Public Law 21-42 may have reduced the 30-day period within which importers must pay excise taxes on dutiable goods but that 30-day grace period is still available, especially for companies that are considered low-risk importers.
Talking to business leaders at the Saipan Chamber of Commerce general membership last week, Customs director Jose C. Mafnas said that P.L. 21-42 has already been enacted but importers who want to avail of the 30-day grace period can still apply for that exception with the CNMI Bureau of Customs and, right now, the bureau has 269 applicants.
“…It’s not eliminated and I think that’s fair. …A lot of these applications were approved based on the profile of the importers and appear to be low-risk. They comply with the payment of their excise tax. …The purpose of this law is not to target low-risk importers. …We wanted to go against those importers that are fly-by-night, where they bring in their stuff, they have the 30-day grace period to pay, and then disappear from the radar,” he said. “The consequence is, we check with them and call them because some of them remain on the island. They would say that they will pay but never show up. …This law also brought up those that have been hiding. …With this law, it is exposing these importers and have them comply.”
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed P.L. 21-42 into law in February this year.
Mafnas said the Bureau of Customs is not in the business of closing a business. “If a business is struggling or having a hard time, we will work with them. …We want to level the playing field for all importers and all taxpayers. Believe it or not, there are more compliant taxpayers or importers, than those that are a challenge for us.”
To be approved of the 30-day grace period, there are requirements that importers need to meet, Mafnas said. “In order for Customs to approve your application, part of the requirement you need is to get a tax clearance from [the Division of] Revenue and Tax. Once your application is cleared, your application will be approved.”
Mafnas added that approval of applications may vary. “…We have those non-compliant importers coming out and applying for the 30-day period. We have to give them a couple of months before we can approve their application.”
Payment is also available online, which is more efficient, according to Mafnas.
He assured that is always Customs’ position “to facilitate cargos…so that the vendor can sell their goods and taxes are paid on time…and their goods are not held back at the border.”