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Customs test drive new automated system

Companies help Customs Department iron out the kinks in the new online, automated customs system. To date, six shipping companies and two brokers are using the file transfer method. Three companies are utilizing the custom’s website. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010

A few select businesses are helping a government department iron out any kinks in a new, automated system before its official launch in the next few weeks. The Bahamas Customs Department, which is charged with collecting close to 70 per cent of the government’s revenue, has reevaluated and upgraded its methods of tax collection.

The new system will allow customs brokers, shipping and airline companies, and other importers, to submit customs declarations online via the department’s web site, or through a file transfer. The latter is for those companies with an existing computerized system for data entry so that they can simply transfer those files to customs electronically. The web site helps to create a form for those without an automated system.

To date, six shipping companies and two brokers are using the file transfer method. Three companies are utilizing the custom’s web site.

Canadian firm, Cardamal Consulting, developed the customized software package for the government department.

“Prior to this [the new system] coming on stream, the shipping or airline company would have to present their information to customs when the aircraft or vessel arrived in Nassau. The customs officer, in turn, would have to enter the information into the system,” explains customs’ director of information technology, Subrenna Higgs, who hopes to officially launch the system by the end of October. “You [the broker/importer] would have to come to customs and submit your documents. A customs entry checker would have to type the information into the customs data system and check all the documentation. Large entries could take a few hours.”

Once the new system is up and running, businesses will be able to bypass the cumbersome process previously associated with clearing imports, making for a more efficient tax collection process and speedier imports delivery.

“If the information comes electronically to us, it’s faster for the importer to collect his goods. The turnaround time is less,”?confirms Higgs.

An automated process also means form submissions and approvals are no longer limited to regular work hours, the IT director notes. Additionally, the automated system will allow users to check the status of a document, see if it is ready for payment, or if it has been rejected and why.

“It’s something we know is needed,” adds Higgs. “Persons have been asking for this for some time.”

The automated system took just under a year of development to get to this stage.

In his address the prime minister said that The Bahamas, in particular, faces a number of environmental challenges, primarily the threat from global warming–noting that a 2m rise in sea level would submerge 80 per cent of the nation’s landmass.

Echoing English novelist Charles Dickens, former attorney General Tennyson Wells admitted that these are the best and worst of times “depending on where one sat.”

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