Customs conducts post-audit of rice imports
Following concerns that rice smuggling may have flourished amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has intensified its audit of import shipments and raided warehouses of suspected smugglers, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the DOF quoted Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero as reporting to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III recently that private traders’ imported rice stocks were being subjected to post-audit and post-modification.
Guerrero said doing so allowed the BOC to assess undervalued rice imports in order to collect the correct import duties and other taxes due.
“The BOC has found the valuation of several rice shipments with provisional goods declaration to be quite low compared to the prevailing market prices,” Guerrero admitted.
“But those are subject to post-modification and post-audit. And in the meantime, we are still conducting the post-modification, verifying the payments of rice because some of them are clearly undervalued. So we will catch up in the post-modification and post-audit,” Guerrero added.
The BOC allowed private rice importers to avail themselves of provisional goods declaration to speed up entry of these “critical” shipments and ensure food security amid the COVID-19 crisis.
In turn, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) flagged unscrupulous traders taking advantage of the BOC’s assessment and valuation system for imported rice.
In response, Guerrero said the country’s second-biggest tax-collection agency acted on “reports by concerned citizens regarding warehouses suspected of storing smuggled rice stocks by immediately issuing letters of authority to enable BOC officers to inspect such warehouses and seize goods without the requisite importation permits.”
“We actually raided them and we found out that many of these warehouses were operating legally and their stocks are covered by proper documents,” the BOC chief said.
Citing the BOC’s Customs Memorandum Order No. 07-2020, the DOF said that “if the Customs district/sub-port collector accepts a provisional goods declaration, the duty and tax treatment of the goods under provisional declaration will not be different from that of goods with complete declaration.”
For the release of shipments under tentative assessment, the importer will be required to post the required security, whether in the form of surety bond or cash bond, the DOF added. INQ
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