Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Customs Catch-22, Vietnamese Looking for Non-existing Form

Our vocabulary phrase of the day is circulation tax, which in most places where it is used is a yearly excise tax on the value of the car. It is common enough in Europe where the EU had to work on harmonizing the application of circulation taxes.

With that in mind, we had a car importer trying to bring cars from Oregon to Vietnam, where a circulation tax certificate is one of the items on the needed paperwork to import a car. That creates a minor problem; Oregon (like most, if not all, US states) doesn’t have any circulation tax and thus doesn’t have any circulation tax certificates to hand out. Thus, the poor importer is in a Catch-22, trying to conjure up a document that doesn’t exist. In the meantime, the cars are sitting in limbo in Ho Chi Minh City (the post-war name for Saigon) waiting for the regulators to clear up the snafu.

I’m not sure if this isn’t a non-trade barrier for US cars; the lack of circulation tax paperwork can block US cars from the market. However, the old saying is that you shouldn’t attribute to malice what can better be attributed to stupidity; they might have forgotten that some places didn’t do circulation taxes, or if they did something similar, didn’t call it that.

Car haulers might need to fully understand where cars are going and to make sure they have the needed paperwork. There may be places where “we don’t have that form here” won’t be a valid answer, especially if you have a over-diligent customs clerk not wanting to make a mistake.