NBR to introduce automated customs declaration system soon

Passengers arriving in or departing from Bangladesh would soon enjoy an automated system of declaring their belongings and currencies they are carrying with to the customs authorities.

The simplified paperless system for the passengers travelling through air, land or sea ports is expected to facilitate submitting the declaration under the baggage rules before their arrival or departure.

Upon introduction of the system, the passengers would be able to fill up the embarkation and departure forms, declare their currencies and pay duties and taxes easily, while the allegations of harassment at the ports are expected to reduce substantially.

The customs wing of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) is developing the system as instructed by Chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem, officials said. The board’s IT wing is providing necessary support to the initiative.

Dr Md Neyamul Islam, first secretary of customs exemptions and project facilitates, said the work on developing the system is in progress.

He informed that the customs authority is set to sit with Sonali Bank to integrate its e-wallet with the customs software so that the passengers can pay their duties and taxes using the customs-prepared software.

Officials at the NBR said the new system is expected to be inaugurated soon to facilitate air, land and sea route passengers complete the customs process easily and within a short time.

There would be a barcode in the baggage declaration form which the passengers have to show to the customs officials at the entry port to scan and get access to their declarations.

Mobile number and e-mail address have to be inserted in the online forms along with other information of accompanied and unaccompanied baggage of a passenger.

Allegations on harassment in the airports or land ports would reduce after introduction of the system, the customs official said.

It is widely alleged that expatriate Bangladeshis face harassment in the customs port, including delays in clearances of their baggage, physical inspection and misbehave by customs and immigration officers. The scope of such harassment would also be reduced, he said.

Passengers would be able to access and fill up the baggage and currency declaration forms in the automated system, he added.

Misbehaviour is one of the major setbacks in-bound passengers, especially remittance earners, experience at the airports in Bangladesh.

Earlier, an expatriate Bangladeshi worker alleged that the customs officials slapped him at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) in Dhaka.

The NBR has three different baggage rules – Passenger (Non-Tourist) Baggage (Import) Rules, 2016, Air Passenger Unaccompanied Baggage (Export) Rules, 1999, Tourists Baggage (Import) Rules, 1981 – to provide duty concession and benefits to passengers and travelers, either tourist or non-tourist.

Passengers carrying dutiable goods must fill a baggage declaration form mentioning description and quantity of goods that they have brought in.

Currently, they are filling up the forms manually by either taking print-outs or collecting it from the airport, seaport or land port premises.

Non-tourist passengers enjoy certain privileges and duty exemption under Passenger (Non-Tourist) Baggage (Import) Rules 2016 – the ones coming through air and sea enjoy two types of benefits, including duty-free import of personal effects, books, magazines, portable professional equipment etc.

Moreover, the duty-free facility is given for the items like mobile phones (two sets) and all other items not more than one unit as specified in the baggage rules.

Each passenger is also entitled to duty-free import of gold ornaments not exceeding 100 grams or silver ornaments not exceeding 200 grams (one type of ornament not more than 12 pieces).

Household goods and personal effects, as specified in the rules, will be cleared on payment of fixed/specific duties and taxes.

Travelers entering the country through land ports are entitled to a duty-free allowance for goods having a maximum value of US$400.

Upon completion of the immigration formalities on arrival, passengers take delivery of their baggage from the conveyor belts in the Customs hall and pass through the Customs.

Tourists visiting Bangladesh for a period of more than 24 hours but not more than six months and do not get engaged in any gainful or remunerative profession or calling in Bangladesh are entitled to duty-free import of personal effects, jewelry, binocular, photographic camera, non-professional video camera, personal computer, physical aids, etc.

Air passengers (for unaccompanied baggage) have to follow a rule, framed in 1999, that defines baggage as a reasonable quantity of used or new clothes and other personal effects and gift items.

Under these rules, the Customs authority permits export of unaccompanied baggage of outgoing air passengers on fulfillment of certain conditions.

Unaccompanied baggage has to be presented before the concerned airlines counter at least three hours before the start of the journey of the passenger; the baggage will have to undergo security checking through the scanning machine.

The passenger will have to submit a declaration in IATA Standard Shipper’s Declaration Form (www.iata.org) to the counter stating that the baggage does not contain any commercial, export prohibited or illegal goods.

The officer of the airlines concerned shall inform the authorised customs officer (assistant commissioner or above) about the baggage as soon as the same (baggage) is presented before him/her.

The customs authority, if it considers necessary, may scan or physically examine the baggage. There are two options for passengers to pass through the customs – Green Channel and Red Channel.

Green Channel is designed for passengers carrying no dutiable goods. However, if the customs officer on duty has any reasonable basis to suspect that a passenger is carrying dutiable goods, he/she may challenge a passenger passing through the green channel.

Red Channel is designed for passengers carrying, or having in possession of, dutiable goods. The passengers shall ensure that they make the correct declaration of baggage.

If any passenger brings in items in excess of or different from items specified in baggage rules (excepting restricted or prohibited items under the Import Policy Order or any other law or regulation), such items will be released on production of import permit from the CCI&E office and payment of duties and taxes, and fine and penalty (in applicable cases) through adjudication.

Source: The Financial Express

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Iram Hoque

Mohd. Iramul Hoque (Iram) completed his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering in 2018 from Purdue University.

He joined Deloitte Consulting LLP as a Consulting Analyst based out of New York City having previously worked in similar roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP & Landis+Gyr.

Iram left consulting and returned to Bangladesh to take up the family business. Realizing the opportunity in the capital market in Bangladesh, Iram worked relentlessly to found Columbia Shares & Securities Ltd in 2021.

Md Saiful Hoque

Md. Saiful Hoque received his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Columbia University in 1986 followed by a master’s degree from Texas A&M University in 1988. Upon completion of his Graduate Degree, he joined Gulf Interstate Engineering Company in Houston, USA serving as a Project Engineer.

He returned to Bangladesh in 1992 to join Columbia Enterprise Ltd., the family business of Shipping and Freight Forwarding services. In addition, he has built flourishing businesses manufacturing Garment’s Accessories and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods.