CHA: Custom House Agent

“CHA (Custom House Agent) is licenced to act as an agent of the Exporter or Importer and to clear the cargo inward or outward through the Indian Customs stations. (I.e. Sea ports / Air ports / ICDs / CFSs etc) All CHA maintains detailed, itemized and up-to-date accounts of the transactions. The licence of the CHA may be temporary or permanent. ”
In an export, a customs broker delivers documents to exporter after completing necessary export formalities with customs. In an import trade, goods are delivered to importer by customs broker after completing necessary import customs clearance procedures and formalities with custom department.

Ø Licence types:

1)    Temporary: After accepting an application, a one-year temporary licence is granted under Regulation 8 in Form B. Before receiving a temporary (or regular) licence, the applicant must execute a bond on Forms D and E. For major ports, the surety amount is Rs.25000/; for other ports, Rs.10000/. Surety may also be given in the form of National Savings Certificates or postal security, which should be pledged in the name of the Commissioner. Since a regular licence-holder is allowed to work in more than one Customs station, separate bond and surety must be posted for each customs station.

2)    Regular: An application for regular licence may be made on Form C by a person who has passed the examinations. Forms A and C are nearly identical, except that while the former is issued under Regulation 5, the latter form is issued under Regulation 10. A regular licence is requested on Form D. The applicant must satisfy the following conditions:
1.     Quantity or value norms of cargo cleared from the customs house (as determined by the Commissioner)
2.     Applicant conduct during the temporary-licence period; no complaints of non-compliance with Regulation 14
Ø Record keeping: Accounts should reflect all financial transactions entered into as a CHA. A copy of all documents filed (such as shipping bills, bills of entry and transshipmentapplications) must be maintained for at least five years and should be available for inspection by departmental officers.

Ø Disqualifications: Regulation 10(1) specifies that only a person who qualifies in the examination can apply for a regular licence. Sub-regulation 3 provides that the Commissioner may reject the application of a person who fails the examination. If performance criteria are not satisfied regarding quantity and value of clearances or conduct, the application may be rejected. An appeal may be made of an order of rejection within 30 days to the Chief Commissioner, who is also empowered to review regular licence grants within one year.

Ø SOFTWARE: The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has developed basic software to create and file shipping bills (Customs documents) on the Indian Customs website. The software is free to download with IceGate (Indian Customs) registration.

Ø Duties of the Custom House Agents:

1)    A CHA is required to clear goods for import or export with specific authorization from the principal, which must be produced whenever required by the Deputy or Assistant Commissioner.
2)    The CHA must personally clear the goods or clear them through an employee designated by the Commissioner. All documents should list the CHA's name at the top. The CHA should not attempt to influence the conduct of customs officers in matters pending before him or his subordinates; there should be no threats, false accusations or duress against such officers, and no promise of advantage, benefit or gift should be made or bestowed on such officers. The CHA's duties should be discharged expeditiously, and he cannot charge more than the rates approved by the Commissioner.
3)    If the CHA is a former officer of a department, he cannot represent any matter before a customs officer which he had considered as an officer. He cannot use facts which came to his knowledge as an officer.
4)    The CHA must advise the client to comply with the provisions of the Act and the regulations, diligently ensuring the imparting of correct, relevant information to the client for clearance of cargo or baggage. If there is non-compliance by a client, the CHA must bring it to the attention of the deputy or assistant commissioner. This regulation requires the CHA to provide information to the department.
5)    The CHA must promptly pay the government all monies received from the client for duties and taxes. Any money received from the client or from the government should be promptly and fully accounted to the client.
6)    Records and accounts must be maintained as directed by the Deputy or Assistant Commissioner, and available for inspection. All documents must be prepared in accordance with rules and orders.
7)    If the licence granted to a CHA is lost, the loss should be promptly reported to the Commissioner. If there is failure in compliance with obligations under Regulation 14, the Commissioner may prohibit a person from acting as a CHA.

Self Clearance: As per customs law, any exporter or importer can directly file documents of their own shipments and complete the procedures and formalities. It does not mean that the exporter/importer can file documents of other exporter or importer. There are many firms appointed their office personnel to clear the cargo of their own. Normally ‘self clearance’ arrangements are done by some of the firms to have a complete transparency between customs authorities and firm. However, most of the companies appoint a CHA for smooth clearance of their goods which saves more time and concentration their own trade, as CHA has more ‘communicating strength’ with the customs authorities as they know exact language of customs
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