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Bureaucracy

Undoing the knots

Federal Tax Authorities and Anvisa regulatory body facilitate the importing of research material

Researchers got two pieces of good news in less than two months. On January 23, the Diário Oficial da União (Federal Official Gazette) published Resolution No. 1 of the Board Anvisa (the National Agency for Sanitary Surveillance), which facilitates the importing and exporting of scientific and technological research material used by researchers or institutions. On December 27, 2007, the Federal Tax Authorities published Normative Ruling No. 7999, which establishes that the importing of animals, plants, viruses, bacteria, machines and equipment for research be diverted to the Green Channel (Canal Verde), an automatic customs clearance system that eliminates the physical verification of merchandise acquired by scientists registered with the CNPq, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development.

Anvisa and the Ministry of Finances complied with the requirements of Presidential Decree No.6262, of November 20, 2007, which granted a period of 45 days (extended for an equal amount of time) to the Ministries of Finances, Science and Technology, Health, and Development, Industry and Foreign Trade to simplify the importing of materials used in research projects. “It is very clear that the government intends to create a more favorable environment for research,” says Luiz Eugênio Mello, president of the Federation of Experimental Biology Societies, and dean of the Graduate Courses at the Federal University of São Paulo/Unifesp. In his opinion, Anvisa’s resolution is innovative, given that its Article 6 ensures customs clearance priority and release of products within 24 hours. He has also identified “advances” in the resolution’s Article 4, which holds the researcher – and the institution that the researcher is connected to – responsible for possible damage to individual or collective health or to the environment, “arising from changes in the stated purpose of the entry of the material into the national territory.” In his evaluation, both the Brazilian academic community and the regulatory agency are mature enough to take on new responsibilities.

The “maturity” of the research community facilitated the decision of the Ministry of Finance to facilitate imports: in the last two years, the Federal Tax Authorities did not identify any frauds. “Most of the problems are related to mistakes in the forwarding procedures,” says Wagner Castro, deputy head of the Federal Tax Department’s Division of Customs Risk Management. Starting this year, product inspections by the Federal Tax Authorities are to be conducted at a later stage, to check whether the imported material is actually being used for any purpose other than research. “If an imported computer is used for another purpose, the Federal Tax Authorities will charge the taxes owed, along with the interest and the fine,” he says.

The new procedure cut the customs clearance time from 14 to 7 days. “Our intention is to make the lives of researchers easier, as their material is often not cleared; in addition, we want to avoid this research material from entering the country by unlawful means, which might lead to criminal charges accusing the researchers of smuggling.”

However, Castro recommends that researchers be careful about the description of the imported material. Most of the mistakes that occur regarding such imports occur on the import form forwarded to the government’s Siscomex import and export agency. The form is filled out by a customs forwarder based on the information provided by the importer. “When the description is incomplete, then the tax classification is changed,” he warns, referring to the Harmonized Markets Classification System, which establishes the internationally valid code numbers for different products.

Interested parties can get more information on the import procedures from the Federal Tax Department’s website (www.receita.fazenda.gov.br/aduana/PesquisaCientifica.htm) and from the CNPq website: www.cnpq.br/programasespeciais/importa/index.htm.

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