Long-Improvised Customs Fees to Be Standardized

A recently proposed customs law would standardize service fees, improve government tax collection and reduce the opportunity for customs officers to set their own charges, a Finance Ministry official said on Monday.

The plan, which is still in its early stages, follows repeated requests for fee standardization from the country’s private sector, Kun Nhem, director-general of the ministry’s general department of customs and excise, said at a public workshop attended by members of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and European Chamber of Commerce.

“Since 2010, we have frequently received proposals from the private sector to establish some customs service fees with a clear rate as well as issue official payment receipts to record in their company expenses,” Mr. Nhem said.

“Therefore, we have combined existing regulations with experiences from how other countries practiced in the region as the basis for this draft,” he said.

According to the customs department’s list of suggested service fees, standard rates would be set for services such as when customs officers inspect goods at a factory or port; administrative customs services and document processing; and overtime payments for officers.

Under existing regulations, service fees are determined by customs officers and businesses on a case-by-case basis, Mr. Nhem said.

The unstructured fees have been a problem for logistics companies for a long time, as service fees without official receipts are considered “under-the-table money,” said Oeurn Wathna, managing director of Inchcape Shipping Service Cambodia, a maritime shipping firm.

“We don’t mind the price they charge, but as an international company we can’t spend without an official receipt provided to our U.K.-based headquarters,” she said. “This has caused a lot of trouble when they just ask for any price they want without having the fees standardized.”

Ms. Wathna said she refers clients to a local firm that coordinates with customs officers and provides clients with a receipt, but this method increases operating costs.

Policymakers should also consider standardizing the time of service delivery, said Chou Ngeth, senior consultant at Emerging Markets Consulting.


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