Some 12,666 exporters and their agents exported around 79,000 consignments without paying the applicable charges and income tax on agent commission since January 2013, according to the Customs House Chattogram.
The CHC found the anomalies after scrutinising the Asycuda World System, an automated system for customs data, for the period between January 2013 and July 2020.
Customs officials said that the business entities and their customs and clearing agents completed the export procedures without paying the charges, mainly the document processing fee, and income tax on C&F agents’ commission known as ITC, against the bill of exports for the consignments.
They said that the amount of fees and ITC varied from few hundreds to few lakhs based on the weight of the export goods.
The total outstanding charges and ITC will amount to around Tk 8 crore, they said.
The CHC has asked the exporters and their agents to clear the dues by August 15 to keep their export of goods uninterrupted.
Otherwise, the CHC will suspend customs assessment of the entities’ export consignments from August 16 and take legal steps to collect the dues, it said in a public notice issued on July 27.
It also advised the exporters and their agents to ensure their bank accounts had adequate money to avoid complexities in the customs assessment process.
The CHC informed all the major trade bodies, including the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries and the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, about the matter requesting them to disseminate the message to their members.
A senior customs official said that such irregularities had been found in case of most major exporters.
The exporters may not be aware of the issue as it is usually the C&F agents who are engaged in the process of customs assessment for export-import goods, he said.
He said that the CHC was working with the stakeholders, including the C&F agents association, to find the reason behind the irregularities and realise the unpaid fees and tax.
Chittagong Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association secretary general Md Altaf Hossain Chowdhury (Bachcu) said on Thursday that the CHC’s claim was questionable as there was no scope for completion of the export process if the bank accounts of the exporters or their agents did not have the required money.
The list also has included the names of many exporters who actually paid the fees, he said.
It may be that revenue officials of the CHC did not update the data on its system, he added.
Customs officials also said that all the incidences might not be related to evasion of charges and ITC as the ROs might not have correctly updated the information on the Asycuda World System.
There may be cases in which the ROs did not update the data while it may also be that the bank accounts did not have adequate money, they said.
The system accepts the export approval if it finds enough money for every single consignment but it cannot detect whether the cumulative amounts of charges and ITC exceed the money available at the account, they added.
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