Interview with customs agent Flavio Jesús LoboscoMonday, February 10, 2014
‘Argentina’s new customs system facing expected resistance from operators’
Argentina introduced late last year a new computer system for Customs control to facilitate international trade — a pillar of its economy —, improve tax collection, control foreign trade revenue flows and fight smuggling, tax evasion, dumping and money-laundering.
It is expected that the Malvina Information System (SIM), designed to replace another SIM (the obsolete María Information System, in force since 1999) will be fully operational in November, when the old one would be phased out.
“The new system is facing some resistance from the leading operators and some difficulties which could lead to surcharges for exporters and importers,” Customs agent Flavio Jesús Lobosco says in an interview with the Herald.
“However, it will eventually win full acceptance in the same way as did the María, which faced not only the initial skepticism of many but also a bureaucracy which generated a great source of corruption and was betting on its failure,” adds Lobosco, an adviser to the Argentina Exporta foreign trade private consultants.
What is your assessment of the new system?
The basic system information (classification, Customs valuation, etc.) will not be modified as it follows international standards.
What will change is the input of additional information (commercial invoicing, packing list, bill of lading, etc.) which in the future will all be done electronically. Most likely, in the process of implementing the new system, some obstacles and errors in its utilization will arise, something to be considered logical until it is fully operational. This type of “barrier” can cause some inconveniences to users, such as importers and exporters, and this may result in surcharges and time losses until its full implementation.
Since when is the Malvina in place?
It started operating in December and will have a progressive implementation which is estimated to be complete in November. Once the Malvina is fully operational, the María will be phased out.
To what operations is it applied?
The new system is now fully operational for exports ex factory, and is already used by the customs clerks and checkers. The next step will be to generate the acceptance of electronic documents instead of paper format.
What are exports ex factory?
Those that due to their size and complexity are made directly from the exporter’s facilities, where a kind of a branch of the Customs Service is installed.
The Malvina applies to some fields which the María did not cover, or is it just aimed to fix some flaws in the previous system but in the same fields?
Actually, the basic necessary information is the same, since it is not possible to modify Customs issues of universal scope. What is changing is the relation of the handling of Customs information with tax information, something which before was done via two separate channels and now will be centralized through the web page of the AFIP (federal revenue agency). These changes aim to correct shortcomings of the María such as, for example, its control mechanisms, improve revenue levels through the Banco Nación and also control in the near future the inflows and outflows of foreign trade revenue. Another substantial difference is that the Malvina is already hosted on the AFIP/Customs Service website whereas the old system was available only via a kit which had to be pre-installed by users.
Is this dual the handling of Customs and tax information a common practice in other countries?
There are different levels of information complementation in different countries but the near future will mark full integration in the handling of this information. The first step will be in the Mercosur. Now, channelling all information through a single window will generate a short-term consolidation of information, and lead to drastic changes, for example, in the mode of registration of Anticipated Affidavits for Imports (DJAI). Therefore, importers and exporters must pay close attention, because although they are not expected to have the capacity to carry out Customs registration processes, there will be many more chances that they be sanctioned on line. In the face of this, a quick adjustment to the terms of the SICNEA (Electronic Customs Communication and Notification System) and a deeper interaction with Customs agents are needed.
What are the main strengths and weaknesses of the María?
The María came to meet the need for computerized customs information. It gave the Customs issue a nationwide scope and unified approaches, but it was necessary to update it in the face of computer advances and for the sake of greater transparency.
What are the main strengths and weaknesses of the Malvina?
The AFIP has made progress through many complementation agreements with other countries. In the previous system the uploading of information began in Argentina. Now, it will be possible to determine any unclear manoeuvre from its start abroad, basically with regards to the declared sale price and taxing. The Malvina seeks to provide some solutions and adaptation to the computing needs for the registration of Customs destinations, now in its correlation with issues such as the inflow and outflow of foreign exchange and the control of the value/origin of goods, among others. The weak point is to see whether the page of the AFIP will support the simultaneous log-ins of the more than 40,000 users who must use it.
What are those registrations of Customs destinations?
In the import or export operations a Customs destination statement is done where the Customs agent declares what is imported or exported. Then, based on that statement, the taxes are paid and it also works as a Customs control for incoming and outgoing goods.
Who are the users of the Malvina?
All international trade operators, including importers and exporters, banks and, under the new system, legal experts on Customs issues.
The government expects the Malvina to contribute better than the María to detect smuggling, tax evasion, money-laundering and dumping manoeuvres. Have those expectations been met?
They have not been fully met but when the implementation of the system is completed, an important step forward will have been taken in that field.
What changes would you propose?
The biggest problem is the resistance from the leading operators who, for different reasons, prefer to stick with the old system. I would propose that the enforcement authorities launch a wider process of information to definitely install the system’s advantages.
Is the Malvina an Argentine creation?
No. It was a model adopted from the French customs system and adapted to the reality of Argentina. It is a change which reflects an international current of customs information processes.
How does Argentina rank regarding customs processes?
We are very well off. Argentina has state-of-the art technology and is one of the countries in the region heading these changes, which sooner or later will reach everyone.