General information on the procedure for the definitive import of merchandise in El Salvador

By: Carlos Pineda                       

The Customs Regime that covers the entry of goods from abroad for their definitive use or consumption in the Salvadoran customs territory is known as Definitive Importation, according to Art. 92 of the Central American Uniform Customs Code (CAUCA).

To this effect, the first thing to keep in mind is that Art. 61 of the CAUCA establishes that any means of transportation in which cargo or merchandise is moved and that crosses the border, shall be received by the competent customs authority. Therefore, upon arrival at land borders or entry points such as maritime or air customs, the first thing to do is to notify the customs authority; then, the customs service receives the goods contained in the means of transport.

Subsequently, the customs service receives the goods declarations together with their supporting documentation (commercial invoice, transport documents, visas, permits, among others, as the case may be), to determine the customs regime to which the goods will be subject.

At this point, we must point out that the goods declaration is called Single Central American Declaration (DUCA), which is the document that unites the three main types of customs declarations that cover the trade of goods in Central America.

In this regard, it is necessary to differentiate the different types of DUCAs, which are briefly described below:

  1. DUCA F: integrates the Central American Single Customs Form (FAUCA), used for intra-regional trade of goods originating in the Central American region.
  2. DUCA T: integrated by the Declaration for International Land Customs Transit, also known as DUT, used for the international land transit of goods in Central America.
  3. DUCA D: composed of the Goods Declaration, also known as DUA or DM, used for trade with third countries outside the Central American region.

The first is through the ex officio declaration, which is mostly applied for those goods that are not destined for domestic trade. On the other hand, it can be carried out by self-determined or transmitted DUCA, modality in which the customs agent or the special customs agent, who will carry out all the procedures before the customs service, this type of management is mostly used for those goods that will be destined to national commerce.

Based on Art. 326 of the Regulations to the Central American Uniform Customs Code (RECAUCA), if the customs service establishes that the DUCA and supporting documents are complete, it will proceed to its acceptance; otherwise, it will be rejected indicating the reasons why it is not accepted, and the interested party may resubmit the Declaration.

All DUCAS are subject to a Risk Management analysis, based on Art. 334 of RECAUCA, and the following may result from such selectivity analysis, as it is commonly known:

  1. That the customs service establishes that it is not necessary to carry out a review, and, therefore, will authorize the release of the goods.
  2. That the customs service establishes the need to carry out an immediate verification of the goods.

In the case of authorizing the release of the goods, the customs authority will allow the declarants to dispose of the goods that have been subject to customs clearance and may be removed from the respective customs facilities, upon payment of the corresponding taxes.

On the other hand, if the need to carry out an immediate verification is established, a customs control method will be initiated, which may consist of documentary review or physical and documentary examination, for the purpose of verifying the exact compliance with customs obligations. In this case, the goods must be prepared by the declarant to be verified by the official designated for such purpose.

If during the immediate verification procedure, it is determined that everything declared is correct, the release of the goods will be authorized. On the other hand, if it is determined that there are discrepancies, the administrative process of informal determination of taxes and/or application of penalties will be initiated in accordance with the provisions of the Special Law to Sanction Customs Violations (LEPSIA) and the Customs Simplification Law (LSA).

In this sense, if the discrepancies are accepted and the determined taxes and/or penalties are paid, the customs service will authorize the declarant to release the goods in order to dispose of them.

However, in case of disagreement with the result of the immediate verification, in the case of resolutions that make an informal determination of taxes and/or impose penalties, there is the possibility of filing the corresponding appeal for review, before the General Directorate of Customs within a peremptory term of 10 working days; and in the event of an unfavorable resolution, an appeal may be filed before the Court of Appeals of Internal Taxes and Customs, within a peremptory term of 15 working days.

For further information, please contact Dr. Diego Martín (dmartin@consortiumlegal.com) and/or e-mail taxelsalvador@consortiumlegal.com.