Ostrikova: European instruments are good, but we need a strong customs service for their good work

The Verkhovna Rada has adopted in the first reading a draft law on amendments to the Customs Code, which, among other things, envisages the introduction of an authorized economic operator — enterprises that will make use of a number of simplifications. This law is part of the obligations of Ukraine under the Association Agreement with the EU.

Tetiana Ostrikova, Chair of the Subcommittee on Customs policy, Samopomich deputy voted for the draft law, although she emphasizes that the law still needs to be finalized.

“Given the fact that this bill is our obligation under the association agreement and the fact that the fiscal service is now being divided into tax and customs services, I consider it necessary to vote for this bill in the first reading and then go on working on it in the Committee – remove vague rules that may lead to abuses on the part of the state body, create customs audit departments at customs to monitor the work of the authorized operators, as well as provide for such fuses that would make it impossible to monopolize services related to customs clearance, and also to prevent the flow of illegal imports or exports through the operator enterprises.”

The concept of authorized economic operators is based on the customs-business partnership founded by the World Customs Organization. EU legislation provides for the following criteria for an enterprise to receive the status of an Authorized Economic Operator: a history of compliance with customs legislation, no record of criminal offences, high level of control over operations and the flow of goods, and proven financial solvency.

Yet Ostrikova is worried about the implementation of these rules in the Ukrainian draft law:

“If we look at the criteria that the government proposed to us in this draft law, we will see completely different vague rules here: compliance with legal provisions, a satisfactory system of keeping commercial transport documentation, solvency. A question arises – who will determine whether the accounting management systems of enterprises are satisfactory, who will monitor compliance with these criteria? Do we have customs today? We still have the bodies of revenues and fees, which were created as a result of the absorption of the customs component by the fiscal service.”

An authorized economic operator is an enterprise that has a very good history, is a subject of foreign economic relations (importer, exporter, manufacturer, carrier, etc.) and has been implementing customs legislation for years and thus has the right to claim to receive the status of an authorized economic operator and use the appropriate simplifications.

Firstly, this is a general financial guarantee, secondly, this means the right to independent sealing of a special type, thirdly, this is a simplified declaration procedure, and fourthly, a release procedure at the location.

This means that an enterprise, being an authorized operator and taking advantage of the tremendous confidence of the customs authorities of the country concerned, carries out customs clearance of certain goods without arriving at the customs. That is, the release procedure at the location means that the cargo arrives, the operator company simply informs the customs, takes the goods to its warehouse and performs unloading there.

Such a procedure really operates in the EU countries. However, they have an institutionally strong, politically independent customs administration, which is able to control the observance of customs legislation by authorized economic operators.

Is there such a body in Ukraine today? No, because today we do not have a customs audit, it is part of the tax audit units. So if this law comes into force tomorrow, who will monitor its observance?

Tetiana Ostrikova notes:

“The European tools are good, they should be implemented in our legislation, especially given the Association Agreement, but, first and foremost, we must create an independent, politically unbiased customs administration before the second reading, which will really help business in international trade, and only then such huge simplifications to individual subjects of foreign economic activity will be possible. There should be a balance between the rights of entrepreneurs and the interests of the state.”

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