By KEVIN TAYLOR

A customs fee on imports starting on December 1 has been labelled a tax on business and anti-growth.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett, said he was angry the Government was continuing to shoot itself in the foot with revenue gathering designed to hurt small and medium-sized businesses.

While the new import transaction fee seemed small at $18 including GST, it would be charged on every commercial transaction.

It would take thousands of dollars off the bottom line for importers.



Important points of principle and detail were also at stake, he said.

By imposing the tax, the Government was not only breaching its promise of no new taxes, but deliberately hitting smaller businesses in the pocket while at the same time churning out rhetoric that it was encouraging them to help build a growth-led economy.

"There is a huge contradiction and lack of consistency in government policy that the Government needs to explain and justify," Barnett said.

Customs Minister Rick Barker said last month the fee would apply to each commercial import entry and import declaration for goods with a duty and/or GST liability greater than $50.

Private import declarations under $1000 would not be charged.

The Government had decided that because importers benefited directly from fast and efficient goods clearance, they should contribute to the cost.

Over the past 10 years there had been a 127 per cent increase in import volumes.