The history of the Service dates as far back as 1839. It was then known as the Department of Customs and headed by a Principal Collector who by 1850 also acted as the Colonial Treasurer. He was stationed at Cape Coast, the seat of government.
The Department enforced the payment of local duty from shipping at the sub-ports. In addition, the Department also handled Money Courts and Police Courts, and determined cases of minor nature, exercising authority within respective localities as Magistrates. The first Executive Council of the Gold Coast was created on 1st April 1851 with the Principal Collector of Customs as a member. This arrangement was reviewed in 1853 and the Colonial Secretary replaced him.
In 1885, the Treasury and Customs Ordinance No. 4, (1885) abolished the office of the Collector of Customs and Treasurer. The duties were divided and discharged separately by the Comptroller of Customs and the Treasurer respectively. The Controller of Customs’ office came into being on September 18, 1885 and his duties were defined in the Gazette Notice of October 1885. In 1897, the revenue protection aspect of the Service, the Customs Preventive Service, a semi-military organization was created under Cap. 92.
The Customs and Excise Department was created in 1947 under Ordinance No. 40 Section 2. In 1960 when Ghana became a Republic, Act 13 of 1960 replaced Cap 92 and the Customs Preventive Service became a civilian organization once again. In 1961 the first African Controller Mr. Frank A. Arthur was appointed as part of the Africanization policy of the Colonial government. In 1962, Customs became the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior instead of Ministry of Finance and Trade.
All personnel and conditions of work were subject to Police disciplinary codes, but the Controller was still responsible to the Ministry of Finance for assessment and revenue collection. In October 1964 the Border Guard Unit was formed as a Police unit with an Assistant Commissioner of Police as the head. The Border Guards acted as agents of Customs in boarding and clearing of ships and aircrafts, and examination of passengers and baggage. The unit also performed Customs frontier duties. After the re-organization of the entire Civil Service in 1966, the Service once again reverted to the Ministry of Finance.
The department took over the revenue functions of the Border Guards in 1971 i.e. boarding and rummaging of ships and aircrafts and passengers’ baggage examination but the Border Guard was in charge of Frontier Patrol. Another milestone in the history of the Service was in September, 1986 when the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service was created as a semi-autonomous institution outside the Civil Service under the CEPS Law, PNDC L144,1986. This move was part of a government programme aimed at restructuring and rationalizing the major revenue collecting agencies. The designation Comptroller was changed to Commissioner.
The role of the Customs and Excise as the main agency responsible for Indirect Taxes in the country was enhanced in 1988 when the Border Guard Unit was re-integrated into the Army and CEPS took over their functions. New administrative structures were created to reflect the para-military and self-accounting status of the Service. Further to this major restructuring, new personnel were recruited and new departments were created while a new training facility, the CEPS Academy was established at Kpetoe out of a legacy bequeathed by the Border Guard Unit.
A very recent landmark is the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) (1995, 1998) under which a new tax agency VAT Service was created to collect Indirect Taxes comprising the Service Tax administered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Sales Tax handled by CEPS. The rationale for this move was to enable CEPS to concentrate on its Customs and Preventive functions while the IRS focuses on the collection of Income, Property and Corporate taxes. Since then CEPS has been responsible for the collection of Import VAT.
To design and implement effective strategies and programmes to collect, account and protect customs, excise and other assigned tax revenues at a minimum cost, while facilitating trade, investment and the movement of people across the borders of Ghana through efficient and transparent service delivery.
The Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) was established under the provisions of PNDC Law 144, otherwise referred to as the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service Law 1986, as an autonomous Public Service institution to replace the Customs and Excise Department.
The Service is the state organization responsible for the collection of Import Duties, Import VAT, Export Duty, Petroleum Tax and other taxes. CEPS collects about 50% of total government revenue which is used to finance the country’s recurrent budget and development projects in the health, education, housing and the transport sector, etc. CEPS also ensures the protection of the revenue by preventing smuggling.
This is done by physically patrolling the borders and other strategic points, examination of goods and premises as well as documents relating to goods. In addition to these revenue functions, CEPS performs agency duties on behalf of other government organizations and ministries by seeing to the enforcement of laws on import and export restrictions and prohibitions.
As its contribution towards making Ghana the gateway of West Africa,CEPS begun implementing programmes to modernize Customs procedures and processes from 1997, so as to facilitate trade and movement of people in and out of the country. At present the Green and Red Channel is in operation for passengers arriving in Ghana through the Kotoka International Airport. This means that passengers with nothing to declare are free to pass through Customs without examination unless the Customs Officer has a special reason to request examination.
Again, with the introduction of scanners at Tema and KIA, physical examination of containerized goods at these ports has reduced. Valuation of goods is also now based on WTO standards, the requirement being that importers present genuine invoices of their transactions. To ensure efficiency and higher productivity, CEPS is working to streamline and fully automate customs processes and procedures under the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) and the Ghana Community Network (GCNET).
The legal mandate under which the CEPS operates currently is the CUSTOMS, EXCISE AND PREVENTIVE SERVICE (MANAGEMENT) LAW 1993, PNDCL 330. In addition, the CEPS applies other laws and regulations which prescribe the mode of operation and penalties for various infringements.
Currently CEPS, as an organization is affiliated to the World Customs Organization (WCO) has switched from the Brussels Tariff Nomenclature to the Harmonised Commodity Coding System (HS). This universally acclaimed nomenclature represents a sharp departure from the Brussels Tariff Nomenclature (B.T.N) and the Standard International Trade Classification (S.I.T.C.) (Revised One) that has been in use for over 30 years in Ghana. It combines the advantages of the B.T.N, and the S.I.T.C. classification and also covers a wider spectrum of commodities.
The Service in April 2000 adopted the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Valuation Agreement which came into force on January 1, 1981 and is intended to provide a fair, uniform and neutral system for the valuation of goods for Customs purposes; a system that conforms to commercial realities and outlaws the use of arbitrary or fictitious Customs values. The implementation of the WTO Valuation Agreement in Ghana started in April 2000.