Lang Son Coordination to improve efficiency of customs agents


Declaring and receiving customs declarations at Chi Ma border gate Customs Branch (Lang Son Customs Department). Photo: H.Nu
Declaring and receiving customs declarations at Chi Ma border gate Customs Branch (Lang Son Customs Department). Photo: H.Nu

Number of declarations and tax amount paid through customs agents are modest

According to Lang Son Customs Department, the unit is currently managing 22 customs agents recognized by the General Department of Customs. Customs agents play an important role, acting as a “bridge” between the Customs office and importers and exporters. However, the operation of these customs agents has not been effective. The number of service contracts for import and export enterprises of agents is very low. The number of declarations and the tax amount collected through customs agents in the province is insignificant.

Meanwhile, customs agents in Lang Son province mainly carry out formalities for transit and official-quota import and export through Huu Nghi international border gate. Some carry out agency procedures for temporary import for re-export goods and goods in bonded warehouse through Coc Nam border gate and Chi Ma border gate.

At Tan Thanh border gate, the export of fruits and agricultural products is mainly through individuals with business registration, not through customs agents. At Dong Dang International Railway Station, there are no import-export activities through a customs agent, some procedures are done by the logistics company at Dong Dang Station, but the naming on the declaration, tax payment and other financial obligations are still performed by the owner of the goods.

According to Lang Son Customs Department, in 2021, customs agents in the province only made 634 declarations with a total turnover of US$23.73 million and total tax revenue of VND21.1 billion. From January 1 to February 6, 2022, customs agents made 42 declarations with a total turnover of US$1.16 million and paid VND2.08 billion in tax to the budget.

Deputy Director of Lang Son Customs Department Nguyen Huu Vuong said the ineffective operation of customs agents in the province is because those procedures through customs agents are complicated and cumbersome, the responsibility of customs agents is greater than individuals. According to current regulations, a customs agent is a conditional business, so only businesses can meet the requirements for personnel, facilities, operation registration, so the establishment and operation of agents still faces many difficulties.

In particular, the form of “declaration service” in the area has developed and existed for a long time, the procedure between the authorized person for declaration and goods owner

is quick and simple, just by “verbal contract” with with no legal binding. Goods owners and businesses across the country do not directly carry out import and export procedures, but mostly authorize the customs declarants in the form of using the Introduction (signing the blank introduction forms).

Mr. Nong Van Tai, a representative of a customs agent at Chi Ma border gate, said when signing a contract to perform customs services, customs agents must complete works including entering the declared information indicators, procedures for parking, vehicle management, loading and unloading goods and especially taking legal responsibility for the import and export goods of goods owners and must perform tax obligations, fees, charges and other revenues to the State. Meanwhile, individual brokers only need to complete the procedures, the rest will be done by the owners of the goods.

In fact, at border gates in Lang Son province, the number of individual brokers is quite high and often works spontaneously, without formal training, without business registration and tax payment and usually contracted by each shipment.

After completing the customs procedures, there is no longer binding responsibility to the owner of the goods, so the sense of responsibility for the goods owners and law compliance of the individual brokers are not high.

The main purpose is to finish the job as soon as possible, and push the responsibility to the owners of the goods.

Therefore, competition with individual brokers is also a difficulty for customs agents. Currently, at border gates in the province, there are about 50 to 70 individuals operating customs clearance “services” for businesses. This also affects the activities of authorized customs agents. This shows that the number of declarations, the value and the amount of tax collected through customs agents in the area are modest, Vuong said

According to a representative of Huu Nghi Border Gate Customs Branch, there are currently 12 customs agents at Huu Nghi international border gate but only two or three meet operational requirements.

Support for more efficient operation

The use of customs agents in import and export activities is an inevitable trend in the process of international economic integration. The implementation of solutions to promote the efficiency of customs agents will contribute to the development of services and create favorable conditions for import and export activities in the province.

In 2021, Lang Son Customs conducted a comprehensive review on the current status of customs agency operations in the province to offer solutions to develop customs agents. In December 2021, Lang Son Customs worked with Lang Son Provincial Business Association to organize a dialogue with customs agents in the province to understand their difficulties and problems, and proposals.

In addition, Lang Son Customs has also advised superiors on solutions for sustainable development of customs agents, which is a must to speed up the process of amending legal documents on customs agents in a more open and simple direction; to give a priority mechanism for customs agents to encourage goods owners, people and businesses to use this service and to give a mechanism to support the training of customs agent staff to develop this network nationwide.

All agencies at all levels need to solve the problem of unfair competition between individual brokers and customs agents; continue to support operations of customs agents through support teams at branch-level; coordinate with other authorities at the border gate to create conditions for agents to register in advance for inspection, transportation, loading and unloading of goods.

In order to improve the operational efficiency of customs agents, Lang Son Customs is currently working with the Tax Department of Lang Son province and related agencies to carry out a review of individual brokers at the border gates to take measures to prevent and eliminate unofficial customs clearance services, thereby creating a favorable environment for customs agents to develop; and coordinating with relevant agencies to promote information, introduce and widely promote customs agents to businesses and goods owners.

Moreover, Lang Son Customs has directed the customs branches to support customs agents in carrying out customs procedures and coordinate with other units at the border gate to create conditions for customs agents to register in advance for inspection, transportation, loading and unloading of goods, etc., thereby, maximizing the role and functions of customs agents. Along with that, the department has proposed the General Department of Customs consider the priority mechanism for customs agents and encourage businesses to use this service.

According to Mr. Nguyen Huu Vuong, Lang Son Customs always considers the development of a customs-business partnership as a key annual task of the unit and always identifies the important role of customs agents in customs modernization, professionalism of the implementation of customs procedures.

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