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.”
“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.