Customs duties

Normal rates and notification requirements

Where are normal customs duty rates for your jurisdiction listed? Is there an exemption for low-value shipments, if so, at what level? Is there a binding tariff information system or similar in place? Are there prior notification requirements for imports?

Normal customs duty rates are contained in the Customs Tariff Act, 1975 (the Act). The rate of duties published in the Act is the binding tariff and can be accessed at www.icegate.gov.in. Exports of goods through couriers or foreign post offices using e-commerce of FOB value up to 500,000 rupees per consignment shall be entitled for rewards under Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS). If the value of exports is more than 500,000 rupees per consignment then MEIS reward would be calculated on the basis of FOB value of 500,000 rupees only. Such goods can be exported in manual mode through the Foreign Post Offices at New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. The objective of MEIS is to offset the infrastructural inefficiencies and associated costs involved in the export of goods and products that are produced and manufactured in India.

There are no prior notification requirements for imports in general.

Special rates and preferential treatment

Where are special tariff rates, such as under free trade agreements or preferential tariffs, and countries that are given preference listed?

India does not provide for preferential tariffs under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

India has entered into trade agreements with various countries, including Nepal, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea and Afghanistan, and is also party to various other PTAs and FTAs. The special tariff rates applicable under these preferential agreements are provided in the Act. Though the special tariff rates are published in the Act, the same are notified under section 25 of the Customs Act 1962. Once notified, the special tariff rates form part of the Act, and are placed at the end of the chapter in which the particular good is classified. See commerce.gov.in.

How can GSP treatment for a product be obtained or removed?

India does not grant preferential tariff rates under the GSP.

Is there a duty suspension regime in place? How can duty suspension be obtained?

Duty exemptions are generally provided by the central government in the larger public interest and such exemptions are notified under section 25 of the Customs Act 1962. Post-notification, the exemption becomes part of the tariff, and the published rate is applied on the import of such goods.

To obtain a duty exemption, the applicant must approach the Department of Revenue of the Ministry of Finance, and is required to substantiate with reasons the need for claiming the duty exemption. Only if the government is satisfied with the claims is the duty exemption notified. The notification pertaining to such exemption is placed before both Houses of Parliament and is notified subsequent to approval from both Houses of Parliament.

Challenge

Where can customs decisions be challenged in your jurisdiction? What are the procedures?

Customs decisions typically fall into the following categories, against which the challenge will be brought before the authorities mentioned in the respective category.

General customs matters

General customs matters are challenged before quasi-judicial authorities who have pecuniary jurisdiction over the subject matter of appeal. In matters involving customs duty up to 500,000 rupees, the Assistant Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of Customs is the first adjudicating authority. Appeal against his or her decision is the responsibilty of the commissioner of customs (appeals) and then to the CESTAT. If the decision of the CESTAT relates to issues involving valuation or determination of duty then appeal would lie to the Supreme Court; and in all other cases the appeal lies to the High Court of the state where the customs decision has been rendered. In the latter cases, where appeal has been filed before the High Court, the High Court’s decision can be challenged before the Supreme Court.

In cases where the amount of duty involved is up to 5 million rupees, the decision can be challenged before the Additional Commissioner or Joint Commissioner of Customs. The said decision can be challenged before the Commissioner of Customs (Appeals). The order of the Commissioner of Customs (Appeals) can be challenged before the CESTAT and the CESTAT decision can be challenged before either the High Court or the Supreme Court based on the criteria mentioned above.

In cases where the duty amount involved is more than 5 million rupees, the decision can be challenged before the commissioner of customs (appeals). The decision of the commissioner of customs (appeals) can be challenged directly before CESTAT, and the CESTAT decision can be challenged before either the High Court or the Supreme Court based on the criteria mentioned above.

Matters relating to levy of anti-dumping and countervailing duty

As mentioned above, under section 9C of the Act, an appeal against the existence, degree and effect of any subsidy or dumping will lie before CESTAT. The decision of CESTAT can be challenged directly before the Supreme Court. Typically, an appeal is filed before CESTAT against the government’s notification levying an AD or anti-subsidy duty, which could either be against a provisional levy or the final levy. All other matters incidental to such notification, namely the recovery or refund of anti-dumping or anti-subsidy duty on imported goods, shall be considered as regular custom matters, and the appeal shall lie as in ‘General customs matters’ above.

Matters relating to levy of safeguard duty

The levy of a safeguard duty can be challenged directly before the High Court under a High Court’s writ jurisdiction.