SARS clarifies new rules for buying from Amazon

 ·12 Jun 2024

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has issued a notice clarifying the rules regarding buying goods for personal use from international online retail sites like Amazon.

The service said that a common question asked by shoppers is whether or not they need to register as an importer if they buy personal goods from abroad.

The answer, it said, is “no” – as long as buyers operate within certain limits and adhere to recent changes that came into effect from April 2024.

“You don’t have to register as an importer if you meet certain conditions. Personal goods can be cleared with Customs under the generic code 70707070,” SARS said.

However, to skip this requirement, shoppers must meet the following conditions:

  • Being within the transaction limit. This changed in April 2024 from an allowance of not more than R50,000 over only three transactions to not more than R150,000 (one or more transactions);
  • You are only allowed to import goods for home consumption or personal use, not for resale or any other business;
  • You must be located in South Africa;
  • Your identity number/ Passport number or taxpayer reference number must be entered in the field provided in the declaration form.

“Should the purchase fall outside these limitations, you will have to register and obtain an importer or exporter code,” SARS said.

The tax service said that this clearance process has been in place for a number of years, and it is only the amount and number of transactions that have changes since April 2024.

“This ruling is not related to the possibility of adding a tax or duty on parcels of low value, e.g. buying clothing from overseas companies, as it is merely a discussion at this point and not official,” it said.

The update from SARS comes just after Amazon officially launched its online marketplace in South Africa. While the group now has local operations it does not necessarily carry the same stock as on its UK or US stores.

The notice is also in context of the rise in the use of other platforms like Temu and Shein, which provide low-cost retail options for delivery to South Africa.

The price South Africans pay to get their products from Temu and Shein is set to increase significantly starting next month.

This is because SARS and Customs are set to change how they handle small orders coming into the country.

From 1 July 2024, clothing items imported into the country valued at less than R500 will carry the same duties as bigger orders.

Clothing imports above R500 in South Africa are subject to a 45% import duty plus value-added tax (VAT).

To date, parcels shipped to South Africa with a value under R500 have been treated differently and carried far smaller customs duties.

Many South African companies accused Shein and Temu of abusing this rule by breaking up larger orders into smaller quantities and packages.

Read: The real winners of the Amazon vs Takealot battle in South Africa

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