Lebanon Businessnews News

Authorities: ‘No corruption at Beirut's port'
Customs justifies drop in receipts
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The Higher Customs Council denied reports of customs violations at the Port of Beirut in a statement issued on Friday (November 23). Several media reports had recently pointed at customs tax evasions, which allegedly cost the Treasury billions of dollars in lost revenues.

The Port of Beirut accounts for the majority of customs receipts, with a share of 80 percent in 2011. Customs receipts totaled around $3 billion, down by almost 12 percent from 2010. This was the first annual decline in receipts since 2006.

The customs administration said the drop had mainly resulted from lower fees on imports of gasoline which had cut down receipts by some $326 million. The government had reduced the tax on gasoline by LL5,000 in early 2011. The quantity of gasoline imports stood at 1.9 billion liters in 2011. Receipts from the commodity totaled $520 million, or $0.26 per liter. Lower imports of used cars had led to the loss of around $175 million in receipts.

According to the report, customs receipts are not directly linked to the value of imports. It said a rise in the value of imported merchandise does not necessarily mean a rise in receipts. In 2002, the Port of Beirut collected $1.2 billion in receipts from imports worth $4 billion. On the other hand, in 2011 the Port made revenues of $2.4 billion from $13-billion imports.

Lower customs revenues are also a direct result of the free-trade agreements signed with a number of trade partners. The Council also said that some receipts are not accounted for. Commodities which are not admitted to customs inspection at the port are later submitted to audits, and importers are then required to pay the initial customs duties plus a fine for violations spotted at this level . These revenues do not go into the customs figures. On average, around 7,500 such cases are reported each year.

Reported by Hanadi Chami
Date Posted: Nov 23, 2012
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