KARACHI: The Finance Bill 2015-16 has proposed to bar Customs authorities from initiating recovery proceedings if in any case, any duty/tax is not/short levied or erroneously refunded if the recoverable amount is less than Rs20,000. Earlier, this minimum benchmark was Rs100 only.

The Finance Bill 2015-16 has increased the fine on the importers in case the invoice is not available in the container or pinned with the consignment to Rs50,000 from earlier Rs5,000.

According to the proposed amendment in section 156 of Customs Act, 1969, if any person contravenes the requirement of placement of invoice and packing list inside the import container or consignment, such person shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding Rs50,000. This measure has been proposed to eliminate mis-declaration.

Moreover, if a person makes an untrue declaration relating to transit goods or illegally removes or conceals any transit goods, such person including the custodian and inland carrier shall be liable to a penalty up to twice the value of the goods and upon conviction by a Special Judge be further liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, and the goods in respect of which such offence has been committed shall also be liable to confiscation.

This amendment suggests involvement of the custodian of transit cargo i.e. the drivers of the container mounted vehicles, in the investigations as well as bear the liability.

Officials said that this was an important development and it would discourage pilferage of transit cargo. The official said that investigating drivers of the vehicles could lead to the actual culprit involved in the crime. Earlier, only the bonded carrier was held liable for any theft or pilferage of transit goods.

Sources said that there is a flaw in the system, the importers intending transshipment should be bound to make complete declaration at the port of arrival and the packing list and the invoice should also be submitted at the port of arrival.

The Finance Bill 2015-16 also aims to computerize authorization of transshipment consignments as the Bill proposed amendment in Section 121 that at customs-station where the Customs Computerized System is operational, the system may automatically authorize transshipment to other customs-station subject to risk selectivity criteria.

For the purpose of transshipment of LCL goods, the customs-station of first entry shall be the customs-station where the goods are de-consolidated.