The Division of Customs Services collected a total of $43.3 million in taxes for fiscal year 2016, a 24.9-percent jump from fiscal year 2015 that amounted to $32.5 million.
Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson said the more than $10-million increase offsets the decline in other revenue categories of the government.
She said imports and revaluations of goods and other commodities contributed to the increase. “[This] is largely due to increased imports, interceptions and revaluations of undeclared and undervalued taxable commodities as well as increased collection on accounts with balances that were once outstanding,” Larson said.
Larson added the division, which is also in charge of controlling the flow of goods, would continue to innovate and update their personnel to maintain their efficiency in fulfilling their duties.
A new batch of Customs officers was admitted to the division after the sixth cycle finished their basic training. The sixth cycle, then cadets, and customs officers, were also taught the proper way of searching and seizing items, and were made to understand probable cause, in a seminar conducted by Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho.
Last month, Oceania Customs Organization operations manager Tevita Tupuo conducted a weeklong training on improved law enforcement, border security, and enhanced trade and revenue management.
This was among the innovations that division director Jose C. Mafnas earlier discussed, and he said more training and seminars will be given to all customs officers to update their skills in protecting the CNMI’s borders.
Money laundering, drugs, and human trafficking were among the challenges that the division is facing right now.
Larson said training is part of her department’s long-term goal as visitor arrivals increase. “Our revenues are increasing and all this training is part of the long-term goal to continue to meet the increasing demand of visitor arrivals and our preparation to properly protect and monitor our ports of entry as well as ensuring accurate taxation collection at all points of entry.”
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the division plays a crucial role in safeguarding the CNMI’s borders and its continuous development.
“We have to be mindful of the current trends of importations and I am confident that we will continue to equip our borders to safeguard our Commonwealth. As we continue to improve the economy and increase efficiency, we hope to sustain our resources and increase these efforts moving forward.”