The decision was made in the budget that passed on Wednesday
The powers of customs officers have been increased from the next financial year according to the approved fiscal budget for 2021-22.
Although businessmen and its representative associations had urged the National Revenue Board (NBR) to reduce the power of its field-level officers, the exact opposite has now been legalized.
From now on, assistant commissioner-level officials will be able to resolve customs issues by verifying importers' documents.
Previously, only a deputy commissioner had that power to scrutinize the importer's documents, and penalize them.
The capacity of customs officials to resolve customs disputes was slightly amended from the proposed budget presented on June 3 in the parliament.
The budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 has been passed by voice vote in the parliament on Wednesday with Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury in the chair.
Earlier, an officer could check and sort invoice documents worth Tk2 lakh and resolve customs disputes.
In the budget proposed on June 3, it was proposed to increase it to Tk5 lakh, which has been reduced to Tk4 lakh.
Additionally, the proposed budget advocated giving the power of the commissioner and additional commissioner to settle a consignment dispute up to Tk50 lakh. Earlier this limit was Tk20 lakh.
At the time of approving the finance bill, the proposed limit of Tk50 lakh was reduced to Tk40 lakh.
However, as per the approved budget, an assistant commissioner will now be able to examine invoice documents worth Tk10 lakh. The limit of Deputy Commissioner has been fixed at Tk20 lakh and that of Joint Commissioner at Tk30 lakh. In this case, no change was made from the proposed budget.
The business community thinks the increase in power will discourage entrepreneurs from investing as there is an existing uncertainty surrounding its abuse.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Rizwan Rahman, president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI), said: “There is always a chance of abuse of power if more power is vested with revenue officers and assistant commissioners. DCCI always said that the revenue officers should not have the authority to investigate and/or punish business entities in case of a dispute. In the same manner, in invoice of import, it should be vested with the deputy commissioner of customs for rational judgment and assessment of any dispute of false claim.”
An Assistant Commissioner may help settle small invoice-based disputes faster to ease the cost of business. However, the revenue officer should be exempted from this job for the better interest of all, said the DCCI President.
Shams Mahmud, owner of Shasha Denims speaking to Dhaka Tribune said decisions like this dampen business sentiment and dampens the mood for new investment, especially now amid the pandemic when the government has been trying to encourage private sector growth for new job creation.