It has been two years since the Customs House Chattogram launched electronic payment (e-payment) system for paying customs duties, but still many of the importers do not use the facility.
"Only three percent of the total revenue collection at Customs House Chattogram comes through the e-payment system. In 2018-2019 fiscal year, the total revenue collection at the custom house was Tk43,577 crore. Of that amount, Tk1,330 crore was collected through the digital system," said Mohammad Ahsan Habib Sumon, system analyst at Customs House Chattogram.
The importers and clearing and forwarding agents said many importers do not know about the online payment system as the customs house has not been promoting it actively.
Importer Sarwar Alam Khan, proprietor of Hasan and Brothers, said, "The Customs House has not taken any visible initiative to encourage importers to use e-payment system. In traditional system, it takes a long time to pay customs duty in the Sonali Bank's custom house branch. If the e-payment system is fully implemented, transactions of bribes will be reduced."
However, Fakhrul Alam, commissioner of the Custom House Chattogram, said, "We are informing importers and C&F (clearing and forwarding) agents about e-payment system in customs office meetings and encouraging them to pay online. But, they don't seem much interested in using it."
When the importers pay import duty using the traditional system, clearing and forwarding agents take extra money from them by providing false information. But, if the importers make the payment online, the scope of being cheated by the agents will be reduced a lot, said custom house sources.
The customs commissioner said that only 163 importers are using the online duty payment system. Among these are companies like Unilever, Incepta, ACI, British American Tobacco, Asian Paints, Holcim Cement, Nestle, Bata, Bangladesh Edible Oil, Robi, Bangla Link, Walton and Square Group.
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) introduced the electronic payment system in August 2017 to make income tax and other revenue payments easy and hassle-free. The Custom House Chattogram introduced the e-payment system in February 2018.
An importer could pay customs duty from any bank of the country through the e-payment system, said Custom House Chattogram's system analyst Mohammad Ahsan Habib Sumon.
"Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system of the Bangladesh Bank will work as the gateway between the Custom House Chattogram branch of Sonali Bank and the scheduled bank from where the customs duty is paid. The only gateway of e-payment system is Sonali Bank.
"Through The Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) software of the NBR, an importer can pay the duty in two minutes by using his or her user ID."
Six types of information – bill of entry number, fiscal year, office code of the respective custom house, the amount of the paid customs duty, Agents' Identification Number (AIN) of C&F agents, and contact numbers -- were required to pay customs duty online, said Sumon.
"If the customs duty is paid in proper way, the importer will get a confirmation text message on his or her mobile number. Besides, the information regarding the payment will automatically be updated in the ASYCUDA software network," he added.
Mahbubul Alam, president of Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said the Chattogram port deals with around 85 percent of the country's total imports and 95 percent of total exports.