The Central American Uniform Customs Code (CAUCA), and its regulation known as RECAUCA, are the customs procedures framework in force in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica. CAUCA IV modernizes regional customs by implementing uniform documents, allowing electronic transmission of customs information, and permitting electronic prepayment of charges, tariffs, and taxes. CAUCA and RECAUCA are currently under review by the Central American customs authorities to simplify and modernize customs procedures.
In July 2018, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly approved the country’s incorporation into the Customs Union established by Guatemala and Honduras in June 2017. El Salvador began moving into the operational phase, which included working to harmonize regulations and procedures, integrate border posts, establish interconnectivity between automated systems, and train customs officials on the new procedures. Implementation stalled temporarily in 2020 as the government decided to re-prioritize bilateral trade facilitation with Guatemala. In October 2021, however, the Salvadoran government announced it would proceed with Customs Union implementation, now called Deep Integration. El Salvador rejoined technical-level working group discussions, resumed testing of system interconnectivity, and aims to join the Customs Union by December 2022.
El Salvador has an Electronic Payment System (P@GOES-DGA), which allows companies to make online payments of import tariffs and related taxes of a Merchandise Declaration. The system is available 24/7, reducing time and costs to the private sector.
The amount outlined in the commercial invoice is used to determine the tariff assessment. If there is doubt about the accuracy of the stated price, El Salvador’s Customs General Authority (DGA) assesses its value. For the valuation of used cars, Customs uses N.A.D.A., Edmund’s, and the Truck Blue Book. Currently, El Salvador is implementing the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement.
In general, the following documents are required to import products into the country: (a) customs declaration; (b) invoice; (c) transportation documents; (d) certificate of origin; (e) licenses or permits; and (f) payment of duties and taxes (which can be done electronically).
In May 2019, El Salvador adopted the DUCA (Declaracion Unica Centroamericana), a single online document to replace three physical customs forms, in conjunction with other members of the Central American Economic Integration Secretariat (SIECA). SIECA manages the DUCA online platform.
In 2018, El Salvador approved amendments to the Customs Simplification Law to reduce the timeframes of customs procedures. The reform halved the statutory time to clear goods through customs (from 48 to 24 hours), while taxpayers will have four days to pay duties and taxes. In addition, the reform introduced a 24-hour deadline to conduct non-intrusive inspections.
In November 2021, the Legislative Assembly approved the Law to Facilitate Non-Commercial Online Purchases. The law allows individuals to import products exempt from import tariffs for purchases under USD 300, but products do need to pay the 13% value added tax.
The commercial invoice should contain at least the following information: name and address of the seller; city and date; name and address of the buyer; description of the goods, including brand, model, or style; quantity, unit, and the total value of the goods; and terms of payments agreed with the seller. The Customs Authority accepts invoices either in English or Spanish.
The transportation documents should include an airway bill or bill of lading; the name of the company; port of origin and destination; type, quantity, and description of the product; weight; freight value; and the number of the corresponding transportation document, as well as its date and place of issuance.
Goods originating in CAFTA-DR countries trans-shipped via other countries, primarily via Panama, must meet specific requirements to receive CAFTA-DR benefits, as established in the Salvadoran Customs Operation Manual. Merchandise that has been in transit or trans-shipment through one or more countries, whether part of the Agreement or not, will require additional documentation that proves trans-shipment took place under Customs’ control. Customs also requires certificates of origin to be issued in the United States to receive CAFTA-DR preferences.
Under CAFTA-DR, advanced rulings related to the goods’ classification, value, and origin can be requested. In El Salvador, Customs is the entity that provides these advanced rulings, which have to be requested before any exportation. Advanced rulings can take up to 90 days to be delivered by Customs.
Customs can be contacted at the address and telephone number below:
Dirección General de Aduanas, Ministerio de Hacienda
Carretera Panamericana, Km. 11 ½. Ilopango (Frente a la IUSA)
San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A.
Tel: (503) 2237-5187