General Customs Procedures

OVERVIEW OF IMPORTS/EXPORTS

The Bahamas is presently in the process of transitioning from its traditional tax base of a Duty based economy, to an alternative tax such as V.A.T.  Presently, the Customs is the primary agency of collecting duty and taxes at importation and exportation.  Additionally, Customs is tasked with the collection of statistical data on imports and exports, policing the borders and collecting the relevant taxes upon importation.

The primary requirements of importing into or exporting from the Bahamas are proof of authorization for processing, proof of value of the goods (Invoices or receipts)and proof of freight charges (Bill of Lading or Freight Invoice) along with the relevant Customs documentations for declarations, depending on the purpose of the importation.

All imported goods shall be entered either for:–

  • Home consumption;
  • Warehousing in a bonded warehouse;
  • Temporary admission; or
  • For transshipment.

Goods being entered into the territory shall be entered in writing by the owner of the goods or an authorized agent –

  • In an electronic format
  • Within five days, exclusive of Sundays and public holidays of the commencement of discharge, or within such further time as the Comptroller may allow.

The owner of the goods or the authorized agent shall provide the Customs authority with full particulars supported by documentary evidence of the goods referred to in the entry.  All entries must be signed by either the owner of the goods or an authorized agent and the use of electronic signature is authorized for the purpose of making an entry under the Act.  The person entering goods shall—

  • Answer any question asked by the Customs officer with respect to the goods: and
  • On, request of the Customs officer, present the goods to the officer, remove any covering from the goods, unload any conveyance or open any part of it, or open and unpack any package or container that the officer wishes to examine.

Commercial

The determination of Commercial goods, for the purpose of the Customs is based on the goods being imported into Bahamas for sale or for any industrial, occupational, commercial, institutional or other like use.  Commercial in this context is not limited to remuneration or resale, but also includes business transactions for charitable uses.

Free Zone

At present, the only Free Zone in the Bahamas is Freeport which is outlined in the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.  There are, however provisions for further development of free zones in the Customs Management Act.

The 1955 Hawksbill Creek Agreement allows for duty free importation to the Hawksbill Creek area, specified in the agreement, for ninety nine years in Chapter 261 of the Statue Laws of The Bahamas.  It is a privately operated agreement, owned and operated by the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA).  An application for the benefits to the Hawksbill Creek Agreement may be obtained by institution of a CB9 Bond of a minimum of $5000 and a license from the Port Authority.  The bond amount sets a limit to the transactions in the bond environment.

Other Freezones that are provided for by the Act are for the encouragement of Agriculture, manufacturing and industry.  Similar to the Hawksbill creek agreement, these are facilities which can be negotiated with The Government and will require bonds and the setting up of bonded facilities.  All Freezones are facilitated with bonds.

Personal/Non-Commercial

  • Goods may, subject to any regulations, be imported in the Customs Territory exempt of duties and taxes where:-
  • They are contained in the personal baggage of the passengers, or members of the crew, of any aircraft or vessel arriving from a point outside of the Customs territory;
  • They are of a non-commercial nature within the limits of the duty-free allowance; and
  • There are non-material indications to suggest the goods are a part of the commercial traffic.
  • Goods which are the bona fide belongings of the passengers, or members of the crew, of any aircraft or vessel arriving from a point outside of the Customs territory may, subject to any regulations, be imported in the Customs territory exempt of duties and taxes.
  • Prohibited and restricted goods are not provided for under these provisions under any law from the time being in force in The Bahamas.

Goods purchased during travel and imported from another territory into the Customs territory are not considered as personal/non-commercial goods until they are duly cleared into the territory.

Motor Vehicles

The Importation of vehicles is restricted to vehicles less than ten years old.  This means that for any vehicle to be imported above ten years old (From the date of manufacture) special permission must be granted by the Ministry of Finance in advance of the importation.

For vehicles to be processed and duly entered in The Bahamas it is required that there are:

  • Documentations of the condition, in the form of a Conditional Report
  • Proof of purchase/ownership in the form of Invoice and Title
  • Proof of importation in the form of Bill of Lading and Freight Invoice

All other supporting documents could only facilitate the smooth processing of the vehicle.

VALUATION OF GOODS

A concern for most persons is the valuation of the vehicle upon arrival.  The Bahamas Customs and Excise Department valuation all goods based on the following principle:

  1. Transactional value or the Price Actually Paid or Payable (PAPP) is the first tier of valuation. This is the price where there is no interference.  The price that is unconditional to a relationship between the buyer and seller.  Duty is charged primarily on this value and is not adjustable once it can be proven that the value is the authentic valued paid to the vendor;
  2. If there is not a clear case of PAPP in a purchase, the officer may move to the principal of Transactional Value of Identical Goods. This may entail research in determining what the market price is for goods of an identical nature, meaning exact in every way, name brand, size and description etc.  The Value of identical good may be applied in law for the processing in the absence of PAPP;
  3. If there is no way of finding a value of an identical good, or if the item is an original, then Customs may move to determine the value based on the Transaction Value of Similar Goods. In this research, it may be determined that the name brand or size may not be the exact as the one being imported, but there is some value that may be able to be derived from the value of similar goods.
  4. If the Transactional Value of Similar goods cannot be determined, then the Deductive Value must be derived. Deductive value is based on the value per unit rather than the value of the complete shipment.
  5. Computed Value is used when a Deductive Value cannot be determined. It I the calculating of costs, charges and expenses incurred in respect of, or the value of materials, production, any other services or production or any profit involved in manufacturing the goods.

All goods being exported are required to have an invoice, and a Notice from the Shipper.  The bill of Lading will be created once the Entries are processed and paid to the Customs.

Commercial

The exportation of goods that are wholly obtained in the Bahamas requires a certificate of Origin which can be applied for from the Customs.  While duty is not applied to exported goods, Wholly Obtained goods may attract royalties and processing fees of 1% (Min. $10 and Max $500).  Any other commercial exports which may be re-exportations within themselves may be exported without any restriction with the exception of restricted goods, such as copper, or any prohibited goods, whose exportation must be carefully monitored.

Personal/Non/Commercial

  • Goods may, subject to any regulations, be exported from the Customs territory exempt of duties and taxes where:–
    1. They are contained in the personal baggage of the passengers, or members of the crew, of any aircraft or vessel departing from the Customs territory to a point outside of the Customs territory;
    2. They are of a con-commercial nature within the limits of the duty free allowance; and
    3. There are no material indications to suggest the goods are a part of commercial traffic.
  • Goods which are the bona fide belongings of the passengers, or members of the crew, of any aircraft or vessel departing from the Customs territory may, subject to any regulations, be imported in the Customs territory exempt of duties and taxes.
  • Prohibited and restricted goods are not provided for under these provisions under any law from the time being in force in The Bahamas
CLEARANCE FORMS FOR AIRCRAFTS & VESSELS

Cruise Ships

The following documents are required:

  1. Clearance from last port
  2. Form C2 – Inward report of vessels
  3. Form C4 – Vessels passenger list
  4. Form C5 – Declaration of Consumable Stores
  5. Form C6 – Declaration of dutiable goods in possession of the crew
  6. Ten dollars postage stamp
  7. Health declaration

 

Pleasure Vessels

Applicable to:

Pleasure Vessels (Arriving Under It’s Own Power)

Pleasure Vessels Imported By a Bona-Fide Visitor 

 

The following documents are required:

  1. Inward report pleasure vessel – Form C2A
  2. Cruising permit (Form C39) issued by Customs after clearance
  3. A pleasure vessel arriving in The Bahamas shall be subject to a fee of BS$150.00 Dollars up to 35 feet and three hundred BS$300 dollars for vessels more than 35 feet. If the vessel departs and returns within 90 days, it is exempted from payments of fees. This fee is to cover the cost of a Fishing Permit, a Cruising Permit, Attendance Fee and transportation fees payable to a Customs and Immigration Department.
  4. Where a pleasure vessel under paragraph one carries more than three passengers, every additional passenger of or above the age of six years, who is not a resident of the Bahamas, shall be subject to a tax of BS$20.00 as specified under The Passenger Tax Act.

The Owner/Master of a pleasure vessel after completion of the necessary arrival document is issued with a Temporary Cruising Permit (Form C-39) for twelve months, initially. After the twelve month period, the Comptroller, on application, can subsequently renew the Cruising Permit for a fee of BS$500.00 each year up to two years, making a period of stay in The Bahamas, three years in total. At the end of the three year period the vessel must leave the Bahamas or be duty paid.

No Customs clearance is required for vessels under this category when leaving for the United States. However the master of the vessel is required to return the Cruising Permit form C39 and Immigration cards by mail to (Comptroller of Customs P.O. Box N-155 Nassau, Bahamas).

 

Pleasure Vessels (Not Arriving Under its Own Power) 

The following documents are required:

  1. Entered on Form C41
  2. Deposit equal to Customs duty required on bond Form CB7
  3. Once entered cruising permission will be granted on Customs form C42. (Temporary Import Permit for pleasure vessels not arriving under it’s own power)

 

The Owner/Master of a pleasure vessel after completion of the necessary arrival document is issued with a Temporary Cruising Permit (Form C-39) for twelve months, initially. After the twelve month period, the Comptroller, on application, can subsequently renew the Cruising Permit for a fee of BS$500.00 Dollars each year up to two years, making a period of stay in The Bahamas, three years in total. At the end of the three year period the vessel must leave the Bahamas or be duty paid.

 

If the pleasure vessel leaves on a freighter the form C41 will be used as the export entry and all other relevant documents (form C39 Cruising Permit and form C42 Temporary Import Permit as well as the Immigration Forms) must be surrendered at this time.

 

Pleasure Vessels (Domestic Based) 

The following documents are required:

  1. Entered on Form C2A.
  2. Proof of duty payment of vessel required.
  3. All goods acquired while abroad must also be duty paid including all fuel in excess of 800 gallons
  4. Travel throughout the Bahamas on Form C38

Returning residents, much like clearing through the airport, can claim an exemption of $500.00 per person twice per year.

Commercial Aircraft

The following documents are required when a commercial aircraft is being entered.

  1. Form C7 – Aircraft general declaration.
  2. Form C8 – Aircraft cargo manifest (If the Aircraft Has Cargo)
  3. Form C9 – Aircraft passenger manifest (Not Normally Required)

 

Private Aircraft

The following documents are required

  1. Form C7A – Inward declaration and Cruising Permit for private air craft

 

 

Click the link below to easily download requirements.

 Aircraft and Vessel Requirements

IMPORTS AND EXPORT OF GOODS FOR EXPORT FOR USE OF STORES OR EXPORT

Under customs regulations, cargo being removed from bonded warehouses for exportation, must complete and submit a C25 Form (Ex – Warehouse Export Entry For Goods For Exportation / For Goods For Use As Stores) for processing. 

Eligibility

Businesses with cargo in bonded warehouses. 

Process

  1. Complete relevant form.
  2. Present form and supporting documents to the Customs Aided Industries Section of the Customs Department.
  3. Pay import duties.
  4. Collect goods when released from bonded warehouse. 

Application Form(s)

C25 Form: Ex – Warehouse Export Entry For Goods For Exportation / For Goods For Use As Stores (This Form can be collected from the Customs Department) 

Supporting Documents

  • Completed Forms.
  • Invoices showing amount of goods being taken out of bonded warehouse.
  • For individuals – passport or driver’s license.
  • For businesses – valid business license. 

Turn-around time

This service can be completed within 2 – 24 hours after submission of documents. 

Deadline

There are no deadlines for this service. 

Related Fee(s)

There is a processing fee of $25.00 associated with this service.

All applications are to be submitted electronically to the Customs Department through the electronic interface system. 

A Customs Broker will charge for the preparation of supporting documents.

ENTRY OF GOODS FOR HOME CONSUMPTION

Under customs regulations, persons or businesses bringing cargo into the country must complete and submit a “Home Consumption Entry Form” at the time of arrival. 

Eligibility

All persons importing cargo on a vessel or aircraft. 

Process

  1. Collect documents from shipping / airline agent.
  2. Complete relevant forms.
  3. Present forms and supporting documents to Customs Entry Checking.
  4. Pay import duties.
  5. Collect goods.

Application Form(s)

  1. C13 Form – Home Consumption Entry Form
  2. C43 Form – Declaration of Value

 Supporting Documents

  • Completed Forms.
  • Invoices (where applicable).
  • Shipping documents (bill of lading / airway bill, any other documents provided by the supplier).
  • Agricultural Permit (mandatory based on items).
  • Phytosanitary Certificate (mandatory based on items).
  • For individuals – passport or NIB or driver’s license.
  • For businesses – valid business license.

Turn-around time

This service can be completed within 2 to 24 hours after submission of documents. 

Deadline

Goods not collected within five working days (Monday-Saturday) will be transferred to the Government Warehouse where charges are applicable for removal. 

Related Fee(s)

Processing fees – 1% of C.I.F. Value (min $10.00, max $500.00).  Environmental fee ($1.00 – $500.00). V.A.T – 12% on all landed charges. All applications are to be submitted electronically to the Customs Department through the electronic interface system. 

The Customs Broker will charge fees for the preparation of your supporting documents.

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Release of perishable or other goods prior to payment of duty. 

Businesses concerned with perishable imports can request permission for the removal of these perishable goods prior to entry submission and payment of duty.

Eligibility 

All businesses importing perishable goods. A CB-1 Bond ( for Delivery of Perishable or Other Goods Prior to Payment of Delivery) is a pre-approved amount has to be in place with the Customs Department prior .  To enquire on bonds, please contact our Temporary Imports/Bonds Section. 

Process 

  1. Complete relevant forms.
  2. Present documents to the Comptroller of Customs.
  3. Collect goods.
  4. Pay import duties.

Application Form(s) 

C19 Form – Application for release of perishable or other goods prior to payment of duty 

Supporting Documents 

  1. Completed required C19 form (Application for release of perishable or other goods prior to payment of duty).
  2. Completed CB1 form.
  3. Invoices (where applicable).
  4. Shipping / Airline documents (bill of lading / airway bill, any other documents provided by the supplier).
  5. Agricultural Permit (optional based on items).
  6. Phytosanitary Certificate (optional based on items).
  7. For individuals – Proof of ownership/identification (passport or driver’s licence).
  8. For businesses – Proof of valid business licence.

Turn-around time 

Immediate. 

Deadline 

The applicant has 10 days to complete payment of duties and taxes. 

Related Fee(s) 

There is a processing fee of $25.00 associated with this service.

The Customs Broker may charge for preparation of supporting documents. 

CONDITIONALLY DUTY FREE ITEMS

Under customs regulations, all persons importing cargo into the country on board a vessel or airline, must complete and submit a Form for Entry of goods imported conditionally duty free under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (C14) for processing. This applies to Freeport, Grand Bahama only. 

Eligibility

All persons importing cargo.

Note: this applies to imports in Freeport, Grand Bahama only.

 Process

  1. Collect relevant documents from shipping/airline agent.
  2. Complete relevant forms.
  3. Present completed forms and supporting documents to the Customs Entry Checking. 

Application Form(s)

  1. C14 Form –Entry of Goods Imported Conditionally Duty Free
  2. C43 Form – Declaration of Value 

Supporting Documents

  • Completed C14 form (Entry for goods imported conditionally duty free under Hawksbill Creek Agreement).
  • Completed C43 form (Declaration of Value).
  • Invoices.
  • Shipping / Airline documents (bill of lading / airway bill, any other documents provided by supplier).
  • Agricultural Permit (mandatory based on items).
  • Phytosanitary Certificate (mandatory based on items).
  • For individuals – Identification (passport or driver’s license).
  • For businesses – A valid business license.

 Turn-around time

This service can be completed within 2 – 24 hours after submission of documents. 

Deadline

There are no deadlines for this service. 

Related Fee(s)

  • There is a processing fee of $25.00 associated with this service.
  • Environmental Levy 1% of C.I.F. Value (min $10.00, max $500.00)

A Customs Broker will charge for the preparation of supporting documents.

ENTRY OF GOODS FOR EXPORTATION

Under customs regulations, cargo being removed from bonded warehouses for exportation, must complete and submit a C25 Form (Ex – Warehouse Export Entry For Goods For Exportation / For Goods For Use As Stores) for processing. 

Eligibility

Businesses with cargo in bonded warehouses. 

Process

  1. Complete relevant form.
  2. Present form and supporting documents to the Customs Aided Industries Section of the Customs Department.
  3. Pay import duties.
  4. Collect goods when released from bonded warehouse. 

Application Form(s)

C25 Form: Ex – Warehouse Export Entry For Goods For Exportation / For Goods For Use As Stores (This Form can be collected from the Customs Department) 

Supporting Documents

  • Completed Forms.
  • Invoices showing amount of goods being taken out of bonded warehouse.
  • For individuals – passport, NIB or driver’s license.
  • For businesses – valid business license. 

Turn-around time

This service can be completed within 2 – 24 hours after submission of documents. 

Deadline

There are no deadlines for this service. 

Related Fee(s)

There is a processing fee of $25.00 associated with this service. 

All applications are to be submitted electronically to the Customs Department through the electronic interface system. 

A Customs Broker will charge for the preparation of supporting documents. 

GOVERNMENT CONCESSIONS

The Laws of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas makes provision for concessions for the development of the country.  These concessions are granted based on qualifications of the applicant to the relevant act.  Some concessions provide for complete tax exemption of duty while other concessions provide for a reduction of duties.  The reason is to encourage Industrial development, Agriculture, Hotel and Tourism or Manufacturing.  Further concessions are granted for emergency recovery through NEMA as well as development of specific Historical or cultural protection and development.

The Following are Exemptions and Concessions Offered by the Ministry of Finance

In addition, there are numerous business and investment incentives offered by the Government of the Bahamas which are regulated and enforced by the Customs Department. These incentives were created to attract more foreign investors to the Islands of the Bahamas.  For further information please refer to the following;

https://www.bahamas.gov.bs/wps/portal/public/investment%20incentives/investment%20incentives

 

RATES OF DUTY FOR FREQUENTLY IMPORTED GOODS

BREAD BASKET ITEMS VAT FREE

 

 

Rates and Duties of Frequently Imported Items

AUTHORIZED LICENSED CUSTOMS BROKERS BY CUSTOMS

(INFORMATION PENDING)…

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

What are intellectual property rights?

Intellectual Property Rights (Bahamas)

WCO- Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time.

Intellectual property rights are customarily divided into two main areas:

 

(i) Copyright and rights related to copyright

The rights of authors of literary and artistic works (such as books and other writings, musical compositions, paintings, sculpture, computer programs and films) are protected by copyright, for a minimum period of 50 years after the death of the author.

Also protected through copyright and related (sometimes referred to as “neighbouring”) rights are the rights of performers (e.g. actors, singers and musicians), producers of phonograms (sound recordings) and broadcasting organizations. The main social purpose of protection of copyright and related rights is to encourage and reward creative work.

(ii) Industrial property.

Industrial property can usefully be divided into two main areas:

  • One area can be characterized as the protection of distinctive signs, in particular trademarks (which distinguish the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings) and geographical indications (which identify a good as originating in a place where a given characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin).The protection of such distinctive signs aims to stimulate and ensure fair competition and to protect consumers, by enabling them to make informed choices between various goods and services. The protection may last indefinitely, provided the sign in question continues to be distinctive.
  • Other types of industrial property are protected primarily to stimulate innovation, design and the creation of technology. In this category fall inventions (protected by patents), industrial designs and trade secrets.The social purpose is to provide protection for the results of investment in the development of new technology, thus giving the incentive and means to finance research and development activities.A functioning intellectual property regime should also facilitate the transfer of technology in the form of foreign direct investment, joint ventures and licensing.The protection is usually given for a finite term (typically 20 years in the case of patents).

While the basic social objectives of intellectual property protection are as outlined above, it should also be noted that the exclusive rights given are generally subject to a number of limitations and exceptions, aimed at fine-tuning the balance that has to be found between the legitimate interests of right holders and of users.

(Excerpt from WTO https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/intel1_e.htm)