Customs Clearance

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Customs. Ahh Customs! That “big watch dog in the sky”!

Everything, whether it is exported or imported into any country, including South Africa, has to be  cleared through customs and excise, also known as South African Revenue Services (SARS).

To the layman, the clearing of goods through customs, can be a lengthy, costly and confusing process. It therefore stands to reason to employ the services of a customs broker who knows how to navigate the complex customs clearing system, quickly and cost effectively.

Especially when importing goods that attract customs duty, one might be led into believing that one has a silent, and a rather unwanted, partner. Though this feeling might be true in many ways, Customs should also be seen as the watch dog that has been put into place to protect local industry – and jobs! After all, a textile worker working for a clothing factory doesn’t want to lose his job due to the local market being flooded by cheap, and often of a lesser quality, garments.

Commercial goods will arrive in South Africa by various modes of transport : by air, by sea, by road or even by rail. All goods need to be customs cleared at their first point of entry into South Africa. Customs needs to safeguard any revenue due to SARS and to ensure that all imports comply with the national legislation. To this end, the importer needs to declare to Customs what they are bringing into South Africa and the mode of transport being used.

The customs clearing process consists of the clearing agent / customs broker framing a customs declaration form (SAD 500) based on the following being made available : a transport document (AWB, B/L or Waybill, depending on the mode of transport being used), a commercial invoice, a packing list, a certificate of origin (EUR 1), and, should the product require it, the permits necessary for allowing the product to be imported into South Africa.

For example, all electrical goods that will be plugged into an electrical socket need to have an LOC (Letter of Compliance). After all, the end consumer will buy the product in good faith and doesn’t anticipate his house being blown up when he, for example, plugs his newly acquired toaster into the wall whilst already happily anticipating the eating of his toast!

All companies importing commercial goods into South Africa need to be registered with Customs. In other words, the company needs to be in possession of an importers code. Customs needs to know  whom they are dealing with and whom they can hold accountable for the Import VAT and, if applicable, for any potential customs duties. Should a would-be importer not be in possession of a customs code, Freightwell is able to assist with the obtaining of same.

Obviously the same applies to goods being exported. Companies intending to export their goods, no matter whether by air, sea, road or rail, also have to comply with the SARS regulations and to be registered with customs as an exporter.

Personal effects however may be imported on a VAT and duty free basis by the owner of these personal goods  if they belong to a permanent resident who can prove that he/she has been out of the country for a year or longer.  Foreign nationals can also import their personal effects on a VAT and duty free basis provided that they are in possession of a work permit. However there is also a provision in the Customs Act, allowing residents to import goods up to a maximum of three times per year, if these goods are under a value of maximum R 50,000.00.

Customs reserves the right to detain any or all shipments for inspection. This right doesn’t just apply to imports. It also applies to exports. Therefore one should never export any cargo, without first having processed, and received a release for, an export bill of entry. As a rule of thumb, Customs on the importing side, detains about 10% of all imports. Whilst these delays are unfortunate and result in extra charges for the importer, unfortunately this is part of the risk that one takes when importing.

How Freightwell can help you with your air freight needs:

If you have any questions concerning air freight imports or air freight exports, whether on a small or large consignment basis. Please feel free to contact us.

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