Circular No. 40/2020-Customs

F. No.450/26/2019-Cus IV(Pt.)
Government of India
Ministry of Finance
Department of Revenue
(Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs)
*****

Room No. 227B, North Block.
New Delhi, dated 4th September, 2020

To,

All Principal Chief Commissioners/ Chief Commissioners of Customs/ Customs (Preventive),
All Principal Chief Commissioners/ Chief Commissioners of Customs & Central tax,
All Principal Commissioners/ Commissioners of Customs/ Customs (Preventive),
All Principal Commissioners/ Commissioners of Customs & Central tax,
All Principal Director Generals/ Director Generals under CBIC.

Madam/Sir,

Subject: All India roll-out of Faceless Assessment – reg.

Kind reference is invited to Board Circulars No. 28/2020-Customs, dated 05.06.2020 and No. 34/2020-Customs, dated 30.07.2020, launching Phases I and II of Faceless Assessment, respectively, under the umbrella of the next generational Turant Customs programme.

2. The key elements of the Turant Customs programme are Faceless, Contactless and Paperless Customs clearance processes. This includes faceless or anonymised assessment, self-registration of goods by importers, automated clearances of bills of entry, digitisation of Customs documents, etc. The objectives sought to be achieved are exponentially faster clearance of goods, reduced interface between trade and Customs officers and enhanced ease of doing business. The phased launch of the Turant Customs programme in select ports of import was aimed at testing in a real-life environment, the IT capabilities as well as the responsiveness of the trade and Customs officers to the various initiatives. The results have been reviewed and these have confirmed that the stated objectives are being met. The stage is now set for extending the Turant Customs programme across all Customs ports pan India and thereby ushering in a more modern, efficient, and professional Customs administration with resultant benefits for trade and industry.

3. Faceless Assessment, duly supported by Paperless and Contactless Customs clearance processes, is a critical reform. As you are aware, the pilot programme of Faceless Assessment was launched in Chennai on 14.08.2019 for primarily electrical machineries falling under Chapter 85 of the Customs Tariff Act,1975. This pilot programme was subsequently expanded to Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Delhi, Mundra and Visakhapatnam for goods primarily falling under Chapters 39, 84, 86 to 92, 72 to 83 and 50 to 71 of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975. These pilot programmes helped test Faceless Assessment, first in the same Zone (e.g. imports at Chennai seaport and air-cargo were assessed by Customs officers in either location instead of only in the port/air-cargo of import) and then across Zones (e.g. imports at Chennai sea/air-cargo were assessed by Customs officers at Bengaluru air-cargo/ICD and vice versa). These pilot programmes were followed by the launch of Phase I of Faceless Assessment on 05.06.2020, cutting across the Customs formations in Chennai and Bengaluru for articles primarily falling under the Chapters 84 and 85 of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975. Phase II of Faceless Assessment, which was begun on 03.08.2020 at Customs formations in Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi, for goods falling under the Chapters 50 to 71, 84, 85 and 86 to 92 of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975 and at Customs formations in Mumbai, for goods failing under the Chapter 29 of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975. As aforestated, the results have been encouraging.

4. Board has decided to roll-out the Faceless Assessment at an All India level in all ports of import and for all imported goods by 31.10.2020. The detailed roll-out plan in phases covering different Customs Zones and Chapters of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975, including the existing Phases I and II, is given in Annexure I.

5. Constitution of National Assessment Centres (NACs) :

5.1.  Vide para 4 of Circular No.28/2020-Customs, dated 05.06.2020, it was intimated that the designated nodal Commissioners would be precursors to the National Assessment Centres (NACs). Accordingly, Board has decided to constitute total 11 NACs, as mentioned in the Annexure II. These NACs are organized commodity-wise according to the First Schedule to the Customs Tariff Act, 1975. The rationale for the selection of a Zone in the NAC is the share of volume of the import of the particular commodity group(s) in its Zone as compared to the All India imports and/or share of contributed by the said commodity group(s) or the share of import of the particular commodity group(s) in their own Zones, while the rationale for the selection of a Conveners for the NAC is its share of the All India revenue contributed by the said commodity group(s) or the share of the revenue contributed by the particular commodity group(s) in their own Zones.

5.2. Each NAC shall be co-convened by the Principal Chief Commissioners/Chief Commissioners of the Zones mentioned in Column 4 of Annexure II.

5.3 Each NAC shall consist of the Principal Commissioners/ Commissioners of Customs from the Zones indicated in Column 3 of Annexure II as a member.

5.4  For each NAC the Principal Chief Commissioners/ Chief Commissioners, having jurisdiction over the Zones, shall nominate a nodal Principal Commissioners/ Commissioners. The rationale for the nomination would be the volume of the import of the particular commodity group(s) in the Zone as compared to the All India imports and/or share of import of the particular commodity group(s) in their own Zones. The Board shall be informed about the nomination of the Principal Commissioners/ Commissioners and the same shall be published on the departmental website.

Responsibilities of NAC:

5.5 The NACs have a critical role in the successful implementation of Faceless Assessment. In addition to their existing work, the NACs need to work in a coordinated manner to ensure that all assessments are carried out in a timely manner and there is no delay or hold up of the Bills of Entry. The NACs would also examine the assessment practices of imported goods across Customs stations to bring about uniformity and enhanced quality of assessments. The important responsibilities of the NACs shall include the following:

I. Monitor the assessment practice for enhancing uniformity of classification, valuation, exemption benefit and compliance with import policy conditions.

II. Assess the application of Compulsory Compliance Requirements (CCRs) and ensure uniform practices in accordance with the relevant statutes/Legal provisions.

III. Study audit objections and take corrective actions regarding assessments, wherever necessary and provide inputs to the concerned ports of import.

IV. Analyse the RMS facilitated Bills of Entry pertaining to Chapters falling under their purview and advise the DGARM regarding possible interventions or review of risk parameters.

V. Liaise with Principal Commissioner/Commissioner of Customs at ports of import about interpretational issues pertaining to classification, valuation, scope of exemption notifications and trade policy conditions.

VI. Interact with sectoral trade and industry for inputs, and on issues relating to assessment.

VII. Function as a knowledge hub or repository for that particular Chapter(s);

VIII. Examine the orders/appellate orders in relation to assessment practices pertaining to goods assigned to each Faceless Assessment Group and provide inputs to the Commissionerates for uniformity of assessment orders before legal fora.

IX. Constitute Working Groups for matters relating to:

a) Monitoring for timely assessment of Bills of Entry

b) Valuation and related issues

c) Classification and related issues

d) Restrictions and prohibitions and Co-ordination with PGAs

e) Communication and Outreach for departmental officers and trade

f) Any other matter relevant to timely and uniform assessment, as may be decided.

Responsibilities of Co-conveners of NAC:

5.6  The Co-conveners of NAC shall provide overall leadership and monitor the functioning of the NACs. The important responsibilities of NAC Co-conveners in regard to the NAC shall include the following:

I. Nomination of Principal Commissioners/ Commissioners as Members of the NAC from the Zones mentioned in column 3 of Annexure II.

II. Ensure setting up of Working Groups within NACs for smooth functioning of NACs.

III. Ensure that NACs develop expertise over the assigned Faceless Assessment Group in different facets of assessment such as classification, valuation, prohibitions & restrictions etc.

IV. Co-ordinate with other Directorates and NACs for various functions mentioned in paras 5.7 & 5.8 of this Circular.

V. Make recommendations to Board for policy considerations.

Co-ordination Among NAC Commissioners:

5.7 Since the Nodal Principal Commissioners/ Commissioners are spread across different geographical locations, following co-ordination measures may be institutionalised at the initial phase, which will go a long way in bringing efficiency to the functioning of NACs:

I. Continuous assessment – Ensure that verification of the assessment is not held up if there is an official holiday for the members of the FAG in a particular location. This could be done by having this work done at multiple locations.

II. Daily Web meeting – The Working Groups may virtually meet for a short duration every day at a scheduled time to review timeliness of assessment, identify bottlenecks and take measures to remove difficulties. The link shall be made available to the Chairman, Member Customs, Zonal Member(s) and Joint Secretary (Customs), CBIC and the Co-convenors of concerned NAC, to enable participation in the online meeting room.

III. Weekly web meeting – The Working Groups may have a web meeting for a short duration once a week at a scheduled time to review classification, valuation, exemption notifications, prohibitions and restrictions in order to identify divergent practices and ensure uniformity.

IV. Monthly web meeting by Co-convenors: The Co-convenors of the NAC shall have a web meeting, at least once in a month to review the functioning of the NACs.

Co-ordination of NACs with Other Directorates:

5.8 NACs shall also co-ordinate with:

I. Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Directorate General of GST Intelligence (DGGI) related to management of alerts undertaken by the NAC.

II. Directorate General of Valuation (DGoV) to enhance expertise related to sensitive commodities handled. DGoV shall also appoint nodal person for every NAC for better co-ordination.

III. Directorate General of Analytics and Risk Management (DGARM) to provide feedback and enhance risk assessment and accuracy of CCR Instructions.

IV. National Academy of Customs and Indirect Taxes (NACIN) to hold capacity building sessions for departmental officers.

V. Directorate General of Taxpayer Services (DGTS) to enhance outreach measures to the taxpayers by providing content, faculty for holding webinars, workshops etc.

VI. Directorate General of Audit (DG Audit) and Audit Commissionerates related to audit objections and feedback.

VII. Directorate General of Systems and Data Management (DG Systems) in regard to System issues and enhancements.

VIII. Any other formations in CBIC to fulfil the stated objectives.

Pre-launch preparation for Faceless Assessment:

5.9  Before the rollout of Faceless Assessment, the Nodal Commissioners in the NAC shall co-ordinate to take all measures to ensure that Faceless Assessment is smooth and creates no disruption in the assessment and clearance of goods. The following important measures may be undertaken by the NAC before the launch:

I. The Customs locations within each Zone, performing Faceless Assessment may be identified. The volume of import and availability of adequate officers may be taken into consideration for such identification.

II. Nominate sufficient number of officers for the Faceless Assessment. The officers should be more than two at all levels, to ensure availability. To the extent possible, dedicated team of officers may be posted to the Faceless Assessment Groups.

III. Identify variations, if any, in assessment practices and harmonise them for application across FAGs.

IV. Take into account audit objections, judicial and quasi-judicial decisions accepted by the Department relating to the assessment of the goods to be handled by the Faceless Assessment Groups under the concerned NAC and circulate among the  FAGs for uniformity of assessment.

V. Organize training on roles and functionalities in ICES related to Faceless Assessment including MIS Reports and Dashboards.

5.10. To ensure smooth implementation of Faceless Assessment & to sensitize both the departmental officers and the trade, Directorate General of Taxpayer Services (DGTS) in coordination with Customs Policy Wing shall organize extensive outreaches via online webinars/ promotional videos etc.

6. Conference on Tariff & Other Customs Matters:

6.1  Joint Secretary, Customs, (CBIC) would be responsible for coordinating with the NACs in organizing a Conference on Tariff & Other Customs Matters every 6 months to review the functioning of the NACs and FAGs. The Conference would be chaired by Member (Customs).

7. Further, Board has issued Notification No. 85/2020-Customs (N.T.) dated 04.09.2020 by virtue of which the Commissioners of Customs (Appeals) are empowered take up appeals filed in respect of Faceless Assessments pertaining to imports made in their jurisdictions even though the Faceless Assessment officer may be located at any other Customs station. To illustrate, Commissioners of Customs (Appeals) at Bengaluru would decide appeals filed for imports at Bengaluru though the Faceless Assessment officer is located at any other port of the country, say Delhi.

8. All other clarifications and guidelines on Faceless Assessment, as provided vide Circular No. 28/2020-Customs and Instruction No.09/2020-Customs, both dated 05.06.2020 may kindly be referred to.

9. The Principal Chief Commissioners/Chief Commissioners of Customs are requested to issue Public Notices and guide the trade suitably to ensure the smooth roll out of Faceless Assessment.

10. Any difficulties faced in the implementation of this Circular may please be brought to the notice of Board.

Yours faithfully,

(Ananth Rathakrishnan)

Deputy Secretary (Customs)

Download Annexure I

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