Courier services are distinguished from other ordinary shipping services by features such as speed, security, tracking, signature, specialization and individualization of express services, and swift delivery times. Couriers are usually more expensive than standard shipping services, and their use is normally limited to packages where one or more of these features are considered important enough to warrant the cost.
In August, 2014, a “de minimis” regime was implemented as a valuation ceiling for goods imported via courier, below which no duty or tax will be charged. The system allowed goods with a total cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value not exceeding EC$150 and which are not alcoholic beverages, tobacco products or commercial goods to be exempt from the payment of all customs duties and other taxes.
This resulted in the reduction of clearance procedures including data requirements, thus saving much needed time and costs to the importers.
Customs will verify the eligibility requirements and release the cargo to the Courier Agents under the DIMINIMIS System, ensuring that they qualify and are not over the CIF $150.00 umbrella.
During the verification process, Suppliers Invoices and freight amounts are required to be submitted by the Courier Agents, and that all packages listed on the Manifests are accounted for at the end of exercise.
The following are updated guidelines to be adhered to by the Courier Agents for the processing of the courier packages:
1. Any person in Dominica may import goods for personal/commercial use by courier services, subject to the following conditions:
I. The goods are not prohibited or restricted for import into Dominica.
II. In case an import permit/license is required – an application must be submitted to the competent authority for approval, prior to importation of the goods. On receipt of the license/permit, a detailed declaration must be submitted to customs.
III. Goods are subject to customs control and all applicable duties and taxes must be paid prior to delivery of the goods.
IV. Only the Courier agent/Small Package Consolidator, is authorized to transact courier cargo clearance functions at customs, except if the consignment is of a commercial nature (see 10 below)
2. Imported goods may qualify for De minimis treatment if the following conditions are met:
a) Must have a declared or assessed C.I,F value up to $150.00 XCD;
b) Are not alcoholic beverages
c) Are not cigars, cigarettes, or tobacco products,
d) Are not imported for commercial (resale), industrial (manufacturing), occupational (job or work related), institutional (churches schools, hospitals, etc.), or other similar purposes
3. The Importer is responsible for declaring the contents of the consignment.
4. The importer must verify with the supplier that the shipping documents (invoice, freight bill etc.), matches the goods being imported and that the details provided regarding the purchase transaction, including the price of the goods, are accurate.
5. In accordance with Sections 45,186,187 and 189 of the Customs Act #20 of 2010, which deals with importation of goods, submission of documents and payment of duty, discrepancies between the actual goods and their description, classification, and value on the import declaration/parcel label, constitutes sufficient grounds for seizing the goods, even if the false declaration was made without the importers’ knowledge.
6. In case of a false declaration, customs may institute legal proceedings or impose hefty penalties against the importer (the person who the goods are consigned to), in addition to payment of the applicable duties and taxes, and the goods are liable to forfeiture.
7. If the goods do not qualify for de minimis treatment, the Courier Agents/Small Package Consolidators will pay the duties and taxes on pre-alerted cargo (i.e. consignments with accompanying supplier’s invoices) on the importer’s behalf. This arrangement covers non-commercial shipments only.
8. If the goods are of a commercial nature, the importer may authorize a registered customs broker/Tariff Clerk to act on his/her behalf.
9. All importations are subject to physical examination by customs. During the sorting process, packages may be opened in order to verify the contents and/or the value.
10. Consignments which are not pre-alerted will not be cleared during the sorting process, but instead be secured at the courier facilities/shed #5, to be subsequently dealt with by customs.
11. Importers can request from their Courier Agents/Small Package Consolidators a receipt containing the classification of the goods, the transaction number, and a breakdown of the duties and taxes paid.
12. Customs will utilize available data, knowledge and competence to the extent possible, to determine consignments on which no customs duties and taxes will be collected, aside from certain prescribed goods. The importers history, (Type, frequency and quantity of imports) may be taken into account when determining the qualification of his/her consignment for De minimis treatment.
13. Importers may experience delays in receiving packages, if the information provided to the Courier Agent/Small Package Consolidator is unreliable, incomplete or non-verifiable on examination by customs.
NB - In order to maintain the integrity at the facilities, both enablers i.e. Customs and Courier Agents should have physical locks to all entrances where the imported consignments are stored for better management and control.