While the volume of commodities flowing in and out the country accelerates rapidly with the deeper integration into the regional and international markets, the requirement for modernization and streamlining of customs procedures to facilitate the supervision of the import, export activities becomes more and more vital to the development of the economy. The promulgation of the new Law on customs on 23 Jun, 2014 (“Law 2014”) is inevitable to create a legal frame for Vietnamese customs system that has been improved considerably to adapt to the international and national practices and to meet the requirements of the customs authorities, local importers and exporters and many other parties related to trans-border activities like bonded warehouses owners and customs agencies.

Number of provisions under the old Law on customs 2001 and its amendment, the Law on customs of 2005 are adjusted and revised under the Law 2014 toward more convenient and facilitating the importers and exporters in undertaking the customs procedures. The most noticeable change is the expansion of the time frame for customs declaration. The deadline for customs registration for exported goods shall be 04 hours before the departure of the carrying vehicles for normal exported shipment and 02 hours before the departure of the carrying vehicles for rapid couriers. The deadline under the old law is 8 hours for all exported goods. For imported goods, the time frame for customs registration is 30 days instead of 15 days from the date of arrival of the shipment. This loosening of time frame for customs declaration not only facilitate traders in time arrangement and planning but also reduce the cost in preparation of customs document and arrangement of people in undertaking customs clearance.

E-customs, an essential element in modernization and simplification of customs procedures is addressed comprehensively in the new law. Provisions on electronically customs declaration and the procedures for submission of supporting document for customs clearance are concretized hereunder. It also sets having proper equipment and infrastructure to undertake e-customs declaration as a prerequisite condition for eligible registered customs agencies. The connection between the e-customs database and the enterprises’ database to facilitate the customs supervision, monitoring and control after customs clearance is also mentioned herein. This seems to be most benefitable to export processing enterprises by saving time in registration, notification and reporting of imported materials for processing exported goods which shall be placed under strict customs supervision.

For the first time, the customs declarers have the right to request the customs authorities to determine the commodities’ codes and custom value by providing full and accurate information to the customs authority. This could partially solve the most complicated matter in customs declaration, the determination the commodities code and custom value that has serious impacts on the applicable tax rate and taxable amount. Being entitled to consult the customs authorities on the commodities code and value shall assist importers/exporters to minimize the risks of over or under estimation of the payable tax amount.

The Law 2014 also prescribes a number of priorities in carrying customs procedure including exemption of screening customs supporting document, exemption of actual examination of the imported/exported commodities, being entitled to delay in submission of fulfilled customs declaration statement and supporting document within 30 days from the date of customs registration and other priorities in related to tax declaration and payment in accordance with the regulations on tax. These priorities are applicable to titanic importers/exporters who gain annual extravagant import export volume satisfying the required volume and satisfy other conditions including complying with regulations on customs and tax for at least 2 consecutive years, applying e-customs and e- taxation, having information system to manage the import, export activities that is connected with the customs network, processing payment via banks, having internal control system and being in compliance with the regulations on accounting and auditing.

However, there are some unclear provisions under the Law 2014 that need to be guided more concretely in guiding regulations. A regime for post-examination and imposing responsibilities between the customs officers and the customs declarers in case of either wrong determination of commodities code and custom value by customs officers or improper or inaccurate provision of information for determination by the customs declarers should be defined more clearly to enhance the execution of the right of customs declarers to request the customs officers to predetermine the commodities’ codes and custom value.

Provisions on disposal of commodities ineligible for customs clearance or those not being customs cleared are not addressed concretely and clearly. The parties responsible for disposal, the funds for disposal in the event the owners or carriers run away should be defined specifically as the disposal of the commodities may be waste time and money especially for the environmentally contaminated, harmful, toxic or exposable and inflammable commodities.

The Law 2014 shall become effective on the first January of 2015.