The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has tightened the norms for project imports based on the observations made in the audit review of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on the working of project imports scheme.
The new norms include directions to keep invoking the bank guarantee offered by the importer for the entire period of finalisation of the project. Compulsory verification of plant for monitoring the use of imported goods and enforcing bond/ cash/ bank guarantees if the importer fails to meet the deadline for submission of various documents, followed by demand notice including the penal interest.
"The audit review has revealed systemic as well as compliance weaknesses while the granting of project import benefits on finalisation of project import cases and has taken serious view of weak monitoring of these," an official source said.
Project imports constitute imports of machinery, instruments, and apparatus etc, required for the initial set-up of a unit or for the substantial expansion of an existing Unit, especially infrastructure projects.
The advantages of importing goods under the project import regulations are that all the machinery, appliances, instruments etc, are imported and charged at flat rate of duty under the same tariff heading. Project imports assessment is a scheme of assessment, designed to help expeditious and easy assessment of variety of industrial goods falling under different heads of customs tariff.
This assessment helps the importer to arrive at a cost structure that can easily work out the estimation of import duty payable.
Under the current norms, the assessment of import duty payable by the importer needs to be completed within 60 days of the submission of an application for imports, which otherwise, used to be open ended and negotiable with custom authorities. Now, any extension beyond 60 days has to be decided only by the jurisdictional commissioner and if the delay is not justified it will attract penal provisions.
The board has revoked the earlier order that custom authorities need not renew bank guarantee on project imports offered by the importers after completion of six months since the submission of necessary documents as proof on finalisation of the contract.
Under the new norms, an importer will not be asked to renew the bank guarantee after the commissioner ensures that the importer has adhered to the time limit of six months for finalisation of the project including certificate for installation of imported goods on project site. Or else the importer will have to keep renewing the bank guarantees for the entire period of finalisation of the project. Officials explained that the delay in the project should not result in loss of revenue since the government is anyway offering project imports at concessional duty rate.
Besides, a compulsory plant site verification to be conducted by respective commissionrattes have also been advised in cases where the value of the project exceeds Rs 1 crore to ensure actual usage of the imported goods.
Otherwise, for all projects, 10 per cent of the registered project imports will be subject to plant verification. The plant site verification needs to be completed within 15 days of submission of relevant documents of imports. The finalisation of the project imports need to be certified by the chartered engineer which has to be submitted as proof for finalisation of project.
Not only that, for delayed submission of documents on finalisation of project or goods imported with proof of value and quantity within time stipulated , the department will enforce execution of bond / undertaking, cash security/ bank guarantees executed in this regard besides issuing of notice for demand of duty and penalty for non-compliance..
Besides the new norms also mandate assessment and audit of provisionally assessed bills of entry at the respective ports.