By: Stanley Gurirab
NamRA steps into the right direction by advancing the implementation of advance rulings, a significant move in the fulfilment of an international commitment as contained in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
Article 3 of the TFA encourages Member States to reduce time and cost of doing business across the borders of any country in the international trade, whilst Standard 9.9 of the Revised Kyoto Convention sets the standards for and simplification and harmonization of customs procedures, processes and fees.
NamRA’s drive and mandate is, therefore, to cultivate the reforms, improve on quality service, enhance efficiency and improve revenue collection while adapting processes and systems to meet best international standards.
To foster such an enabling business environment, NamRA has developed a system of advance rulings that can be given at the request of an importer, exporter or any other interested person, as part of its ongoing efforts to facilitate trade and support economic operators. The system was developed by NamRA in partnership with the World Customs Organization (WCO) as part of the WCO Mercator Programme aimed at providing support on implementation of the WTO-TFA and the European
Union (EU) – WCO Programme for the Harmonised System in Africa (HS-Africa Programme), funded by the European Union.
Advance rulings cover three areas, namely, Customs Classification, Valuation and Origin. Advance rulings for classification provide information on the applicable commodity code and the rate of tariff duty on imported goods.
With regard to valuation, advance rulings on provide information on specific matters relating to the assessment of the customs value of imported goods; while in relation to origin, the rulings provide information on whether imported goods are originating from a particular country.
The advance ruling system is an international trade facilitation tool for traders and customs administrations that enhances certainty and predictably of customs operations. Traders can obtain precise information in advance of the actual transaction and for comparable future transactions for a specified period.
Such information is issued in the form of a ruling, which is binding on the authority issuing it as against the applicant.
This represents the safest approach for a trader to ensure that customs clearance of the products covered by advance rulings is completed without delay, in a smooth and predictable manner.
One of the main sources of disputes between Customs officials and traders is related to the treatment attributed to the goods linked to determining of the value, classification of goods and determination of rules of origin. Inaccurate valuation and classification decisions may constitute a non-tariff barrier to trade and could circumvent the official tariff schedule. They also increase the risk of corruption if traders aim to obtain a better treatment of their goods by way of bribery.
It must be noted that citing of an advance ruling previously granted by Customs officials will not prevent NamRA from examining the goods or other relevant materials at the time of entry to ensure that the ruling covers the goods that are actually imported.
In this way, NamRA retains full control over the transactions to ensure that they are handled in full compliance with all applicable laws and requirements. NamRA shall endeavour to provide rulings within 30 days from the receipt of a request from the applicant.
To facilitate the application process, importers, exporters or any other interested persons are requested to use application forms available on the NamRA website or at any NamRA Customs and Excise Regional Offices across the country. Once issued, advance rulings remain valid for a year, in line with the NamRA
Advance Ruling policy. All importers, exporters or any other interested persons are
encouraged to take full advantage of this programme once it is officially launched.