According to the General Annex of the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC), the Goods Declaration is a statement made in the manner prescribed by Customs, by which the persons concerned (importer/exporter or agent) indicate the Customs procedure to be applied to the goods and furnish the particulars which Customs require for its application.
According to Specific Annex A.1 of the RKC, the Cargo Declaration means information submitted (by the carrier or agent) prior to, or on arrival or departure, of a means of transport for commercial use which provides the particulars required by Customs relating to cargo brought to or removed from the Customs territory and shall not be required to contain more than the information necessary to identify the goods and the means of transport.
The data to be included in the goods declaration and the cargo declaration are derived from trade and transport documents pertaining to the international movement of the goods, such as the invoice, bill of lading, packing list, etc. These documents have to be submitted together with the declaration to Customs, and are therefore referred to as supporting documents.

Problem statement

The trading community is often confronted with goods and cargo declarations that: a) do not conform to international standards for paper forms or electronic messages; b) contain more data than necessary for Customs control; and c) do not use the international code sets used in international trade and transport. Consequently, the time and costs associated with the preparation and submission of the goods and cargo declarations are too high.Additional problems occur where Customs issues penalties for clerical errors in the cargo or goods declaration.

Implementation guidance

The key trade facilitation solution with regard to the goods and cargo declarations is to follow international standards and harmonize data requirements. As such, Standard 3.11 of the RKC requires for goods declarations the mandatory application of the UN Layout Key for paper forms, or the WCO Recommendations on electronic messages. The latter are consolidated in the WCO Data Model, which is based on existing UN and ISO standards. For paper forms, the Single Administrative Document (SAD) of the European Community is the most widely used standardized Customs form, as it is the basis for the Asycuda Customs IT System developed and promoted by UNCTAD.

Part of copy 1 of the SAD of the EU; Source: European Commission

In addition to international standard paper and electronic formats, Standard 3.12 of the RKC requires that Customs limit the data required in the goods declaration to only such particulars as are deemed necessary for the assessment and collection of duties and taxes, the compilation of statistics and the application of Customs law. The process of simplifying and harmonizing national data requirements against international standards is strongly supported by UNECE Recommendation 34, which gives step-by-step guidance on how to go about this process.

For low-value or non-dutiable items, the WCO Immediate Release Guidelines provide guidance on the goods declaration data required for the clearance of such items.

As for the cargo declaration, Recommended Practice 9 of Specific Annex A.1 of the RKC requires Customs to limit the data to that available to the carrier and based on documentation set out in relevant international agreements, such the IMO FAL forms as regulated in the IMO FAL Convention (for maritime traffic) and the air waybill as regulated by Annex 9 of the Chicago Convention and the Montreal Convention (for air traffic).

Customs should also ensure that electronic declarations can be authenticated electronically according to Standard 7.4 of the Revised Kyoto Convention.
According to Standard 3.39 of the RKC and also Article VIII of the GATT, Customs shall not impose substantial penalties for errors where they are satisfied that such errors are inadvertent and where there has been no fraudulent intent or gross negligence. If they consider it necessary to discourage a repetition of such errors, a penalty may be imposed but this must be no greater than is necessary for this purpose.

Additional Information (reference material, examples, etc.)

To find out more about the cost of trade and the benefits of trade facilitation, reference is made to the APEC study "Benefits of Trade and Investment Liberalization and Facilitation, 2002". The introduction of international standard paper forms and electronic messages is often part of a Customs automation project and may require an analysis and redesign of existing Customs procedures and processes.