customs and trade icon


Customs Information

This section presents information on general Customs & Tariffs policies and practices around the world, e.g. The Revised Kyoto Convention. Important issues and developments in the Customs world are also available here.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, generally referred to as “Harmonized System” or simply “HS”, is a multipurpose international product nomenclature developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO). It comprises about 5,000 commodity groups, each identified by a six digit code, arranged in a legal and logical structure and is supported by well-defined rules to achieve uniform classification. Today the HS is widely used in international trade by more than 200 countries and economies, out of which 151 are Contracting Parties to the HS Convention, as a basis for their customs tariffs and for the collection of international trade statistics. Over 98% of the merchandise in international trade is classified in terms of the HS. The HS is not simply a Customs nomenclature, nor simply a statistical nomenclature but a multi-purpose tool also used by importers, exporters, freight forwarders, producers, and all other parties involved in international trade, as well as by international organizations.

The HS contributes to the harmonization of Customs and trade procedures, and the non-documentary trade data interchange in connection with such procedures, thus reducing the costs related to international trade. It is also extensively used by governments, international organizations and the private sector for many other purposes such as internal taxes, trade policies, monitoring of controlled goods, rules of origin, freight tariffs, transport statistics, price monitoring, quota controls, compilation of national accounts, and economic research and analysis. The HS is thus a universal economic language and code for goods, and an indispensable tool for international trade.

More about Harmonized System  

One of the more important instruments for development of modern Customs processes is the International Convention on the simplification and harmonization of Customs procedures, commonly known as the Kyoto Convention. It consists of 31 Annexes, each of which contains basic principles for Customs processes such as clearance for home use, exportation, transit, postal traffic and passenger facilitation.

The International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs procedures (Kyoto Convention) entered into force in 1974 and was revised and updated to ensure that it meets the current demands of governments and international trade. The WCO Concil adopted the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) in June 1999 as the blueprint for modern and efficient Customs procedures in the 21st century. Once implemented widely, it will provide international commerce with the predictability and efficiency that modern trade requires. The RKC entered into force on February 3, 2006. At present there are over 100 Contracting Parties to the RKC.

Kyoto Convention Text  

UNCTAD Technical Assistance in Trade Facilitation

Click on the links below to find out what the respective organizations say about trade facilitation.

Please note that the information available on the above sites may not necessarily represent the views of UNCTAD and the ASYCUDA programme in particular.

This document contains a list of legal elements that should be considered prior to introducing ADP systems in Customs entry processing. The list is not exhaustive since each country will have its own specific law requiring different changes. However, it is imperative to review Customs laws and regulations to accommodate some or all of the components specified below.

The Kyoto Convention, Annex J. 1, specifies a number of recommendations concerning definition of legal requirements. Further, the basis for the list is experiences in various ASYCUDA countries.

  1. Legal Duty/Tax Point

    The point in time to determine rates of duty and taxes must be specified in the law and be configured accordingly in the ASYCUDA system. This date may also be used to define the exchange rate, the time of entry to Customs warehouses and be decisive whenever a date is required to define entry under a Customs regime. Usually the date when the entry is registered in the computer system will apply.

  2. TIN Number

    A registration number is required by ASYCUDA. In that respect a unique Taxpayer Identifier Number – TIN – mutually agreed with the other Government Authorities should be implemented. A unique identification will greatly satisfy the needs for all the authorities involved, i.e. Customs, Revenue/Tax Departments, license and statistics offices.

  3. New Declaration Format

    In some countries Customs law sets out the exact format of the Customs Declaration. In such cases the law must be revised to allow for the introduction of a new format. It could be considered whether such requirement is at all necessary or an authorization could be given to the Minister to publish the format. This would facilitate subsequent revisions of the format.

  4. DTI and EDI

    Legislation must include provision for lodgement of electronic declarations i.e. paperless transmission of the entry details, including diskettes and tapes.

  5. Signature

    When using electronic declarations the law must provide for an alternative to hand-written signatures.

  6. Computer Print Outs

    Customs declarations in the form of a print out from the computer should be legally binding for the importer/broker, thus establishing enough evidence in cases of trials between Customs and the importer/broker.

  7. International Standards

    The ASYCUDA system will to a large extent require input of international standards and codes, e.g. for country names and currencies. The legislation must allow for such codes and standards.

  8. Use of Data

    Legislation should provide for the right for Customs to retain data, use it for its own purpose and to be allowed to transfer certain data to other organisations, such as the statistics office.

  9. Transaction Fees

    When considered necessary by the Government, Customs should be authorised to collect a fee for each Customs declaration. The amounts collected should be earmarked to finance renewal of hardware or to compensate for the loss of income for staff moved from areas with certain extra income to the computer centers, when such income is possible.

  10. Provisional Lodgement

    The ASYCUDA system contains a facility for pre-lodgement of declarations pending arrival of vessel or documents. This should be allowed for in the legislation.

  11. Computer Fraud

    The law should define fraud based on the manipulation of computers as an offence to be fined according to the usual practice in the country concerned.

  12. Verification of Systems

    Customs should be authorised to access traders’ computer systems for verification and audit purposes. This has particular importance when using EDI transmissions.