There is good news for exporters. The finance ministry is planning to make customs refunds faster by increasing accountability of its officers.
The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has circulated a note to its field formations, emphasising the need for timely disbursal of refunds. It has also set out a procedure, which the field formations should follow for the purpose. If the process is followed properly, the refunds would be made within the interest free time limit of three months, the Board has said.
According to the procedure, all refund applications should be acknowledged and scrutinised within a period of 10 working days. After scrutiny the refund should be processed on first-come-first serve basis so as to decide whether the whole or any part of the duty and interest paid by the applicant is refundable.
The refund order should then be passed within three days after the order is passed and the audit conducted.
Meanwhile, the existing instructions on audit scrutiny of refunds shall continue. All applications involving a refund of duty and interest of Rs 5 lakh or more shall be subjected to pre-audit as per the existing practice. The applications of refund of amount below Rs 50,000 may be post-audited on the basis of the random selection.
The department should also make available the status of individual applications on its website, the CBEC has said. In addition, it should also have an online database on customs refunds, it added.
It has also asked chief commissioners or directorate general of inspection have also been asked to review the position of refunds in their zones and to ensure timely sanction of refunds.
The move comes after representations from various trade bodies and associations as well as observations by courts. While the actual impact of this note on refunds, is yet to be seen, the department hopes it will bring about greater transparency.