International Customs Day celebrated at Peshawar

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Raza Kazmi

PESHAWAR: Like every year before, Pakistan Customs (FBR) celebrated International Customs Day, 2022 by holding a dignified ceremony at Customs House, Peshawar on 26th January, 2022. World Customs Organization (WCO) selected the slogan “Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem” as this year’s theme. Chairman FBR/Secretary Revenue Division Dr. Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed graced the occasion as the chief guest. The event was attended by a large number of dignitaries, Ambassadors, Parliamentarians, Federal Secretaries, senior officers of Pakistan Customs, businessmen and media representatives.
The ceremony commenced with the Guard of Honor which was presented to the honorable chief guest by an impressive contingent, drawn from officers and officials of Pakistan Customs, led by Collector Customs Enforcement, Peshawar. The welcome speech was delivered by Syed Muhammad Tariq Huda, Member Customs (Operations), (FBR (HQs), Islamabad. Welcoming the chief guest and other dignitaries, he briefly highlighted the overall performance and achievements of Pakistan Customs, during the course of previous year. He further informed the audience that Pakistan Customs remains at the frontline at borders, seaports, airports, and on the highways to safeguard our country from the menace of smuggling of contrabands, drugs, currency, liquor, pornography etc. “We lead our country’s efforts in combating commercial cargo smuggling to protect our industry and hence secure jobs. It is on the strength of this protection and growth in our industry, that we can dream of a Pakistan where exports become the mainstay of our GDP bringing forth precious foreign exchange to satisfy our growing import demands,” he explained. He expressed his pleasure by stating that Pakistan Customs had been able to thwart smuggling to a considerable amount with the help of other law enforcement agencies, which was a huge challenge for the country.
Chairman FBR/Secretary Revenue Division, Dr. Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed extended his heartfelt felicitations to the Customs fraternity on International Customs Day. “This year’s theme on International Customs Day is not only in line with the initiatives that have already been undertaken by Pakistan Customs, but is what FBR constantly strives for,” he remarked. He further continued that Customs’ role was constantly evolving and Pakistan Customs had been up to the mark in responding to the changing nature of border management. “Pakistan Customs is serving as the guardian of Pakistan’s borders against the movement of contraband goods, as well as, a major revenue contributing agency,” he added.
Pakistan Customs is handling legitimate annual trade worth more than US$ 80 billion. During the financial year 2020-21, Pakistan Customs has shown growth of 20% in collection of Customs Duty, besides, collecting 45% of the total revenue collected by FBR under the head of all duties and taxes at import stage. During the first six months of current financial year, in addition to showing growth of 45% in collection of customs duty, Pakistan Customs has collected at import stage 51% of the total revenue collected by FBR.
While mentioning about the landmark initiative “Pakistan Single Window”, Chairman FBR stated that after completion, this project would integrate 74 plus government entities and Port communities into a single platform which would be a gigantic step towards import/export facilitation and a game changer for trade facilitation in the region.
For further facilitation of ever increasing volume of international trade, Compliance Risk Management (CRM) Regime has also been strengthened. The CRM regime is the management of compliant and non-complaint traders based on risk evaluation criteria. It has been successfully implemented across Pakistan and covers all types of air, land and sea borne cargoes. At the front-end, the CRM is dependent on automated Risk Management System (RMS) for swift clearances; whereas at the back-end, Directorate General of Post Clearance Audit has been established to help undertake audits to prevent tax evasion without holding cargos at ports and borders.
“Its effective implementation has enabled Pakistan Customs to raise ratio of low risk cargo through green channel this year from 44% to 54% in imports and from 75% to 85% in exports; and contributed towards improvement of Pakistan’s global ranking under World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business survey from 171 in the year 2016 to 111 in 2020 under trading across border indicators,” He highlighted. Chairman FBR further elaborated that Pakistan Customs has also been collaborating with international counterparts to foster a collaborative culture amongst customs administrations.
Pakistan Customs being the lead anti-smuggling agency is working proactively to curtail smuggling besides fulfilling its international obligations to stop the movement of illicit goods. Recently adopted counter-smuggling governance model is an excellent example of interagency co-operation which has yielded positive results, thereby boosting government revenue on import stage and local industrialization. While concluding his speech, Chairman FBR hoped that Pakistan Customs would continue its efforts to follow the guidelines of WCO to bring advance technologies to integrate and secure its operations while facilitating all stake holders.
Earlier, meritorious certificates were also distributed by the Chief Guest amongst the best performing officers of Pakistan Customs.
Meanwhile, FBR has taken a very strong exception to the Editorial captioned “Regressive Taxation” published in Daily Dawn on 23rd January, 2022, which is contrary to facts and far from truth.
Clarifying its position and legal stance, FBR has stated that services provided by foreign exchange dealers in provinces are not chargeable to Federal Excise under Federal Excise Act, 2005. Explaining the matter with regard to withholding tax on foreign exchange remitted out of Pakistan, FBR has clarified that notices have been issued only to those foreign exchange companies wherein neither the proof of payment of tax was available nor the withholding agents had got any exemption certificate issued under the relevant provisions of law, by the concerned Commissioner. FBR has taken a position that these notices are within the framework of law and the same will be enforced.
Furthermore, FBR strongly believes in a transparent and reliable tax system which maximizes revenue potential, minimizes revenue leakages through the use of technology and, thus, ensures ease of doing business. To realize this vision, FBR has taken a number of innovative measures based on digital interventions in the recent past which have translated into sizeable growth in revenues. Therefore, the impression portrayed in the above captioned Editorial is not only out of the context but also against the ongoing drive for tax compliance by FBR.