Big changes at SARS for customs and travellers

 ·21 Jul 2023

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has enhanced its customs regulations in yet another move to modernise and stay on top of international trends.

According to the taxman, until the end of 2020, goods exported from South African Customs Union (SACU) member states and Mozambique to the UK were covered by a specific agreement called the Southern African Development Community-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (the SADC-EU EPA).

Following Brexit, this has subsequently needed to change, with goods being traded under Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) also referred to as Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). Despite the change, tariff preferences applied to goods are set to remain the same.

The new South African Customs Union and Mozambique UL Economic Partnership Agreement (SACUM-UK EPA) went live on 14 July 2023, said SARS.

“Traders can now register and lodge customs declarations under the SACUM-UK EPA as well as the SADC-EU EPA.”

“Approved Exporters who previously used the SADC-EU EPA to export to the UK are required to apply and register with SARS to be Approved Exporters under the SACUM-UK EPA.”

Although the latest update may seem trivial, it forms a pivotal part of the revenue service’s adaptation to changes in the global economy, as seen earlier this year by introducing another customs procedure in the form of ‘travel passes’.

Originally trialled in November 2022, SARS announced a new online traveller declaration system that grants people a travel pass via email, ultimately allowing their goods to pass through the border.

The latest system implemented by SARS is an online platform enabling travellers to pre-declare goods they obtained and settle the relevant taxes when entering or exiting the country.

This process involves declaring a variety of items, such as products bought overseas, repaired or modified goods, and any items restricted or regulated by the law.

SARS said the system may be used on a voluntary basis, as it is still being piloted, and results from the pilot period will be used when it rolls out the system fully in line with customs legislation.

The taxman said that the next phase for the implementation of the new system is planned at all airports, starting with Cape Town International Airport on 28 February 2023, O.R. Tambo International Airport on 23 March 2023 and other airports in the second and third quarters of 2023.

In recent years, significant changes have taken place at SARS, leading to a positive impact on the engagement between the tax authority, businesses, and individual taxpayers.

Developments that have bolstered the service include those outlined in its Vision 2024 modernisation strategy, with new leadership, the restructuring of the organisation, the allocation of resources to re-capacitate the authority in the form of people and technology, as well as bolstering tax enforcement practices.

Read: Things are looking up for South Africa

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter