The Ministry of Finance & Economic Cooperation (MoFEC) issued a new directive which entitles travellers to bring in items for personal use free from customs duties.
Drafted jointly by MoFEC and Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA) for the past two years, the Directive was ratified by Abraham Tekeste (PhD), minister of Finance & Economic Cooperation on December 15, 2017.
Before its approval, the Directive was sent to the Council of Ministers (CoM) for comments as it is a special case, according to Debele Kabeta, director of Customs Branch Offices Follow-up & Support at ERCA. Unlike regulations and proclamations, directives are approved at an institution level.
To execute the new directive, additional legal frameworks were submitted to the MoFEC for ratification early December 2017, according to Debele. The details of the execution documents include setting duty rates for the taxable items.
The directive exempts items under the categories of communication attachments, cameras and their accessories, musical instruments, office machines, kitchenware, food and beverages from tax.
It listed 351 items that are entirely tax-free, but some of these will have a partial exemption based on their quantity.
The list includes items relieved of both customs and tax like ready-made clothes, a professional camera, two external hard disks, five flash disks, a laptop, and a Tv.
A traveller can carry two mobile phone devices without being taxed, while three additional phones can be brought in after customs clearance.
Items previously confiscated at the checkpoints such as single photo printers, photo flashes, camera stands, and non-professional video cameras are also among the exempted ones.
The new index allows two litres of alcohol tax-free, while an additional six litres will be subjected to a customs fee.
“There won’t be bag hunts anymore, especially to search for clothes,” said Bochu Sentayehu, director of Legal Services at MoFEC.
All nationals, diasporas, repatriates, non-governmental organisation employees, and international organisation workers are among the beneficiaries.
It will also give priority to repatriating nationals travelling without passports and travel documents.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) recently announced the return of 14,131 immigrants from Saudi Arabia in a month’s time following the 90-day amnesty period declared by the country.
Bochu, the legal director, believes that the directive will clear the country’s negative image of hassles and harassment at customs checkpoints around borders and at airports.
According to the new directive, only three percent of the travellers will pass the screening and checking process.
“Travellers suspected of carrying risky items will be screened and checked,” said Debele.
Departure points of the travellers, frequency of travel, baggage data from initial departure points and items identified as contraband will be assessed.
Yohannes Woldegebriel, a tax expert, argues that the Directive seems discriminatory and would create a mess at airports.
“The items designated for personal use can also be commercialised,” he said. “And it would encourage many people to travel only to benefit from these privileges.”
He also believes that the Directive should work for selected travellers such as the diaspora community.
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