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NEW DELHI: BRICS nations are gearing up for closer ties in cross-border trade to help reduce red tape and access advance information about shipments reaching their shores for more effective check on tax evasion.

Customs chiefs from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) discussed a deal on mutual administrative assistance at a meeting last week, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) said in a communication posted on its website.

Significant progress was made to finalise the proposed BRICS agreement for cooperation on mutual administrative assistance or CMAA, CBIC said. The virtual meeting held on 8 July was chaired by CBIC chairman Ajit Kumar.

India has similar treaties with many countries on matters related to income tax, a powerful tool in tax administration. It helps in conducting investigations outside a country’s jurisdiction. “The meeting was also successful in seeking commitment from individual member countries for initiating exchange of pre-arrival customs data on real time basis, which will facilitate genuine trade and curb trade mis-declaration," said the communication.

India’s customs administration has in recent months made several changes in its procedures to cut red tape and to avoid physical interface between merchants and officials. For imported covid related medical supplies, a separate simplified procedure has been put in place for processing shipments. The general trend in indirect tax administration is to keep track of goods movement using information gathered from various sources and intercept only in cases where analysis of data suggests mismatches or discrepancies. ‘Trust but verify’ is an old adage, said the CBIC communication.

CBIC is introducing major changes to its procedure from 15 July to make customs clearance easier for businesses, Mint had reported on 9 July. These changes are meant to speed up assessment and clearance of shipments in a more anonymous way. This will streamline the faceless assessment scheme rolled out last October and process shipments without direct interface with merchant.

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