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SAUDI ARABIA: Customs Introduces Importers Voluntary Disclosure Programme

Saudi Customs has launched a six-month window for importers to voluntarily correct past customs declarations without penalty or prosecution. Under the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP), which started on 1 January 2020, disclosing information which may have led to the underpayment of customs duties will not subject the importer to any penalties. Importers will only be required to pay the applicable customs duties consequently due.

The VDP programme is intended to encourage importers to correct inaccurate information, such as that leading to the under-declaration of import values; failure to declare dutiable value elements, such as freight charges, insurance and other costs; the misclassification of goods to get a reduced duty rate or exemption; and failure to comply properly with such exemption conditions. Importers may also disclose without penalty any circumstantial changes after the initial declaration, such as any undeclared costs or fees related to the imported goods, or dutiable sales proceeds.

Importers will, however, only be eligible for the programme if their records have not already been selected for a customs audit. Firms that are found in breach as a result of an audit run the risk of severe penalties as well as having to pay applicable duties. Such penalties may be as high as double the value of the imported goods and up to two years imprisonment. If the non-compliance involves banned goods, then fines may be up to triple the value of the imports, with custodial sentences of up to three years.

Importers can apply to submit a correction through the Saudi Customs website until the end of June. The statute of limitations prescribed by the GCC Common Customs Law on such compliance is five years, and may reach up to 15 years for certain offences.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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