The government has amended the Customs Act, doubling the penalty for providing incorrect information in import and export documents even though wrong declarations do not lead to any duty evasion.
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has increased the fine to a maximum of Tk 100,000 from Tk 50,000 for declaring incorrect information, according to the Finance Bill 2021-22, which was placed in parliament on Thursday.
In addition, if the trader fails to submit any required document, they could face a maximum fine of Tk 50,000, up from Tk 20,000 previously.
The Finance Bill brought changes to two sections of the Customs Act, 1969, to increase the fines, which came into effect immediately.
Traders described the hike in fines unreasonable, saying it would lead to an increase in harassment.
Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said a trader may sometimes unintentionally give a wrong name or code for a product, but this does not mean that the trader tried to dodge any duties.
"Even then, traders were fined up to Tk 50,000," he said, adding that the harassment would increase if the fine was doubled to Tk one lakh.
Altaf Hossain, secretary of the Chattogram Clearing and Forwarding Agent Association, said such amendments were made to create obstacles in import-export activities.
"Such unintentional mistakes should not be penalised if there is no motive to evade tax. Even if a fine is imposed, it should be nominal," he added.
AKM Nurul Huda Azad, first secretary for customs policy of the NBR, said it was not possible to describe all irregularities in the Act separately. Only the anomalies that were not defined specifically would be penalised.
Using the signature of unauthorised company officials, giving an incorrect description of products, or failing to provide information on time is a breach of laws.
As a result, customs officials can impose a maximum or minimum fine depending on the severity of the irregularities.
This was the first amendment to the two sections of the Act since 1986, the NBR official said.
"So, it is not unreasonable to double the fine after so many years. The amendments have been done to increase transparency and reduce errors in import and export activities," he added.