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CBIC deciding on paperless customs rules for SEZs

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NEW DELHI : The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has given a proposal for a completely paperless customs compliance framework for special economic zones (SEZs), said officials, this framework will be in sync with new legislation proposed by the Centre to turn the SEZs into comprehensive economic hubs, with larger participation of states and further ease of compliance to attract investment.

A working group of officers recently submitted a detailed report identifying processes which can be migrated to the ICES (Indian Customs EDI System) or the Indian Customs Electronic Gateway (ICEGATE) system to make the customs process automated and smooth. The CBIC has identified processes, including filing bills of entry, filling shipping bills and risk-based examination of cargo which will be migrated to the ICES systems. “We did a very comprehensive review of part of the touch points between the customs and SEZ units and the processes involved and how we can automate them,” a senior official said.

The reason of the shifting

While customs has done a lot of work on ease of doing business, SEZ units have been left out of their benefit. They don’t use the ICES. While the basic filing on SEZ is online, there are a lot of contact points in that procedure. Permissions have to be taken from time to time. SEZs have to apply for renewing them and goods are examined most of the time. Businesses had proposed that all their filings be shifted to the ICES. So, whatever benefits that flow from it to normal importers and exporters will also be available to SEZs.

In her budget speech, Finance Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman had announced that the SEZ Act will be replaced with a new legislation that would enable states to become partners in development.

She also announced that reforms would be undertaken in customs administration of SEZs to make them fully IT driven and function on the Customs National Portal, with a focus on higher facilitation and with only risk-based checks. This includes integration of ICEGATE with SEZ customs.

Experts said reforms in customs administration of these zones will help in further improving ease of doing business, promoting growth and boosting exports.

A working group of officials was tasked with looking at the physical touch points between customs and SEZ units, converting them to electronic mode and how they can migrate some of the major processes that the SEZ units have to comply with from the customs point of view to the ICES platform.

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