Gumruk… no one wants to pay it!

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Ever noticed how no one really knows the full legal procedure of what is required to drive a car with foreign license plates in Lebanon? These are typical conversations I hear every couple of days:

“Iza bteshtriya men barra, fik ma tedfa3 el gumruk (Import tax), bas baddak etdahhera 3al 7doud elsouriyye kel 6 months 3ala fatret 2 years”

“La2 man, inta gheltan, ghayyaro el2anoun. Sar lezem etrajje3 el siyyara 3al source. Iza sheriya men Dubai, lezem etrajje3a 3a Dubai. W kamen el siyyara lezem etkoun bi esm wa7ad 3ando residency permit. W saret 3 years, mesh 2 years”

“Tayyeb iza sheriya men California? Baddi 7etta 3al bekhra marra kel 6 months w redda 3a LA? Aslan min khabbarak hal khabriyye?”

“Fi wa7ad ba3rfo, bya3ref wa7ad 3ammo byeshteghel 3and wa7ad bel gamerek”

Typical…

I stopped by the Audi dealership in Mar Mikhael a couple of weeks ago to check out the Audi A3 ($45,000). After talking to the salesman for a couple of minutes, he asked me if I travel often. I told him I travel every other week for work. He informed that they had just started a program whereby you can buy a car in Lebanon with Lebanese license plates (with the letter “M”) without paying the gumruk.

Here are the conditions:
- Valid passport
- Travel at least twice a year
- Have the full amount of the vehicle including the gumruk ($45,000)
- Pay $27,000 for the car and freeze $18,000 in the bank for 3 years
- Go to the dealership every 6 months to renew the “deal” (I’m guessing it involves bribing people left and right as well)
- After three years either pay the amortized gumruk (~30% of $18,000) or sell the vehicle
- Validity: 3 years

The salesman did not seem very confident about the “rules”. Apparently, they started the program last summer and one entire cycle hasn’t been completed to see what problems people might face at the end of the 3rd year. I asked him how much do I have to pay every 6 months and to whom, his answer was “ma ba3ref, shi 400-500$ la wa7ad mna3rfo bi zabbet mou3emalet.” When a salesman tells you “ma ba3ref”, would you buy a car from him? 400-500$? It could easily be $1,000

How much easier would it be if there was a government website with all the rules and regulations concerning this subject? It doesn’t need to be something complex, just simple rules that a normal citizen can follow without having to bribe people.

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