Thursday, July 23, 2009

Our customs, have they changed?

I am actually talking about the Customs Department. My brush with them was a positive experience! Again I have nothing to complain, only praises for the officers I met. One of them even plays golf and his supervisor had a picture of Saibaba in his office.

It may be because we had appointed a shipping agent to do all the work for us including clearing the goods. I still had to be there in person when the 20' container was opened and examined. I am amazed at the number of boxes, 141, that were stuffed in to the container by a very skilled group of packers at Bangkok!

I had to pay duty on my TV, the music system and the electric oven.(The cake when baked will be a little more expensive!) No issues as I knew that duty was levied on electrical goods, but was very happy to see that my computer was cleared duty free. We could have got away, that is how we view our little game with the customs, with a refrigerator and a washing machine, no duty is levied on them on a transfer of residence. But we had decided to buy them here in India.

The real surprise was that I had to pay duty on the golf clubs, that too at a whopping 35%. I had no idea that sports goods, even used ones would be charged duty. Golf clubs are treated as a luxury in spite of the fact that every golfer would swear that his life depended on it.

A few were surprised that I paid duty at all as I was on a transfer of residence, that too after 21 years! They said that I had obviously not presented my case well and aggressively with the customs and had given up too easily!

In case of the golf clubs, they felt, but did not say in so many words, that I was down right stupid to have paid any duty at all. I could have brought it in as my baggage when I flew in and it was easy to get it through with out paying any duty. Very true!

As I write this I wonder about this universal attitude against paying customs duty. Even normally honest persons think nothing of deceiving the customs guys! If we get to talking about it over a drink, you will be surprised to hear the many stories of deception practised to avoid paying customs duty.

I even asked a few 'why did they have to cheat the customs as it were!' Their reply usually is: 'why should we pay when we know that it is not going to be used for any good purpose by these corrupt politicians?' Could arguably be true!

I would also say well done, only if the saved duty went to some good purpose, like a charity or towards school fees of a deserving poor student. Wait a minute! That is in addition to what you normally do towards charity!

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