Bulgarian Customs – Ignorance, Incompetence or Both?

Doing Business in Bulgaria sometimes is not fun!

I got really pissed off today like I do every time I encounter these small injustices which surround our life.
According to the Bulgarian Customs Administration this LED 8×8 Matrix is back-light for LCD Televisions!

Why? Because LED Matrix indicators as components have no import taxes, but the LCD TV back-light have 4.5% import tax.

Searching TARIC for tariff code of LED panels return this code 8531202090:

but the problem is that it have … 0% import tax which doesn’t satisfy the customs.

The local customs TARIC “specialist” decided that this is in the LAMP chapter of TARIC as there are import taxes 9405403990:

I argued for 15 minutes trying to explain that LED matrix functionality is to present INFORMATION not just to emit light, then she called her supervisors in Sofia and they confirm, the LED matrix indicators are LCD TV back-light parts and nothing else.
At this point I just gave up any arguments, as I know from past experience, the poor woman can’t put any other tariff code than what told her from Sofia, if she does they will cut her bonus, or worse decide that she took bribe to put tariff code with less import taxes.
The tariff specialists have economic education they are not technical people they make no difference between LAMP and LED indicator, but at least in Sofia central customs office I expected to have SOMEONE who at least have glue for this stuff.

To my question why special TARIC number 853120 where is expressly written LED panels exist in the tariff book, the answer was: this number is just for these large complete panels used at the railways, public places etc, the LED matrix is not there as have no controller inside! Period 🙂

So if there is LED it’s LAMP and nothing else, and not any LAMP but one of these used for TV backlight because they have highest import tax, that’s it!

I know we live in hard times of financial crisis and the government needs more money.

I understand this and I do everything I can to help Bulgarian economy. Believe me our company does export business 99% of our sales are for export, we bring money into the economy selling high tech products like Linux computers all around the world, but I can’t accept to tariff LED matrix indicator as TV backlight just to take 4.5% to the budged, this is not right!

This way producing in Bulgaria becomes inefficient immediately with 4.5% as other competitors pay nothing when import components.

Bulgarian Customs do not play fair, in fact they cheat. I still can’t figure out if this is ignorance, incompetence or just they have targets which they try to meet by any possible means, even by smashing down the Bulgarian manufacturers.

If you read the government press releases you will get impression that Bulgaria is something like heaven in Europe, we have 10% income tax, 10% corporate profit tax, everything looks so bright and cool on paper that you do not understand how come all European companies didn’t closed their factories on the spot and moved over-here.

The truth however which we all, who try to do business in Bulgaria see every day is that: Bulgaria have most ignorant and incompetent administration in Europe, sure it’s improving with the years specially since Bulgaria joined EU in 2007 and now we are lighting years ahead from the dark ages before, but this do not change the facts that every Bulgarian businessman banging his head into the administration wall several times each year in situations like this.

You probably thinking I’m affected and overreacting, this is for sure, you may bet I’m affected, but what I saw today is not isolated case.

Have look at my friend Radoslav Kolev Odyssey here original text in Bulgarian http://kolev.info/bg/evala_be_elektronna_mitnica  for those who do not read Bulgarian here is the Google’s  funny attempt for translation. I’m sure you will still get it what is all about:  http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=bg&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fkolev.info%2Fbg%2Fevala_be_elektronna_mitnica

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Greg
    Nov 07, 2012 @ 19:22:43

    I can’t believe you are taking such a negative stand on this issue. I am desperate for my LCD TV screen to have a red backlight and you are preventing it happening. White is so 2011, red backlights all the way baby 🙂

    Who needs to see white, blue or yellow pixels? All the cool kids watch red screens in movies 😛


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Nov 07, 2012 @ 19:25:10

      actually I’m laughing now when I read what I wrote, I’ll better open beer and relax 🙂 the steam is released


      • Greg
        Nov 07, 2012 @ 19:30:42

        I really do understand where you are coming from, would they honestly expect someone to pay more for the backlights on a 60″ LED TV than the TV itself would cost?

        Rant away, every day this governmental scam (and it is nothing more than a legalised scam) is occurring it is taking money directly out of your purse which can only cause problems for us, the consumer, down the line – whether it be footing the enforced price hike or you guys not having the liquid assets to put more into R&D of your next project.

  2. ted
    Nov 08, 2012 @ 01:23:43

    Seriously this has nothing to do with bulgarian. It’s the same here in France and customs have the power to detroy your job : they can if they decide lock you whole shippement of electronics from china for any reason : like porducts are said to be CE but something is wron g in the CE documentation : then it must be destroyed.. Actually they try to find any excuse to delay/over taxed/ destroy any product that comes from china/taiwan.. So it’s a risky job.. you’r not alone 😉


  3. cnxsoft
    Nov 08, 2012 @ 06:12:44

    I don’t do business, but I do import quite a few things in Thailand, and believe me I’m really scratching my head sometimes. When I received something (usually electronics products/dev boards), whether I get charged customs tax or not seems random, once they also changed the price declared on the package, as they decided it was too cheap.


  4. Max
    Nov 08, 2012 @ 10:07:18

    I’m quite familiar with this sort of thing here on the other side of the border (Romania) – it’s guaranteed impossible to ask anything beforehand from such an institution (like customs) and then rely on the answer to hold true when you actually face another person from the same institution in a different place. Whatever the one person standing in front of you decides at any point is the rule. Next time with somebody else it might be the same or it might not. And yes, it pisses the hell out of me too.


  5. Pierre Ghislain
    Nov 10, 2012 @ 13:07:14

    Those importation tarif are European based and 4.5% of taxes is very low. On equipments, we get 15% taxes. It also depends of the country origin. I believe that everything coming from South Coreia is now with no taxes at all. In Portugal it is the same crazy classification. We have to accept it after some negociation of course. Don’t weep, its the same all over Europe and here we have 23% of VAT, a fixed anual tax to have the business open, taxes on all the indirect costs, taxes on profits, taxes of bank transaction, taxes on penalties, taxes on publiciticy and marketing, taxes on renting, taxes on gasoline, taxes on eating, etc… Bulgaria is an Heaven !


  6. octapod
    Nov 10, 2012 @ 17:27:31

    If this makes you feel any better (after the beer wears off ;-)), the customs dept. in many other parts of the world, are no better, and in fact, sometimes, worse. Their motivation (or lack there-of), corruption, constraints, operating style are pretty much similar. The ITS HC-codes, are a nice tool, to arm twist importers into doing one of 2 things, either bribe to get a cheaper HC-code tagged, or meet the revenue targets.


  7. Big Akis
    Nov 10, 2012 @ 19:12:01

    Cross the border and come to Greece.
    If you ever manage to pass through bribing and bureaucracy to set up a business, it will take you no more than 1 month to return back to Bulgaria.
    Are you really complaining about 4.5% tax? I pray every night to God to have tax lower than 10%!!!!


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Nov 10, 2012 @ 21:00:06

      I’m not complaining for the tax, if I were importing LCD TV back-lights I would accept that this is necessary, but what pissed me off is that this is completely different product which have 0% import tax, and they accept that the final product informational display is with 0% import tax, but the component for it should be charged 4.5% , quite big stimulation to import comlete displays from China instead to import components and manufacture displays locally and pay salaries to the people who will work to produce it! no logic, no sense


  8. riscy00
    Nov 11, 2012 @ 08:11:24

    I have similar issue in Varna Custom, they really know nothing about electronics products. I had to open the box from Digikey to explain what capacitor really is as electronics components!


  9. riscy00
    Nov 11, 2012 @ 08:19:41

    Where do you get TARIC number to search for code.


  10. Mehmet Alinbay
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 12:03:53

    Same problems in Turkey(maybe worse). Customs MUST HAVE technical people. My friend bought an ARM9 development board with 7″TFT-LCD and Turkish custom said “it’s a computer part”. It means you have to be Computer part Importer company to get it. So my friend left the board in custom because custom fee is 5x than board fee(and of course he’s not a company just a student).

    I bet Turkish custom is the worst one…


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Nov 13, 2012 @ 12:10:06

      15 years ago we worked for export to Turkey and I agree for the Turkish customs 🙂 Bulgarian customs were same at that time, but once Bulgaria joined EU thing improved a lot, but as you can see there is still what to improve 😉


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