High Court to Study New Customs Rule

April 16, 2004

THE Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) has agreed to evaluate an injunction filed by the Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce questioning a reform to the country’s customs law.

While the court studies the matter, customs officials are prohibited from applying the controversial new measure, which made it impossible for hundreds of importers to retrieve their goods from customs warehouses.

The problems began on March 5, when the country’s new General Customs Law went into effect. Under the new law, all imported merchandise is required to include a difficult-to-obtain shipping document that in some countries, including the United States and several European countries, is confidential, and in several other countries, such as Brazil and most Asian countries, doesn’t even exist (TT, March 12). The goal of the measure is to reduce tax evasion at the country’s ports.

However, the new rule caused all kinds of problems for importers, according to the Chamber of Commerce. This prompted the chamber to file the injunction March 10, alleging that Article 86 of the law (which requires the document) violates people’s right to conduct commerce.

In an attempt to end to the chaos that swept over customs, the Customs Administration sent several letters to customs officers attempting to clarify the application of the law.

Despite the clarifications, importers, particularly those who imported merchandise from South America and Asia, continued to report problems.

Meanwhile, the customs law was sent back to the Legislative Assembly to be reformed by legislators. However, legislators have yet to agree on how the undertake the reforms.

 

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