Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Not Quite Kosher

A few weeks ago I blogged about how people crossing the border to the mainland had to pay an import tax on iPads -- even if they were bringing in their own for personal use.

And now the top customs official in China has finally spoken out defending its authorities for making people pay a tax of 1,000RMB ($150.54) when they are carrying iPads across the border -- even if they are for personal use.
Huang Yi, head of the General Administration of Customs Department of Supervision said people had to pay the tax because iPads were now categorized as laptop computers.
However, iPads are less than 5,000RMB ($752.72), the threshold for a taxable electronic product in Hong Kong.
But Huang said the department determined the value of iPads as 5,000RMB because "most laptops" cost that much and they had to take into consideration "travelers' convenience and officer's work efficiency", according to a report from the Beijing Evening News on Monday.
Also this rule is a violation of Beijing's promise to the World Trade Organization, which entitles all information technology products zero-tariff treatment once China joined the WTO. This was pointed out in a letter from the Ministry of Commerce to the customs department.
The ministry also criticized the customs authorities for imposing a 20 percent tax which was too high.
Zhu Lieyu, a senior lawyer with Guangdong Guoding Law Firm confirmed that what customs was doing was violating China's promise to the WTO on the Information Technology Agreement. He also added the Chinese government didn't seem to realize that most travelers carry electronic devices with them when they travel.
"It does cause a lot of trouble to ordinary travelers entering the mainland, so how can they call it convenient?" he asked.
"The purpose of joining the WTO is to open the market to other countries and mutually benefit from the openness," he added. "A shutdown or monopoly hurts only our people, who have to put up with more expensive products," Zhu said.
It's amusing that the customs department is running its own show trying to collect as much money as it can with its own rules while completely violating promises it made to the WTO. Doesn't the customs department consult with the relevant ministries before setting its own regulations? Just seems like it's all ad hoc, with every senior official having his or her own fiefdom...

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