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a state institution that oversees the transport of goods, including baggage and mail, across the state’s frontier and that, in addition, collects customs duties and fees (see alsoCUSTOMS DUTIES).
Customhouses appeared in Rus’ in the 13th century, being established eventually not only in ports and border areas but also inside the country, at the boundaries of local markets and cities. Today, customhouses are located at prescribed border points, including ports, and in major urban centers. In several countries, a customhouse flies a customs flag.
The customhouse has a variety of responsibilities. It oversees compliance with customs laws and regulations and appraises the commodities being imported and exported. It also provides temporary storage facilities. In addition, it confiscates articles whose import or export is either prohibited or restricted, takes measures against smuggling, and carries out the inspection of goods. It levies customs duties and customs fees, and, for violations of regulations, it imposes fines and, on occasion, resorts to seizure of goods. The customhouse also oversees compliance with customs formalities, including the submission of required documents, especially the customs declaration, bill of lading, certificate of origin, export or import license, and health and veterinary certificates (see and ).
Violations of customs regulations include failure to report to a customhouse, unauthorized landing by boat, failure to submit required documents, the consignment or receipt of an item without prior authorization of a customhouse, and the concealment of goods.
In most capitalist countries, customhouses are under the jurisdiction of the finance ministry. In the USSR they are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Trade of the USSR, specifically, of the Main Customs Administration and customs institutions (customhouses and their branch offices).
In May 1918 customhouses were organized as organs of central Soviet power under the jurisdiction of the Department of Customs Revenue of the People’s Commissariat of Finance. In June 1918 they were transferred to the jurisdiction of the People’s Commissariat of Trade and Industry. They are now regulated by the Customs Code of 1964. In the socialist countries, the principal function of the customhouse is to ensure compliance with the state’s monopoly of foreign trade.
L. I. TUL’CHINSKII