In a bid to increase the efficiency of collecting import taxes and value-added tax (VAT) on the remaining unpaid vehicles in the country, the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) has advised the heads of all branches and bureaus to extend their office hours.

In a July 26 letter, GDCE director-general Kun Nhim said the extension is especially important for the owners of right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles as the October 31 deadline for them to register approaches. The ultimatum for paying import taxes and VAT on RHD vehicles is October 8.

If necessary, the letter said, they should offer their services until 8pm and remain open all weekend. Because the deadline for registration is July 31, it added, the branches should remain open until 10pm that day.

The GDCE said that from August 1, customs officers will be prepared to impound all unregistered vehicles they encounter.

In Kampong Speu province, customs and excise relations officer Som Oun Samrith said his office had received the letter and were following the instructions. If more and more vehicle owners start coming forward, they are ready to extend their hours even more. He noted, however, that quite a few had come to the office and paid.

“We have followed the instructions and are continuing to assist vehicle owners as they come forward to register their vehicles and pay taxes. I can’t give you an exact number as it keeps increasing,” he said.

San Chey, executive director of the NGO Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the government’s tightening of tax obligations was a positive step that contributes to the state coffers.

Chey also requested that the GDCE make it easier for people to register existing untaxed vehicles. If a complex procedure could be avoided, it would encourage the owners to come forward.

“The fulfilment of equal obligations before the law is inevitable, and necessary. At the same time, we want to see the procedure eased. I think the authorities should prioritise vehicle owners who have yet to pay taxes so they can meet their obligations but not have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to do so,” he added.

The deadline for registering RHD vehicles remains July 31, but the GDCE extended the due date for tax payments to October 18. Owners of untaxed left-hand drive vehicles have until October 8 to avoid fines.