Customs surpasses excise tax goal for fiscal year 2017

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The Division of Custom Services collected $5 million more than expected in excise taxes in the last fiscal year. A portion of the funds will now go to procuring a new mobile scanner for the island’s seaport.

According to Finance Secretary Larissa Larson, the department is working on putting together their revenue projection for fiscal year 2019, but in closing the previous revenue projection, she was proud to realize that the fiscal year 2017 projection was surpassed by over $5 million.

“These guys [at the Division of Custom Services] surpassed what I thought they were going to do in a huge way…that was the biggest collection since I became secretary,” she said.

Larson said the division ended the fiscal year last September with $49.5 million in excise tax collection alone.

“Normally, when they surpass the projection, it’s a smaller amount, so this is the biggest one. This was the biggest goal I gave them too so I am really proud of them,” said Larson.

According to Larson, the division was able to greatly surpass its goal by stepping up enforcement efforts and collection points.

“We’ve also done a lot of enforcement for people when they come in with unauthorized items, we penalize them as well so its really helped a great deal as far as the economy goes,” she said.

The division surpassing its goal only means economic growth—which Larson said the department has been striving for since she became a Finance official.

“For a long time, we were not meeting our projections because we were in such bad fiscal state, so a lot of my time as secretary was focused on economic recovery,” she said.

During the 7th Cycle Academy graduation ceremony last week, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said that, with the division being able to collect as much excise tax as they did in the last fiscal year, it is only right that a portion is allocated to further equip customs officers.

“That’s why I said we want to give customs officers more of their resources, for them to go out there and get what they need in order for them to do their work…So if there is $5 million more than projected, I would like to give them back $1 million for their [mobile scanner],” he said.

Torres said the mobile scanner that the government plans to buy for the division is a whole container x-ray, where a 40-foot container can be screened in one go.

“The whole 40-foot container, you can rotate and search more containers than just the single x-rays,” said Torres.

Division of Customs Services director Jose Mafnas could not suppress his excitement at the idea of a new scanner. “I am excited for the new mobile scanner that we are getting. I really appreciate the governor…he understands that we need to properly equip the ports and the entry because once we do that, other issues outside will be resolved,” he said.

Mafnas said the new scanner could help address the methamphetamine epidemic because, if the drugs are found immediately at the ports, it won’t have the opportunity to infiltrate the island. “It is the missing piece of equipment that we need,” he said.

The new machine is expected sometime this year and will be used at the Port of Saipan.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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