Customs to roll out faceless assessment across India

The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has sought comments on introducing faceless assessment for imported goods on a national basis, after having conducted pilots at some customs stations over the past year.

CBIC has proposed to restructure existing commissionerates into National Assessment Commissionerates (NACs) and Jurisdictional Port Commissionerates (JPCs), where the former would be virtual, having an all-India jurisdiction and comprising a cluster of faceless assessment groups, while the latter will set up Turant Suvidha Kendra for facilitating customs clearances.

“Faceless assessment will bring anonymity in assessment and cut down the physical interface between the Assessing Officer and the importer or broker to the extent technologically feasible. This will ensure uniformity in assessments across the country, thereby reducing transaction costs and uncertainty amongst the trade,” the CBIC said in a notice on Wednesday.

The proposals are part of a string of next generation reforms called ‘Turant Customs, which is aimed at speedy clearance of goods at air and sea ports, which in turn will benefit ease of doing business in India. The CBIC has sought comments on its proposals by March 3.

The CBIC has introduced various reforms earlier such as single window interface for facilitating trade, e-Sanchit (e-Storage and computerised handling of indirect tax documents), and direct port delivery, among others. However, India’s export-import trade has often flagged issues of seaports carrying out their own assessment and examination which varies from port to port, and divergent practices being adopted by authorities.

The CBIC has proposed to create NACs at Jawaharlal Nehru Custom House, apart from separate locations in Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Bangalore.

Officers assigned with the virtual, faceless assessment group (FAGs) will assess consignments assigned to them by the Customs Automated System – electronically and randomly – irrespective of where the Bill of Entry is filed or the port where the goods have arrived.

“While assessing a bill of entry, every officer of FAG, irrespective of where he is actually posted, would become the part of JPCs where the imported goods have arrived. This would be ensured by tweaking the existing jurisdictional notifications,” the notice added.

The Turant Suvidha Kendras will perform various functions, primarily, accepting Bond or Bank Guarantees, generating test memo and forwarding the samples, processing request for fee waiver for late filing and carrying out any other technical function referred by the FAGs.

Experts said that the proposals will be a success for the industry if the effective execution from the end of FAGs takes place. “The success of faceless assessments would depend upon how well the Faceless Assessment Groups” (FAGs) are able to understand the classification of products across sectors and complete assessments in a time bound manner.” said Harpreet Singh, Partner, KPMG.