“Having signature on the commercial invoice in respect of imported goods” is not a new requirement in the importation and custom clearance procedures. However, this requirement has caused difficulties to importers when they import goods in practice, as there are still a number of discrepancies between the laws of Vietnam and international practices, without any remedy.
From the legal perspective, the requirements of the Ministry of Finance and Vietnamese Customs Authorities are base on Decree 51/2010/ND-CP, which stipulates that invoices must present signatures of the seller, seal of the buyer (if any), and signatures of the buyer. The entities who must comply with Decree 51/2010 are Vietnamese organizations, individuals who are selling goods, providing services in Vietnam’s territory or abroad; organizations, individuals imported goods in the local market regardless of producers or suppliers being Vietnamese or foreign organizations or individuals under Circular 64/2015/TTLT- BTC- BCT- BCA- BQP “With regard to goods sold or stored by entities other than importers, it is required to have invoices and/or documents of the selling entities as prescribed in Decree No. 51/2010/ND-CP.”
From the practical perspective, this regulation embarks a conflict with the common practice of making invoices by European countries in which all invoices are formed, retrieved electronically and without sellers’ signatures and seals in every single invoice. Annually, an automobile manufacturer can sell hundred thousands of products per year, the signing in each invoice is a hand work which makes time-squandering, human resource and increasing expenses. However, in order to complete the import procedure, enterprise must seek for ways to convince the manufacturers to provide their signature on invoices. This step has caused a lot of difficulties to enterprises because it is too hard for the manufacturers to change their goods trading management method contrary to the ordinary method in their home country. As a result, the completion of custom clearance of enterprises is often delayed for months from the scheduled business plan, which causes a lost in term of in business opportunity and cost burden to enterprises. In addition, the fact that the requirement on provision of invoice is still retained which is not caught up with the principle of Article 3.6(b) of Resolution 30c/NQ-CP enhancing the “application of information – telecommunication technology in the process of handling of works of administrative authorities, among administrative authorities and within transactions with organizations and individuals”.
With the understanding of these international practices, World Customs Organization (WCO) recommends its members not to have sellers sign commercial invoices when conducting the customs declaration, in particularly:
“RECOMMENDATION OF THE CUSTOMS CO-OPERATION COUNCIL
CONCERNING CUSTOMS REQUIREMENTS
REGARDING COMMERCIAL INVOICES
(16th MAY 1979)
RECOMMENDS that Members of the Council and members of the United Nations Organization or its specialized agencies, and Customs or Economic Unions, should :
- refrain from requiring a signature, for Customs purposes, on commercial invoices presented in support of a Goods declaration;”
Vietnam Customs authorities has been a member of WCO as of 01 July 1993 and entered into Kyoto Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures. After many renovations to adapt WCO’s objectives and policies, Vietnam Customs procedures have been modernized and reduced significantly yet not abrogated the requirements on signatures affixed to invoices due to existing “barriers” in Decree 51.
The main purpose for presentation of commercial invoices in customs procedures is to make a basis for determining customs values of the goods, goods origin and tax amounts imposed on goods at the time of import. In the Internet age, the authenticity of invoices can be checked by various methods. Therefore, we should learn a feasible way of other countries to check manufacturers’ database to conclude the accuracy of total value of goods rather than request them to sign in each of invoices. Customs Authorities can request the manufacture to send the detailed information of imported goods for checking, or confirm the accuracy and completeness of such invoices. From the author’s perspective, by taking advantage of the internet tool, the checking and verifying the accuracy of commercial bills will easier and more efficient.
Author: Nguyen Thi Chau Thanh – LNT & Partners