The customs wing of the revenue board has requested the central bank to upload relevant import documents on the web platform instantly to keep dishonest importers from evading tax through tampered documents.
The wing made the request after its primary investigation found some evidences of manipulation of import documents for duty evasion.
Md Lutfor Rahman, a customs policy member of the National Board of Revenue (NBR), recently sent a letter to Bangladesh Bank (BB) governor Fazle Kabir seeking his help in collecting proper revenue while expediting release of goods.
In the letter, the customs wing requested the central bank to take steps for real-time uploads of detailed packing list, proforma invoice and commercial invoice.
Detailed packing list, proforma invoice and commercial invoice are crucial import documents for quick customs valuation and collection of the government's estimated revenue, the letter said.
The BB needs to instruct the authorised dealer (AD) branches of all commercial banks to take necessary steps so that customs officials can check the documents online instantly, said the letter of the NBR.
Customs wing also informed its field offices across the country including customs houses about the decision of the NBR.
Currently, LC (letter of credit) documents are uploaded by the BB to the Asycuda world system of the custom houses for real-time access by the customs officials.
Officials said they could get information of the total value of imports or exports from the L/C documents, which are insufficient for proper customs assessment.
Packing list and commercial invoice contain the details of products including quantity, weight, volume, description, type of packaging, unit value and total value, and other charges, details of importers and exporters, date and terms of sale, and other required information, they said.
Officials alleged that some of the importers collect such documents from banks and tamper the data related to quantity and description of goods in the documents before submitting those to the customs authority.
However, the importers keep the import price unchanged, which is also quoted in the L/C but change other information in the packing list and commercial invoice, they added.
Changes in description of products and their quantity reduce Total Tax Incidence (TTI) of the import product, they added.
Import products involving higher duty is changed to lower duty products for evading duty.
Talking to the FE, some leading importers, who preferred to anonymous, acknowledged that some of their peers resort to such malpractice to evade taxes.
Unless the BB uploads the data on real-time, customs officials will not be able to check the authenticity of the documents instantly, they said.
Talking to the FE, former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) AK Azad said the step would help NBR cross-check data, thus strengthening its ability to check tax avoidance.
"We support the customs initiative of uploading real-time data on the BB website to prevent alleged manipulation of documents by some importers," he added.
He, however, said the NBR should refrain from the measures, which might push up the service charges in the customs points.