Friday, December 08, 2006

King, crown prince made to pay tax

Now it seems that Royal family members are bounded by the law. Probably for the first time in the history of Nepal since the founding of the Shah dynasty 238 years ago the King and Crown Prince have been made to pay tax.

The Customs Office at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) on Wednesday charged Rs 53,739 as duty and tax on 50 pieces of torch light that came recently from the US in the name of King Gyanendra.

The office also charged Rs 77,193 in customs duty, demurrage charge, tax and fine earlier when royal palace officials reached TIA to acquire a 'Hunting Trophy' that came from Vienna, Austria, for Crown Prince Paras, an official said, preferring anonymity.

"We released the torch lights and the Hunting Trophy after slapping Rs 130,702 in customs duty and other charges," the official said.

The 19 kg parcel containing 50 pieces of black rechargeable torch light had arrived at the airport Customs Office from the US in the name of "the King of Nepal" through courier service recently. The Hunting Trophy had arrived on September 10.

Following restoration of democracy in the country in April, the reinstated House of Representatives had made a historic proclamation on May 18 declaring that all royal property as well as the income of the king and royal family members would be taxed.

The customs official said, "This is the first time in the history of the country that tax and other charges have been slapped on goods imported for the king and royal family members."

If there is continued support from political parties, civil society, civil administration and the government, no one will be able to evade taxes and customs duty in future, he added.

On Wednesday, officials from the palace reached the Customs Office and produced letters from the Department of Commerce (DoC) and invoices amounting to 2,245 Euros (Rs 214,105) for the Hunting Trophy and US$ 2,233 (Rs 159,972) for the torchlights.

The office charged Rs 77,193 tax on the Hunting Trophy including 15 percent customs duty, 2 percent insurance charge, 1.5 percent local tax, Rs 1,607 demurrage charge. On the total sum 13 percent VAT was charged before releasing the trophy, the source said.

When asked about the purpose of the letters from the DoC, the official said the Customs Office needs the letters in order to release goods that do not have Letter of Credit and self-declaration form. "We cannot release such goods without taking consent from the DoC," he added.

Meanwhile, the 56 kg Hunting Trophy packed in a wooden box, which arrived by Gulf Air cargo had remained unclaimed at the Customs Office for the last 88 days. According to the official, the trophy is a round, gold-plated item.

A few days after the trophy arrived, some officials from the palace had reached the Customs Office to collect the parcel. They said that they were sent by Sagar Prasad Timilsina, chief of the Private Secretariat at the Royal Palace. They, however, returned empty-handed after the Customs Office asked for an invoice to charge necessary customs duty.

According to the Financial Act, if the concerned person fails to collect goods from Customs Office within seven days of arrival, s/he can claim it within three months by clearing all customs duty and demurrage charge.

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