Customs promise operations overhaul

Not famous for being customer-friendly, the Russian Customs Service is about to undergo some major changes.

An improvement was ordered by President Medvedev, who claimed that current Russian customs practices hamper potential foreign investments as they try to enter the country. The situation, he said, has particularly worsened in the last six months.

Currently, both domestic and foreign companies have to provide, on average, up to eight documents to export goods – and around 13 documents to import them.

This is twice the number of documents generally required in most developed countries. Even Russia’s new partners in the Customs Union, Kazakhstan and Belarus, have more efficient rules when it comes to customs.

The new regulations will become effective in May 2012. Apart from getting rid of outdated and ineffective laws, they will include a range of amendments providing special treatment for businesses with “clean sheets.”

Among them will be companies who did not break customs rules more than once, and who provide guarantees to pay customs fees of more than 1 million rubles ($30,000).

Such companies will be exempt from certain customs operations and allowed to keep their shipments in special storage before customs procedures.

Other entrepreneurs with good reputations in terms of taxes, will be able to pass through a “green channel” – with random inspections, like in many other developed countries.

“Our next step is to differentiate between the types of external economic activity,” Dmitry Nekrasov, of the Federal Customs Service, told RT. “This practice is used world-wide. It implies that customs control will be used selectively for companies who have been shown to be transparent and who have a good business reputation. But it doesn’t’ mean a total lack of control; we will use random number generation to select who to check.”

The new regulations will also allow individual travelers on transit flights to go through customs only at their final destination – that system is being tested currently in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

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