CUSTOMS OFFICERS TO DECLARE HOUSES AND CARS
Customs officers who have one of the most desired professions in Bulgaria will have to declare their property, the BANKER weekly learnt. This is what the draft amendments to the Customs Act stipulate.The amendments to the legislation become necessary because of Bulgaria's commitments under chapter 25, Customs Union, of the EU preaccession negotiations with the European Commission. The chapter was closed in the end of last July. A panel of experts from the Customs Agency has been considering the new clauses which concern almost all units of the regulation for several months. The draft was reviewed by the state departments and is now going for discussion into the Council of Ministers.Beside their movable and immovable property, customs officers will declare the property of their spouse and under-age children. If the National Assembly adopts the amendments, customs officers will be required to fill in estate declarations when they take up their duties. They will repeat the procedure by the end of every following May. If they fail to submit a declaration for their property, it will be considered a reason for termination of their labour contract without notice. Besides, customs officers will be obliged to stick to the requirements of the Code of Morality. The code was approved by the Customs Agency Director Assen Assenov last summer and was accepted with irony by both the media and the public.The preparation of the project took a lot of time. The draft specifies the rights of the customs officers in the field of investigation on currency violations and drugs trafficking. This was a major point on the agenda for customs reforms which the British consultants from Crown Agents announced when they started working in Bulgaria. According to the agenda, commodities which are subject to customs control cannot be used as collateral for public or private receivables, except for the cases specified by the customs authorities.The most significant changes concern the transit import regime. It stipulates that a customs declaration with description of the commodity be submitted at the customs. The payment of customs duties is to be made inside the country. In such cases, importers provide collateral for the state receivables on the import, either in cash or through a bank guarantee. According to the plans, prompt payers to the budget will pay a reduced amount of this collateral. They may even be exempt from this obligation. Privileges of this kind will be ordered by the Customs Agency director. Companies which would like to profit from them will first have to prove that they are reliable. They need to have clean record and to be in a good financial condition.The customs have been discussing import relief for years, but this is the first time they may become part of a law. Obviously, the Customs Agency has suffered enough from the scandals with unsettled TIR carnets in the recent years. Eventually, experts who worked on the draft bill decided that the transit import regime terminate as soon as the information in the presented customs documents is verified by the bureau that frees the commodity within the country and the cross-border station through which it has been imported. Until now, the procedure was considered completed when the commodity and the respective documents arrived at the inside customs office.The new version of the Customs Act will describe in details what rights customs officers will have to impose security measures. A distraint will be levied on importing companies which have failed to present the required collateral for transit import until the customs duties are collected. Moreover, when an order for compulsory implementation has been issued against violators of the customs regime, the draft does not stipulate a deadline for voluntary payment. According to the currently efficient regulation, the debtor has ten days at his disposal to make his payment to the Treasury before compulsory measures are taken against him.The most radical changes will concern the administrative penal responsibility for customs violations. A brand new article will be introduced in order to allow the two sides in the argument to reach an agreement. This period will separate the moment of establising the violation from the moment in which a penal order is issued against the violator. This amendment will enable the customs and the violator to negotiate on whether at all there has been a violation of the law. They can also settle the type and the amount of the sanction. This will be valid for violations such as customs smuggling, deliberate reduction of the real values presented in the declarations, failed submission of collateral on imported commodities, deviation of customs control. Experts comment that this is expected to be one of the most disputable moments in the discussion of the draft bill both by the Government and Parliament, because it is a new element of the Bulgarian administrative jurisdiction.