A majority of the importers are giving non-responsive declarations in the import documents of commercial goods, forcing the customs authorities to conduct physical verification.
The customs authorities said the time and cost of doing business increased in the process as they have to scrutinise goods properly before their release.
Most of the declarations are not specific or responsive as a section of commercial importers wilfully hide information to evade taxes, they alleged.
Following the irregularities, the Customs House of Chattogram (CHC) recently issued a letter to the importers, and clearing and forwarding agents.
CHC deputy commissioner of customs (preventive) AKM Sultan Mahmud issued the letter on behalf of the CHC commissioner, requesting the importers to furnish specific details of their imported goods.
According to CHC commissioner Md Fakhrul Alam, the customs authorities face difficulties in expediting the release of imported commercial goods for this reason.
"Most of the bills of entries and other import documents don't have the specific declaration of raw materials and other details," he told the FE.
In most cases, the importers refrain from furnishing proper declarations of imported goods with intent to evade duties and taxes, Mr Alam alleged.
Imported products fall under different HS codes based on their ingredients which should be furnished specifically in the documents of commercial goods, he said.
Bangladesh Pipe and Tube-well Merchants Association director Solaiman Parsee hailed the CHC move and suggested locking business identification number (BIN) of wilful tax evaders. Variation of import taxes on the basis of HS codes sometimes creates scope for tax evasion, he observed.
"Some of the imported products in construction and other sectors have no local production. The government can consider their lower tax slab by simplifying their HS code variation," he said. Mr Parsee said genuine businessmen face an uneven playing field because of a section of dishonest importers.
In the letter, the CHC said customs officials conduct physical examination of only 10-per cent imported goods while the remaining 90-per cent consignments are released after customs assessment without examination.
Accurate information related to the HS code, price and ingredients of the imported products are needed for speedy clearance of goods. The customs authorities have to make sure the actual HS code of an imported item to determine its actual payable duty and tax, the officials said.
As per the Customs Act-1969, customs officials can impose penalty and punishment for making false declarations of import-export goods about their description, quantity, quality and value.
Officials said the number of cases relating to false declarations of goods reduced significantly as the government imposed a high rate of penalty, about 200 per cent, in the budget for the last fiscal year.
The CHC letter cited some examples on import of taps, cocks, kitchenware and sanitary items without responsive declarations.
In the documents, many importers declared that they imported taps and cocks, but there were no details about their ingredients, it said.
The minimum import price of the products varies depending on the raw materials of the products, the letter mentioned.
The minimum price of taps and cocks made of iron or steel is $3.0 per kilogram while the price of those products made of brass is $5.0 a kg.
The classification is also different for kitchenware and sanitary items on the basis of their raw materials, according to the letter.
"For example, the classification chapter number for plastic-made kitchenware and sanitary items is 39, for ceramic-made items 69, for glass-made products 70, for copper-made items 74 and for aluminium-made kitchenware and sanitary items 76."
In case of machinery import, the customs authorities need detailed information related to the brand, model, art number, part number and unit measurement to avoid complexities on assessment of goods.
Similar types of complexities might arise at the time of releasing imported foods if the ingredients are not properly furnished, it said.
A responsive declaration includes specific description, quantity and quality of a product, brand name, model number, unit measurement and ingredients.
The customs house handles an estimated 92 per cent of the country's seaborne trade in terms of both export and import.