Custom duties on personal imports too high

Friday, April 12, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Many Jamaicans out of convenience shop online and/or have relatives and friends who send items from overseas that are primarily for personal use. They often utilise the services of courier companies to ship and clear items on their behalf coming from the US and other countries.

The main area of dispute is that packages which exceed the free on board value (FOB) of US$50 often are charged hefty duties and tariffs.

Any personal item that is shipped into the island with an invoice totalling more than US$50, Customs charges are calculated on the full value of the item. This calculation, according to the Jamaica Customs Agency, is based on a cumulative number of elements. These include import duty, standard compliance fee, environmental levy, stamp duty, Customs administrative fee, and General Consumption Tax. After revision of these charges the element that attracts the highest cost, in most instances, is the Customs administrative fee.

All these factors need to be re-examined and revised. It is totally ludicrous and unjust for consumers to purchase an item and pay Customs charges that are almost twice the cost of the item purchased in some instances. And this is in addition to the costs that would have been incurred in the shipping process.

The Jamaica Customs Agency surpassed its revenue targets in the first two quarters of 2018/2019. The actual revenue stood at approximately $111 billion at the end of the second quarter (April-September ) of the fiscal year 2018/2019, as recently reported.

While I understand the important and impactful nature of the tasks undertaken by the Jamaica Customs in an effort to remain competitive regionally and globally through the implementation of policy and initiatives that constantly seek to enhance its operations, Customs must take a step back periodically and access its fees structure. The charges attracted on items over the current minuscule FOB limit are grossly burdening the pockets of thousands of Jamaicans and needs to be addressed. These fees are absolutely oppressive.

I am requesting that the minister in charge, in conjunction with the appropriate Customs officials, review and examine the feasibility of an increase of the present FOB value to at least US$75 which is more justifiable or an adjustment to the current calculation of charges attracted over the current threshold.

I am imploring the Jamaica Customs Agency to stand firmly on its motto “Country above self”', and its core values as it relates to the implementation and application of its charges to its services.

Tara Henry

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