Economic Policy Review ISSN 1313 - 0544

A Customs Trick

Author: Svetla Kostadinova / 17.12.2009
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Nowadays, everyone can order almost everything through Internet - you just need an Internet access and a credit card. Thus, taking advantage of this opportunity I ordered Kindle (a digital reader offered by Amazon). It came from USA to Sofia just for two days, but I realized that it's not possible to get it in my office, and I had to go to the custom of Sofia Airport to pay duty and VAT. I didn't have any choices and I went there - and here is the madness that happened to me:

  • 09.00 a.m. - I was setting out for the custom at the airport. There was a horrible traffic and it took me an hour and a half to get there.
  • 10.30 a.m. - I was getting into the building and realized that there is no instructions for the procedures - just nothing. It looks like these people don't work with clients or they expect to everyone to understand by himself what to do and how to figure it out.
  • After the instructions of an official I realized that first I have to hand in an application to receive an EORI number[1]. They need a copy of my ID card, for what they got me politely out of the building to a private bureau (0.40 lv)
  • 10.45 a.m. - I handed in filled out application and a copy, and after verifying the information they sent me to the clerk;
  • 11.25 a.m. - the secretary entered the documents (very unwillingly, because like I  realized their bosses are checking them up and they are under steam)
  • 11.30 a.m. - after that they sent me to get in third room where an official probably was filling in the information from my documents in an electronic system.
  • 11.40 a.m. - and here is the strangest part of the whole process - I had to fill in a custom declaration. I wanted a blank, but it turn out to be impossible, because except filled in on paper, the custom declaration must be filed in also on a floppy disk!!! It's clear that I was not able to figure it out by myself, because I hadn't taken my laptop with me (even though it doesn't have a floppy). They informed me politely that there are two private offices in front of the building that offer the service. Of course they were waiting for me and figured it out comparatively quickly. They gave me the custom declaration on a floppy disk and on paper - it costs 15 lv.
  • 11.50 a.m.  - I had already understood how much the duty and the VAT cost and I paid it through a bank inside of the building, of course they gave me a paper for the transfer.
  • 11.55 a.m.  - I took literally two steps to get behind the next desk bringing all of the papers. They had to accept my declaration - the official used the floppy disk, so his work was rather easy - everything is filled in and the only thing he had to do was to save the file with the filled in custom declaration in the system. Everything was OK except one - we had to wait for the money that I paid through the bank to get into the system of the customs!!! All the same that I had a seal for the transfer, all the same that I paid literally two meters from where I was at the moment - it was an order from high quarters. I had to wait an hour.
  • 13.05 - the money had been already received, they gave me a seal to the custom declaration, that I had paid everything and now can receive my consignment through courier.
  • 13.40 - I had been already in my office after staying in a terrified traffic.

The balance-sheet

  • 5 hours lost
  • Interaction with 5 custom officials, that do almost nothing
  • Paid 15.40 lv., for services that must be covered by the customs - great way to "export administrative services to the private sector". Those who thought it out must be very content with it.
  • Paid 72.93 lv. for VAT and 7.50 lv. duty for a product, which cost 341.88 lv.
  • Paid 6 lv. for parking - the only one place, where you can park in the airport

Total expenses - 101.83 lv, (30% from the value of the product), without taking into account the mislaid income for the lost 5 working hours.

And one more interesting - I realized that if I dare to order something from other country and it costs more than 150 euro, or it's not from EU country, I'll need a constant EORI number. It costs 150 euro and takes about a week.

What can be done?    

The first way is everything to be available through an electronic way - to fill in the papers by yourself, to pay and to receive document for paid duties and taxes or they can send it through e-mail - in that case the express service. Thus, in approximate calculation, minimum half of the custom officials could be laid off and it won't be necessary to spend the people's time. The most important - it won't be necessary to have expenses, which are incomes at the moment for some "contractor".

The other way is everything described to be figured out in only one desk, to be figured out by only one official and to take not more than 20 minutes. Thus, a huge optimization of people, expenses and losing time of people and companies will be possible.

I'm not taking up the case not to order this type of products...



[1] Used for identifying of people in interaction with custom authorities of the EEC and in exchanging of information between custom authorities and between custom authorities and other authorities.