employees of the Customs is insufficient to meet the new demands of implementing this law. Unless of course the government expects that the public will be satisfied to wait in line for a few days each time they need to pay customs duties. This means increased labor expenses for Customs and a bigger chunk out of the net amount collected by Customs in order to pay for additional labor expenses.

We all know that government gets substantial funds from collecting import duties for everything consumed by every man woman and child in the Cayman Islands. So, in addition to increased prices locally, the public can also expect that this will be financed by increased taxes (or fees or import duties, since we don’t like the word ‘tax’ and claim to be a tax-free country).

For some small local businesses this Customs Tariff Law 2012 will be the final nail in the coffin. For the general public we have higher prices to pay, since both large businesses and small businesses will need to spend more for the total costs of importing, and therefore pass the higher prices and their profit on to the public.

I don’t recall any politician having this law on their manifesto in any election, so who imposed this law on the people of the Cayman Islands? What are the benefits to the people of the Cayman Islands, or to anyone in the world for that matter? And why do we have to pay the price?

Who in the world will benefit by knowing, for example, how many light bulbs we import and whether they are sealed beam lamp units, whether they are halogen, or exceed 200 watts, whether they are fluorescent, or mercury, whether they are ultraviolet, or other, or even parts for a light bulb? Yes, these 8 examples each have their own 8 digit code and are required to be listed separately on our customs entry forms.

So. Who do we blame for this abomination? The previous government for imposing the law of course, but even more so we must to lay final blame where it belongs: at the foot of the PPM government, for implementing it!

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What interest does the state have in knowing what fabrics we use to wipe our backsides?

  2. Anonymous says:

    CIG has created the cost of business to go up again— who pays for it — we the public – thank u PPM== CUC plans to charge retailers more for power — who pays for it — thats right — the PUBLIC– thank you PPM

  3. Anonymous says:

    What is the import code for ipads?  Who cares when they fit so snugly in your hand luggage!

  4. Anonymous says:

    To make this process just a little but more pleasant. Hire exceptionally good looking male and female custom officers. Ensure that they are extremely pleasant. Then change this system to something that is practical. There is no point to creating something complicated for something that should be a simple process.

  5. Anonymous says:

    My brother was visiting Cayman last week.  He is from the UK.  He purchased two very expensive dresses from Caymana Bay as gifts  for his wife. About $200 per dress.  One did not fit and one she did not like.  He had removed the tags as they were gifts so he he has no proof of where they came from.  He paid US$ cash for them.  He asked me if he could return them by post to me and get something else at the Caymana Bay store.  Reasonabe enough request to him… or so he thought. I TOLD HIM HE WAS CRAZY and explained that I would have to pay through the wazoo at this end just to clear them from the post office!  I rest my case.


    • Anonymous says:

      Dear person with visiting brother from the UK,

      Tell him it would be easier and cheaper to find a new wife that liked the dresses and one who they would fit than return them to Cayman!   Pityful situation.

    • Anonymous says:

      That is what happens when you but cheap.

  6. Anonymous says:

    We bring in our inventory in 20 or 40 ft containers. It used to take 2 hours to clear, now it now takes almost 2 days to clear.  For my shipment they told me it was 3 customs employees working through the paperwork I provided.  Its just creating more work, and the revenue to government is the same, with the exception that the next cry will be Customs is understaffed. 

  7. tellmenah says:

    What was the price of the software?

  8. Anonymous says:

    I hope there won’t be any “VIP walk throughs” at custom lines anymore. Betcha when “they” and their travel companions start being held up for 2 hours after flying, come see den how fast this law is going to be changed.

  9. Anonymous says:

    There is absolutely NO NEED for this. Those inept Customs Officers will be slower than ever now. If you get to Customs 10 minutes before it opens, you will be out in approximately 2 hours.

    This is unacceptable and if I was the type to believe in conspiracy theories, I'd say this is another attempt to squeeze the middle class even more, pretending that all this bullshit is actually important.

    Alden McLaughlin can not be serious. Is the man even awake? His country is going down the drain at a quick rate of knots and he bloody well fiddles with himself.

    It is no wonder many Cayman-based entrepreneurs are doing businesselsewhere. They can hardly afford to do business here with this bloated, inefficient government full of self-important people who think that their purpose in life is to ride on the coattails of the independent middle class, (soon to be on welfare).

    I conclude that this is planned and is probably only the beginning. Watch for the jobs advertised shortly for more customs officers. Heck, if this keeps up, I might have to apply myself. I suppose I need to get some tattoos first. I think I'll get one of those devil skulls with a bunch of barbed wire coming up my neck. That should do the trick.

    I am lodging my complaint and that is the true position. SMDH

  10. Anonymous says:

    Last time I came through customs, I was told I must register my cellphone as an 'electronic article taken abroad'   Can it get any more stupid?

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, you could be told to register it as man-made fibre toilet linen taken abroad.  That would be more stupid.  Marginally.

  11. Katrina Highkick says:

    The ESO realise that Cayman will fall if we don't sort out our flax, cotton and man-made fibre toilet linen.

  12. Anonymous says:

    This is not to help HM Customs department it is for the Statistics Office just so they can see what we import.

  13. Peanuts says:

    This is Private Enterprise turn at the PMFL. Watch it. No gain for Cayman, only more red tape.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Let's see…I make a spreadsheet of everything I import for my store (or use the one I already have since I'm a smart businessman), I look up the codes one time for everything and also fill in the prices (unless my smart businessman spreadsheet already has the prices), I make a column for duty rates and columns to do the multiplication and to total everything up, and I set it up to print on my stack of declaration forms. Then I take the spreadsheet, type in the number of items, save the lines with entries and print. Yes I have to add new items, prices and codes sometimes. When I get fancy I have invoices go direct to the spreadsheet when I book them.  If you don't keep books, stop whining.

    • Knot S Smart says:

      Unfortunately your simple idea will work only for a very small variety of inventory items. If for example you carry in inventory of 7000 different items,  a spreadsheet would take a few months to initially update by doing a search of the customs tariff codes  to find the  description and tariff code and manually update your excel file.

      Then there is the issue of receiving say 300 items in a shipment. First on that invoice itself,  you must hand-write the correct tariff code and duty rate from your excel list of of 7000 different items, so that Customs can determine what you are claiming in respect to the items on the invoice. So you actually have to search all of your 7000 item excel file 300 times to find those correct tariff codes, and as I said – hand write them on the actual invoice.

      Then there is the issue that every order is different. Prices vary, quantities vary, the items on the order vary, and even if they are the exact same items as a previous order, they are usually arranged differently each time – so having a static excel file with that data is not only impossible, but also useless. Business people order what they really need each time, rather than what was on a previous order.

      Finally – for 300 different items on one order, you will need to input the correct fields into the actual customs PDF entry as they dont currently accept a print of an excel file.  Each customs entry form contains only 15 lines so you will have to do 20 different customs entry forms in total for your order, save it 20 times on your computer,  andprint 40 copies total so you will have a printed copy of your entry.

      Then when you go to customs they will either have to key in your 300 items while you and numerous people wait in line, or someone will later have to do it, at substantial cost to government.

      I think the essence of my viewpoint article is that this will be a very costly endeavor by both government and businesses and consumers will find that their cost of living will increase because of  the added layer of bureaucracy.

      Trust me, I understand your simplistic solution – I was writing complex software programs in three different computer languages quite possibly before you were born.

      My experience in life has taught me that simple solutions are very infrequently the answer to complex problems.

      In other words as the older generation used to say – you should refrain from adult discussions, stay in your place, and speak only when spoken to…



      • Anonymous says:

        I thought customs were rolling out an online submission of forms with templates that could be saved for repeat applications, might help out a bit.  Having said that I had trouble filling out one form under the old system so there's no hope for me now.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Definition: Pure Madness. If the CI Govt can complicate and bog down a process, trust me they will. Working smarter has never been their mandate. They still believe that the more manual labour they can employ or induce, the more they can justify their insane, archaic logic. God help us. 

  16. Anonymous says:

    I don't believe Harmonized System Code is being implement by th CIG by  choice, this is world wide. Import/Export companies the world over have to deal with this on a daily basis.  Here is a copy of a Harmonized System Code taken from the internet.

  17. Anonymous says:

    We must thank the ESO for this

  18. Anonymous says:

    I just spent a fun filled 4 and a half hours at Customs.  In that time the poor Customs officers managed to process an average of 2.5 customers per hour.  I am sure that they don't like this any more than we do.  Why, on God's green earth was this law inacted???  The whole thing is an exercise in foolishness.  I would not have thought it would be possible to make clearing imports any worse than it was, but I was wrong… in spades.  

  19. Anonymous says:

     "…signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters." 

    Vogons anyone?

    • Anonymous says:

      Vogons are too cheery to work in Customs.  And they write poetry, so they might infect existing work staff with the gayness.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Ah but it does add to the never ending red tape and bureaucracy that protects CS jobs and keeps people employed !

  21. Anonymous says:

    Do I still get a sweet deal on Irish linen?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yup…..if it is a wedding dress and you wear it when you leave Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      6302  bed linen, table linen, toilet linen & kitchen linen
      630210  Bed Linen, Knitted or Crocheted
      630221  Bed Linen, Printed, of Cotton
      630222  Bed Linen, Printed, of Man-made Fibres
      630229  Bed Linen, Printed, of Other Textile Materials
      630231  Other Bed Linen of Cotton
      630232  Other Bed Linen of Man-made Fibres
      630239  Other Bed Linen, of Other Textile Materials
      630240  Table Linen, Knitted or Crocheted
      630251  Other Table Linen of Cotton
      630252  Other Table Linen of Flax
      630253  Other Table Linen of Man-made Fibres
      630259  Other Table Linen of Other Textile Materials
      630260  Toilet Linen, Kitchen Linen, of Terry Towelling, of Cotton
      630291  Toilet Linen, Kitchen Linen, of Cotton
      630292  Toilet Linen, Kitchen Linen, of Flax
      630293  Toilet Linen, Kitchen Linen, of Man-made Fibres
      630299  Toilet Linen, Kitchen Linen, of Other Textile Materials

      • Anonymous says:

        And I suspect this proves everyone's point about how stuopid the system is.  But it does not answer my question.

      • Anonymous says:

        What is toilet Linen?

        I am not an importer for a business and have only been to customs twice in the past three years.  The last time being this week.  My small box contains less than ten items and it has taken three days.  No one explains the process so you go to Customs, then to inspection, back to customs, then to port office and back to inspection to collect.   I waited 3.5 hours on the first day; left too late to go to second place.  When I thought I was finished and was happy to hand over my paperwork to collect, the guy said "sorry, but you will need to go and pay the port fees.  I dont have a problem with that but how was I supposed to know all this. Plus they were already closed.  I think they need a check list for non regular importers or first timers so we know how it all works!   Then I had no idea about all these tariff codes as again, I dont import goods as a rule but these were gifts that were sent to me!  So thankfully my customs officer was very kind and helpful and she fixed the errors on my form.


        Question – how do you figure out what freitn charges apply to what item?  I hope I never go through this again but I am enrolling in the degree programme to learn how to complete a customs import form!

  22. Anonymous says:

    If they just spent a month or so making the list electronic and searchable from the Customs website, and allowed for payments to be made online, the process could work.

    It's just as bad at the airport. You've just been flying for 4 hours and standing in queues for another 2 when you reach Cayman customs.  Do you a) delcare what you've bought then go and stand in another line for another hour in order to pay some money to an ungrateful and inefficient person? or b) take the tags off, walk out the door, get in your car and drive home?

  23. Anonymous says:

    This is a prime example of the dangers of bureaucracy to the rational human being.  When you pay government workers to construct complex unnecessary systems that cost time and money to maintain it is a system of foolishness.

    Historically government officials have manipulated the duty system for their own financial benefit and god forbid the duty system be simple and fair.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Introduce a flat rate across the board – one would think that the loss for some items, would be made up by the gain of increased duties on other items……..

    Also, when are we going to increase import duties on items that are a hazard to the environment, such as those pesty plastic bags, one use plastic dishes, pesticides etc.?

    • Anonymous says:

      So you want to introduce a flat rate in one breath but in the next to want to increase the duties on some items.  How is that a flat rate?

      • Anonymous says:

        Some bits will be flatter than others. 

      • Anonymous says:

        Duh! If duties on some items are 10% while duties on others are 22%, wouldn't a flat rate of say, 15% mean that some duties would have to be increased, while some are decreased? 

  25. Anonymous says:

    If the new customs Tariff Law is anything like how you described it, the PPM may as well throw hands up from now,, because they will not stand a chance of winning another election if they support such legislation.
    In this boggers opinion, anyone who knows anything about running a business or administerng a Govenment depatment intelligently,  would wonder if anyone in their right senses would expect such a cumbesome system to work or be practical.
    A system like you dscribed, is likely to cause catastrophic effects on buinesses, and is likely to lead to  the downfall of any Government who itroduees it..

    • Anonymous says:

      "…because they will not stand a chance of winning another election if…"


      This is music to McKeeva's ears.


      Be careful how you vote in the next election, there is more that one issue.

      • Anonymous says:

        McKeeva wont be the only other option.

        • Anonymous says:

          This is more music to McKeeva,a vote that is split 4 or 5 ways might allow him to squeak in again.

        • Anonymous says:

          Let's hope he's not an option at all. Don't forget the pending court case!

    • Anonymous says:

      The new 2012 Customs Tariff Law. Was the PPM in power in 2012?

  26. Anonymous says:

    This is, of course madness. It is so disconnected from reality, and so inappropriate to the Cayman context, as to defy logic. I cannot conceive how anyone would think this a good idea, or how so many people charged to protect our best interests, would so readily let it through. They should stop it now and apologize. They can at least do that without employing Ernst & Young.

    There is however an alternative. In reality world it could and probably should look something like this:

    Firearms, and tobacco: 100%
    Motorized vehicles and boats: 35%
    Alcohol, Batteries, and fuel: 30%
    Household items, furniture, electronics and clothing: 25%
    Electric vehicles: 20%
    Building supplies, plants and animals: 15%
    Food, medicine, solar panels and anything else: 10%

    All subject to a 5% discount on presentation by importer of retailer or wholesaler Trade & Business License to support local merchants.

    Items for re-export and raw-materials for manufacture of goods for export: Duty free.

    Of course the actual percentages would be calculated to ensure no loss of revenue. Balanced right it would save millions in costs and demonstrate that Cayman is indeed open for business and collects revenue in a fair and sensible manner.

    To avoid any issue we would have to have a section that confirms wedding dresses are clothing, but all personal items accompanying tourists and which would not remain in Cayman, would be duty free.

    • Anonymous says:

      One of the root causes of this fiasco is that the politicians pretent that Cayman is a "real" country.


      Cayman does not have the population and resources to support all of the trappings of a "real" country.


      Cayman is just a small town and it should behave accordingly.

    • B. Hurlstone says:

      Yes, Mr. Anonymous, I agree that such a move borders on insanity, but where did you get such inflated rates for Cayman's imports?  You must be quite wealthy.

      • Anonymous says:

        Put in whatever rates you choose that will balance out at the same revenue for Government. It is not the percentages that matter, only that the system be as efficient, sensible and easy to administer as possible. Hell, with the millions saved in customs administration the rates could be even lower as Government would not need as much money!

      • B. Earl Lee Breathing says:

        to keep things vague amidst the tall talkers and know alls – realize where you are geographically

        then ask your self where your country stands as a major dependancy on imports.

        and never forget the people who are allowed to make decisions on your behalf while you nod on uncontrollably whether you agree with the topic at hand or not  just because you may  have dropped a card in a box falling to the facade that paralyzes us all – im talking about the illusion of freedom, of course.

        almost sounds like communist talk huh?(LOL)

        but hey, if you like owing a bank 250k for the rest of your life and consider that freedom while the ppl who stand in an assembly hall and represent you AS A COUNTRY AND A PEOPLE get paid 4 times you do for half of the work you do more power to ya!

        we are sheep, controlled by wolves and owned by pigs


        i am 22 years old and know about the duty waivering on staple foods that only the distrubutors and gorcery store owners of this country benifited greatly from some years back .

        anyway i have to complain about the police forcing me to take off my dark tint that was freshly put on my fast imported japanese sports coupe this weekend to my friends


        pease and bacon grease


  27. Anonymous says:

    You are absolutely right.

    The winners here are the bigger import companies, they can handle the extra overhead.

    The loosers are the smaller companies and the private indiviual.

    THAT is the reason why it has become so complex. Bigger companies tell the government what to do, that all over the world the same.

    I would have suggested to have one duty rate for everything. Simple . . . .But that does not benefit big business.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Same codes as everywhere else. If you're still doing it by hand, maybe that's the problem.

    • Anonymous says:

      I do it by hand most days, and I don't find it a problem.

      • Anonymous says:

        Do you get blisters or do you alternate?

        • Anon says:

          If you sit on your wrist for 15 minutes til it losses circulation it will then feel like someone else did it by hand. That should prevent the blisters.

          • Anonymous says:

            So that is what my boss is doing all day?  I just thought he was sitting on his hands because he was useless and lazy.  No I know he is a lazy, useless, w@@@@r. 

    • Anonymous says:

      How can you take the information from your suppliers invoice and enter it into the customs form if not by hand? Just because you use a computer someone still has to input all the information "by hand" it doesnt just jump onto the customs form!