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Thai customs will go completely electronic from may 1

After a long wait, an e-customs system providing paperless handling of all customs procedures will be implemented throughout Thailand on May 1.

Published on April 23, 2008

Sitthichai Promsuwon

Sitthichai Promsuwon is an expert in customs and international trade services for financial advisory and consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Jaiyos. He can be e-mailed at spromsuwon@deloitte.com.

The Customs Department will stop providing services under its Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system, which has been in use for the past 10 years. E-customs will replace the EDI system in Thailand's three major ports - Laem Chabang, Klong Toei and Suvarnabhumi Airport - as well as other points of entry and exit.

Effectively, e-customs will contribute to re-engineering each system in Thailand's Customs Department, making it fully electronic, bringing improvements in operation management and reducing many sophisticated processes.

Unlike the original EDI system, e-customs is an electronic customs-clearance service that eliminates the use of documents like import/export entry and commercial invoices, which previously had to be physically submitted to customs-port officers. The import/export declaration process will be replaced by an e-declaration system.

Other sub-systems include e-manifest, for shipping lines to enter manifests electronically; e-payment, to support the payment process; and e-container, to control the movement of containers. As well, what is called "public key infrastructure" technology is being used to replace the need to sign pieces of paper, and other changes in operations have been introduced to reduce the number of steps that customs procedures normally take.

In controlling trade safety, e-customs helps identify the authorised senders or receivers of electronic data and provides access authorisation, which permits only authorised people to submit electronic information.

Confidentiality will be maintained with electronic customs information, with full integrity to prevent unauthorised inputs or changes or destruction of electronic data. The systems can also prevent repudiation, denying the opportunity for senders or receivers to claim they have not transferred or received information.

From May 1, e-customs will apply to ordinary import and export processes. However, in the near future the system will be extended to cover various trade privileges and include e-drawback, for duty refunds; and e-warehouse, e-BOI, e-free zone and e-free-trade zone, for duty reductions or exemptions.

E-customs will also be extended to assist the Revenue Department's value-added tax refund process and the Excise Department's excise tax refund process.

Moreover, importers and exporters will soon be able to submit various requests through a single window system linking all paperless electronic data between the Customs Department and other government agencies. The Customs Department is the main contributor in establishing this national single window system, called e-licensing and e-certificate. By the end of the year, in the initial stage of implementation, importers and exporters will be able to view electronic information for licences and certificates originating from the Foreign Trade, Energy Business, Industrial Works and Mineral Fuels departments and the Board of Investment - all on one computer screen.

In preparing for the new system, Thai importers and exporters should make sure their customs agents and freight forwarders have sufficient customs experience to provide and support the e-customs service.

In addition, customs laws stipulate that importers and exporters must store either hard or soft versions of their documents for at least five years, in case they are post-audited by customs officers. These documents should be arranged by shipments, in accordance with import or export dates.

Because customs offences can lead to stiff penalties, importers and exporters are encouraged to pay attention to the three most important customs concerns: customs-tariff classifications, customs valuations and the use of privileges. Customs risks can be alleviated by day-to-day checks on customs processes and documents, with appropriate document storage.


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