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GRA reduces benchmark values aftermath of Dr Bawumia’s presentation...

BY: Della Russel Ocloo
Commissioner of Customs, Mr Isaac Crentsil
Commissioner of Customs, Mr Isaac Crentsil

The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) says it has reconfigured its Pre-Arrival Assessment Reporting System (PAARS) for the processing of the Customs Classification and Valuation Reports (CCVR) on imports to reflect the reduction in benchmark values.

The move, according to the Commissioner of Customs, Mr Isaac Crentsil, followed a government policy to offer a 30 per cent discount on home delivery value (HDV) on vehicles, as well as a 50 per cent reduction in the benchmark values for general imports.

He told the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday that Customs had to, in collaboration with its information technology provider, West Blue Consulting, undertake the reconfiguration of the PAARS system to reflect the revised CCVR values on imports.

Benchmark values are reference values that Customs uses in determining values that could be imposed on imports meant for clearance at the country’s ports.

Mr Crentsil said the Commissioner General of the GRA had issued an administrative authorisation to back the changes in the benchmark values as announced.
The order, which came into effect yesterday, will allow the Customs Division to fully implement the policy on the benchmark values.

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Policy

The Vice-President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, had, last Wednesday, announced the decision at a town hall meeting in Accra.

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The move, he said, was to reduce the incidence of smuggling and enhance revenue at the country’s ports.

Similarly, the policy would lead to a 90 per cent reduction in physical examination of containers at the ports, which the government sought to achieve by June 2019, he said.

Stakeholders

The move has been welcomed by various stakeholders, especially the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), which commended the government.

They have, however, called for the weekly dollar rates in use at the ports to be maintained for a period of six months to reflect the changes being made.

Mr Crentsil said the Customs Division issued a number of new CCVRs on vehicles yesterday to reflect the new policy, while those on general goods were being worked on and could take effect next Monday.

For example, a 2010 Honda Civic saloon car which previously attracted an import value of GH¢18,000 was cleared yesterday for GH¢13,547.71.

Similarly, a 2015 Toyota Rav 4 vehicle of 2.5 engine capacity which previously attracted a value of GH¢28,442.47 was now valued at GH¢20,716.75 with the implementation of the policy.

Parliamentary approval

Asked whether the policy did not require parliamentary approval to back the changes, Mr Crentsil said that the Customs Regulations of 2016, L.I. 2248, made provision for the Commissioner General of the VRA to provide guidelines or directives on what officers should do in furtherance of the achievement of a government policy, as well as any other regulation that would promote the operations of Customs.

“The government has not reduced taxes on imports; rather, what the policy seeks to do is reduce benchmark values on imports,” he pointed out.

“With this flexible regime, we do not expect people who often smuggle vehicles into the country to do so because once you do it and you are caught, Customs will not hesitate to confiscate the vehicle, without giving any room for penalty payment, and further push through for the prosecution of the offender,” he added.

Mr Crentsil also suggested that since physical examination had been reduced drastically, the division would strengthen its risk management system to ensure that traders did not take advantage to perpetrate fraud.

Tema Command

Meanwhile, the Tema Command of the Customs Division yesterday started the implementation of the physical examination rule.

The Sector Commander, Dr Godfred Okoh-Appiah, told the Daily Graphic that the command could only implement the benchmark values reduction if the CCVRs were made to reflect the revised fees.

The Tema Chapter Chairman of GIFF, Mr Alex Asiamah, also told the Daily Graphic that while the move was a positive one, importers and agents ought to follow the procedures in order not to outwit the system.

According to him, while the reduction in the physical examination would accelerate trade and reduce bottlenecks, some importers and freight forwarders might attempt to take advantage of the system to perpetrate fraud.

He, however, gave an assurance that GIFF and its related bodies would continue to sensitise its members to adhere to the policy, so that the country could derive the needed revenue at the ports.