In a move towards paperless transactions between the Customs department and the trade, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) is replacing paper copies of Bill of Entry (import goods declaration) and Shipping Bills (export goods declaration) with electronic versions.

The CBIC has announced two new initiatives. One is for electronic communication/ transmission of Customs documents to the trade under the name ‘iCODE’ (Indian Customs Original Document of Electronic Data Interchange) and the other is ICEDASH — an “Ease of Doing Business” dashboard to monitor daily clearances at each port. ICEDASH has already been made available in the Customs IT system, ICES.

Under iCODE, the department will send the Bills of Entry and Shipping Bills electronically to importers and exporters. The documents digitally signed will have QR codes for authentication and sent through email to the registered email IDs of respective Customs brokers. These electronic (PDF) copies will replace the paper copies signed by “Out of Charge” officers (who give ‘let export’ orders) currently to make entire clearance process faster and greener, says a CBIC circular.

At present, the importer clearing the goods for domestic consumption needs to file four copies of the Bill of Entry; the original and the duplicate are meant for Customs; the third copy is for the importer; and the fourth is for the bank for making remittances. The exercise is similar in the case of shipping bills. These will now be done electronically.

However, under iCODE, generation and transmission of first copy of Bills of Entry (copy after assessment, presented for examination) in PDF has now been made operational. As of now, the PDF Bills of Entry have QR codes but do not have the digital signatures.

Convenient format

Welcoming the new initiative of the CBIC, an official of an Custom House Agent (CHA) said there are teething problems with the print format.

Under iCODE, the importer just need to register with the CBIC to get a printout in real time electronically and take the print out if he so desired in his office rather than going to the Customs department. Further, CHAs cannot cover up their delays citing printer malfunction or unavailability of Customs officials to sign the printouts, he said.