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Finance Ministry initiates steps to correct trade data discrepancies

NEW DELHI: The Finance Ministry has asked Customs Department to ensure use of standard units on same items entering or leaving the country across ports in order to prevent discrepancies in trade data, which lead to embarrassment.

Central Board of Excise and Customs(CBEC) has found that Standard Unit Quantity Codes (UQC), indicated in the Customs Act, are not being uniformly declared by importers and exporters for the same items across different ports. 

"The issue of poor quality of trade data has been engaging the attention of the government,"
CBEC said in a communication to the Customs and other revenue officials. 

An error of USD 9 billion was noticed in the country's exports for April-November period of 2011-12. 

"The solution lies in improving the quality of data by using standard UQCs...Accordingly, it is directed by the Board that Customs field formations should ensure that only the correct and prescribed Standard UQC ... is mentioned in Bills of Entry/ Shipping Bills," the CBEC said. 

It said an analysis of National Import Data Base (NIDB) reveals that there are at times "variations between the lowest and highest unit values of the same item", which might escape detection on account of the use of different unit codes. 

Use non-uniform UQCs impacts data quality and makes comparisons and aggregations difficult, the CBEC said. 

"The use of non-uniform UQCs for the same item also vitiates the quality of the NIDB data and reduces its utility to the assessing officers, who are unable to ascertain the contemporaneous values or assessment practice of a given item in different Customs locations," it said. 

UQC have been specified in the Customs Tariff Act, 1975. The Board, which is responsible for collection of indirect taxes, asked the Chief Commissioners of Customs to ensure the instructions are "complied with scrupulously". 

It, however, said the exercise should not result in delays in clearance of cargo. 

Earlier, the 
Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) had streamlined flow of trade figures from different ports in the country. 

This was done following the error in export figures of April-November period of 2011-12. The
Prime Minister's Office had asked the commerce department to explain the errors. 

Data reporting problems also created problems for officials during a recent visit of Commerce and Industry Minister 
Anand Sharma to Mauritius where bilateral trade figures were found not matching.