Shipping & Mail Forwarding to South Africa

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Clearance Process
Goods may be entered into the Republic and declared in accordance with one of the following processes:

- Home consumption i.e. direct entry into SACU (duty is paid on importation or under rebate / relief from duties under specific circumstances / conditions);

- Warehousing (pending payment of duty or re-export);

- Transit through South Africa;

- Temporary admission into SACU including inward processing (for manufacturing purposes and subsequent exportation).

The importer/agent is required to complete the Bill of Entry declaration. It is the responsibility of the importer/agent to ensure that the declaration is fully and accurately completed and all supporting documents are produced. Section 39 of the Act specifies the required supporting documents in detail. The clearance process includes accepting and checking the goods declaration against the documents produced (invoice, bill of lading, certificate of origin, permits, etc.), examination of the goods if necessary and the assessment and collection of duty and VAT. Customs may require additional information and may also request samples.

Customs will detain goods for the Department of Health, Agriculture and other Government departments. The relevant Government department ensures compliance with other applicable laws, regulations and rules.

Document Requirements
The basic documents required for importing into South Africa:

  • A commercial invoice showing the price charged to the importer. (This includes the price of transportation)
  • Bill of Lading (There are different categories of the bill of lading)
  • Insurance documents
  • Packing List
Note: other documents may be required by the importer

Customs Valuation
The dutiable value of goods imported into South Africa and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) is calculated on the f.o.b. price in the country of export, in accordance with the GATT Customs Valuation Code.

According to the South African Customs and Excise Act, the value for customs duty purposes is the transaction value, the price actually paid or payable. In cases where the transaction value cannot be ascertained, the price actually paid for similar goods, adjusted for differences in cost and charges based on distance and mode of transport, is regarded as the transaction value. If more than one transaction value is ascertained, the lowest value applies. Alternatively, a computed value may be used based on production costs of the imported goods.

Dutiable weight for the assessment of specific duties is the legal weight of the merchandise, plus the weight of the immediate container in which the product is sold, unless specified otherwise in the tariff.

Import Duties
As a result of its market access offer for the Uruguay Round, South Africa has significantly reduced its number of tariff lines and bound most to Worl Trade Organization binding levels. Duty rates range from zero to 30% with a few exceptions- notably in clothing and textiles and motor industry products. The general trend has been for tariffs to be reduced to encourage industries to become more competitive and also to reduce cost structures.

Additional information on import policy and tariffs can be obtained from the:

Department of Trade and Industry
Board on Tariffs and Trade, Private Bag X753, Pretoria, 0001
Tel: +27 12 428-77021

South Africa levies antidumping duty on the imports of certain categories of goods from certain countries and in some cases from specific factories within those countries. Details of what products are subject to antidumping duty can be found in the South African Customs Tariff.

Excise Duties
Specific excise duties are levied on luxury goods, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, tobacco/tobacco products, mineral waters, some petroleum products, and motor vehicles. Ad valorem excise duties are levied on office machinery, photographic film, and luxury consumer goods such as cosmetics, home entertainment products, and motorcycles.

Additional Duties

Import Taxes
Value added tax (VAT) - The valuation of imported goods for VAT is based on the f.o.b. value plus 14% of that value, plus any non-rebated customs duty (tariff plus import surcharge). VAT is payable on goods imported into the Republic by any person, regardless of whether the importer is registered as a vendor. However, goods imported for the use in manufacturing or resale by registered traders may be exempt from VAT. If the importer is a vendor, he/she can claim an input tax credit, provided he/she imported the goods for the purpose of making a taxable supply.

Goods imported into the Republic which fall under any of the following headings are exempt from the payment of VAT:

  • Goods for welfare or charitable purposes:

  • Goods for Heads of State, Diplomatic and other Foreign Representatives.

  • Personal effects and sporting and recreational equipment, new or used:

  • Goods imported as accompanied passengers' baggage either by non-residents or residents of the Republic and cleared at the place where such persons disembark or enter the Republic

  • Household furniture, other household effects and other removable articles, including equipment necessary for the exercise of the calling, trade or profession of the person, other than industrial, commercial or agricultural plant and excluding motor vehicles, alcoholic beverages and tobacco goods, the bona fide property of a natural person and members of his family, imported for own use on change of his residence to the Republic: Provided that the said goods are not disposed of within a period of six months as from the date of entry.

  • Imported goods (including packing containers) re-exported and thereafter returned to or brought back by the exporter or any other party, without having been subjected to any process of manufacture or manipulation.

  • Goods (including packing containers) produced or manufactured in the Republic, exported there from and thereafter returned to or brought back by the exporter or any other party, without having been subjected to any process of manufacture or manipulation (excluding excisable goods exported ex a customs and excise warehouse).

  • Imported or locally manufactured articles sent abroad for processing or repair, provided they are exported under customs and excise supervision, retain their essential character, are returned to the exporter, no change of ownership having taken place, and can be identified on re-importation.

  • Excisable goods exported at a customs and excise warehouse and thereafter returned to or brought back by the exporter, without having been subjected to any process of manufacture or manipulation and without a permanent change in ownership having taken place.

  • Compensating products obtained abroad from goods temporarily exported for outward processing, in terms of a specific permit issued by the Director-General: Trade and Industry on the recommendation of the Board of Trade and Industry

  • Used personal or household effects (excluding motor vehicles) bequeathed to persons residing in the Republic.

  • Used property of a person normally resident in the Republic who dies while temporarily outside the Republic.

  • Bona fide unsolicited gifts of not more than two parcels per person per calendar year and of which the value per parcel does not exceed R400 (excluding goods contained in passengers' baggage, wine, spirits and manufactured tobacco (including cigarettes and cigars)) consigned by natural persons abroad to natural persons in the Republic.

  • Goods imported-

    1. For the relief of distress of persons in cases of famine or other national disaster;

    2. under any technical assistance agreement; or

    3. in terms of an obligation under any multilateral international agreement to which the Republic is a party

  • Worn clothing, entered before or on 8 February 1997 in terms of a specific permit issued on or before 8 February 1996 by the Director-General: Trade and Industry, on the recommendation of the Board of Tariffs and Trade, purchased by or forwarded unsolicited and free to any church or any welfare organization registered in terms of the National Welfare Act, 1978 (Act 100 of 1978), for free distribution to indigent persons by such church or organization

  • Goods temporarily admitted for processing, repair, cleaning, reconditioning or for the manufacture of goods exclusively for export

  • Goods temporarily admitted for specific purposes

  • Goods temporarily admitted subject to exportation in the same state.

Customs Fees

Exchange Controls
Exchange controls are currently administered by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB)'s Exchange Control Department through commercial banks that are authorised to deal in foreign exchange. All international commercial transactions must be accounted for through these authorised foreign exchange dealers.

Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT's)
South Africa is a signatory of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO/TBT) and has to fulfill a number of obligations. Whereas the notification process for standards is up to date, South Africa is not optimally fulfilling its obligations regarding technical regulations notifications, the reasons being that:

  1. Technical regulations are being developed in many different government areas;

  2. These are not referencing standards, and

  3. No system exists that would inform the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) - the WTO TBT Information Point regarding such development.

The SABS is in the process of developing a notification system to fulfill the requirements of the TBT agreement.

Consular Fees

Tariff classification - The Harmonized System of Nomenclature is utilized for tariff classification

Tariff Rebates - Various rebates and relief of duties exist for cases in which the imported commodity will be used in a subsequent domestic manufacturing or other add-value process. The importer must consult the Import Control Act to determine whether the potential imports are eligible for rebate or relief of customs duty and surcharge.

Import Permits - Import permits are required for specific goods and commodities and are obtainable from the Director of Import and Export Control at the Department of Trade and Industry. Importers must possess an import permit prior to the date of shipment. Failure to produce a required permit could result in the imposition of penalties. Import permits are valid only for the calendar year in which they are issued.

Among the few products still requiring import permits are foodstuffs, used clothing, refined petroleum products, and chemicals. Import permits must be obtained from the Director of Imports and Exports before the date of shipment and should be confirmed from the controlling authority (those listed below) prior to shipment. Failure to produce a required permit could result in the imposition of penalties.

  1. Department of Agriculture
  2. Department of Water Affairs
  3. Department of Sea Fisheries
  4. Department of Trade and Industry
  5. Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs
  6. Department of Health

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