Importers urged to get on board with Saudi Customs’ data-correction scheme

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Mazen Alzamel, Deputy Governor for Revenue at Saudi Customs (in center) speaking to reporters in Riyadh on Tuesday. (AN photo by Rashid Hassan)
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Mazen Alzamel, Deputy Governor for Revenue at Saudi Customs & Turki Abdulmohsen Alotaishan, Media Director, Saudi Customs (both in middle) at media briefing in Riyadh on Tuesday. (AN photo by Rashid Hassan)
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Mazen Alzamel, Deputy Governor for Revenue at Saudi Customs (2nd from right)& Turki Abdulmohsen Alotaishan, Media Director, Saudi Customs (first from right) speaking to reporters in Riyadh on Tuesday. (AN photo by Rashid Hassan)
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Mazen Alzamel, Deputy Governor for Revenue at Saudi Customs & Turki Abdulmohsen Alotaishan, Media Director, Saudi Customs (both in middle) at media briefing in Riyadh on Tuesday. (AN photo by Rashid Hassan)
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Mazen Alzamel, Deputy Governor for Revenue at Saudi Customs & Turki Abdulmohsen Alotaishan, Media Director, Saudi Customs (in center) at media briefing in Riyadh on Tuesday. (AN photo by Rashid Hassan)
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Updated 15 January 2020

Importers urged to get on board with Saudi Customs’ data-correction scheme

  • Alzamel added that importers would be able to apply for customs fees related to inaccurate information on value, origin and type of goods, and input data not declared to Saudi Customs

RIYADH: Importers have been urged to flag mistakes in customs documentation as part of a Saudi initiative to improve compliance and stability of growth for companies.
Saudi Customs said on Tuesday that its self-correction scheme, launched at the beginning of this year, was aimed at encouraging private sector businesses to come forward and highlight data inaccuracies that may have come about during the trade of goods.
Dr. Mazen Alzamel, deputy governor for revenue at Saudi Customs, told Arab News that the authority was also running another initiative called post-clearance audit (PCA) to help streamline its services.
“That (PCA) is going hand in hand and was started about two-and-a-half years ago. The main thing we need to emphasize, is that the PCA might impose penalties that can be at least twice the amount of customs duties and can go up to the total value of the imported goods,” he said.
Under the newly launched self-correction program, any company voluntarily reporting underpayment of customs fees, and therefore VAT, would only have to pay the difference and would not be fined, added Alzamel.
The customs official pointed out that there was a half-year time limit on the initiative. “All companies are encouraged to go through their imports for the last 5 years, and they now have a window of six months to report any mistakes that have been made during the period.”
Cases where the customs authority had mistakenly over-charged could also be rectified.
Alzamel said: “Any mistake can be corrected. It could be related to the value of the goods, a misspecification causing mistakes in the tariff, or unlawful exemptions.”
On companies which failed to report mistakes in time, he noted that the PCA acted as a “risk engine or targeting engine” in resolving issues.
“We study documents that have been submitted, and if we find that a company has misconducted business, we will visit them and do a field audit, and if inconsistencies are found there is a high chance of penalties being imposed.”

FASTFACT

The scheme is aimed at encouraging private sector businesses to come forward and highlight data inaccuracies that may have come about during the trade of goods.

“Once we have notified a company that it is being audited, it loses the chance of benefiting from the self-correction initiative. So, if a company comes forward voluntarily it can avail itself of the benefit.”
Alzamel said that the initiative would help to promote transparency with investors and the business sector while improving customs compliance and stability of growth for import companies and providing conditions to improve the level of customs commitment.
He added that importers would be able to apply for customs fees related to inaccurate information on value, origin and type of goods, and input data not declared to Saudi Customs.
When stakeholders applied for a correction before the discovery of a data error or the issue of subsequent audits on restrictions and records, they only needed to pay the differences in customs fees and due taxes, added Alzamel.
Importers can submit correction requests for six months via the initiative’s portal on the Saudi Customs website.


For Saudis stranded abroad due to pandemic, Kingdom’s embassies offer crucial lifeline

Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi reassuring Saudis about their safe return to the Kingdom. Saudi missions around the world continue to provide advice and accommodation for stranded citizens. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 31 March 2020

For Saudis stranded abroad due to pandemic, Kingdom’s embassies offer crucial lifeline

  • Saudis stranded abroad by coronavirus tell Arab News how they cope

RIYADH: Hundreds of Saudi citizens stranded abroad due to the coronavirus travel bans are living in the lap of luxury at the expense of the Kingdom.
Since the first case of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was reported in Saudi Arabia, the government has been taking all necessary measures to protect its people through the closure of schools and offices to the halting of international and domestic flights.
And Saudi embassies around the world have been working day and night to organize the safe return of citizens, posting flight deadlines and important contact numbers on Twitter.
However, not all Saudis studying, working or on vacation in other countries have been able to make it home.
As the world battles with the pandemic, the Saudi government has been trying to ensure the well-being and health of its citizens stranded abroad, urging Saudi nationals to abide by the rules and regulations of the countries of their residence.
The Kingdom has expanded a ban on international flights for two weeks to help authorities fight the virus effectively within the country.
A number of Saudi families, tourists, businesspeople and students have found themselves stuck in the US capital, Washington, DC with no idea of when the next evacuation flights will take place.
However, the Saudi Embassy has provided luxury hotel accommodation for stranded Saudi nations including full-board meals and free laundry services.
Ayman Nassief and his family were on a two-week holiday in Orlando, Florida when the travel ban came in.
“When they closed Disney World in Orlando, we sensed something, and decided to go back to Washington to take the first flight to Saudi Arabia,” said Nasseif, an architect from Jeddah who had traveled to the US with his wife Safinaz Salamah, a pediatrician, and their daughter Hatoon, a freelance graphic designer.
“I knew that the flight had been canceled before I arrived in DC, so I called the embassy on their dedicated hotline. The embassy immediately made arrangements for our stay at the Hilton McLean hotel.”
The Saudi Ministry of Health made it mandatory for people entering the Kingdom after March 11 to go into 14-day quarantine and Nasseif said his family’s places of work had been very cooperative and understanding over their situation.

 

 

Safinaz said she was keen to get back to Saudi as soon as possible to help in her role as a pediatrician. “I wish I was there to return some of the favor that the government has bestowed upon me.
“I sit here with my family at the expense of the embassy; it is taking care of our accommodation, food and even paying for our laundry here. Now I really know what it means to be Saudi,” she added.
Nasseif said: “We understand the burden on the government, and we want to go back as soon as possible, but we realize how big the pandemic is. It put us at ease that the government was taking extreme measures to fight the virus, and we stand along with them.”
Another Saudi citizen, Faten Ahmed, became stranded at the Hilton McLean after her flight home was canceled during a visit to Florida to see her brother.
“Although I am missing my family and home, the help I have received here has made it up for me. I have nothing to complain about. I only hope the world passes through this crisis with the minimum of lost lives.”
Ahmed had only been in Miami for 24 hours before she heard the travel ban rumors and drove immediately to Orlando to catch the first available flight to Washington, DC. However, when she got there all flights to Saudi Arabia had been grounded.

Ibtihaj Al-Hanaki who was in the US capital for a brief personal trip was also unable to return due to the pandemic. Her flight was one of the last to land in the city from the Kingdom before things were shut down.
“I didn’t think that things will escalate this fast, when I finished my business here I tried to go back, but unfortunately it was too late,” the mother of two boys, 2 and 5, told Arab News. “I miss them too much, I didn’t plan to leave them for a long period, and they weren’t prepared for that,” she said.
Nevertheless, Al-Hanaki praised the action of her country to take strict precautions during the coronavirus outbreak, which has brought most of the world to a halt.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Saudi embassies around the world have been working to organize the safe return of citizens, posting flight deadlines and important contact numbers on Twitter.

• Saudi Embassy in Washington has provided approximately 40,000 Saudi students in the US with clear guidance and advisories regarding how to ensure that their studies are not disrupted.

Fahad Nazer, spokesperson at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, told Arab News: “The well-being of Saudi citizens abroad is the top priority of all of the Kingdom’s diplomatic missions around the world.
“The Saudi Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan is personally overseeing the embassy’s effort to ensure that Saudis currently unable to return to the Kingdom due to the international travel restrictions, have adequate accommodation until the restrictions are lifted.
“The Kingdom’s embassy in Washington, in addition to its consulates in New York City, Los Angeles and Houston have spared no effort to make sure that the approximately 600 Saudi citizens who were visiting the US and are currently unable to return to the Kingdom have all their needs met,” said Nazer.

A group of Saudis gathered in the lobby of a hotel in Washington, DC.

“The accommodation, provided free of charge, includes transportation from airports to hotels and lodging at hotels, along with complimentary meals. In addition, the Kingdom’s cultural mission in Washington has provided approximately 40,000 Saudi students in the US with clear guidance and advisories regarding how to ensure that their studies are not disrupted, including guidance on distance learning.”
The embassy and consulates in the US have also advised all Saudis to strictly adhere to the public health and safety advisories issued by the states they reside in.
Saudi embassies and consulates around the world continue to closely monitor the spread of the coronavirus and provide advice and accommodation for stranded citizens.
In Indonesia, a video went viral of the Saudi ambassador to the country, Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi, reassuring a large crowd in an airport that they would all be cared for. “Our responsibility lies in overseeing that we care for you during this time,” he said.
The Saudi Embassy in Indonesia flew out 800 citizens and those that failed to make the flight have been provided free accommodation.
“There is no doubt that the authorities in the Kingdom are working hard for their return, but after taking all necessary precautions,” the envoy added.
The Saudi Embassy in Egypt helped to evacuate 5,900 Saudis in the space of 72 hours with the Kingdom’s ambassador, Osama Nugali, personally overseeing operations at the airport.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always been at the forefront of caring for its citizens whether in the country or abroad. The instructions we received from the leadership were to help facilitate and to accommodate the needs of our citizens during this crucial time,” he told Arab News.