Customs Update: Death and Taxes

By Taryn Hunkin, Customs Consultant in the Customs & Excise team

As the wise Benjamin Franklin wrote way back in 1789 “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  People have been paying taxes for well over 2 000 years and moaning about it for just as long.

Some people however, try to avoid paying taxes.  They are usually caught and punished.  Just ask a certain American vampire slayer.  Unless you are a person who likes to live dangerously and whose mantra is “if you are not living on the edge you are taking up too much space”, you, like me, pay your takes every month and then sit at home and moan about it.

SARS are the modern day ‘Publicans’ collecting revenue for the public’s benefit.   They rely on the honesty of the public at large to pay the taxes due.   SARS Customs rely on importers to declare the correct tariff heading and dutiable amount on their SAD500.  This enables Customs to collect the correct amount of revenue.

However there are some importers who try to avoid paying what is legitimately due in customs duty and VAT by either misdeclaring the tariff code and / or customs value, or even taking advantage of an innocent third party by illegally making use of their customs code and leaving them to deal with the resultant mess.

Due to the unfortunate actions of the few, SARS now has trust issues.  Section 44 of the Customs & Excise Act 91 of 1964 places the onus of proof squarely with the licensee / registrant.  So if Customs suspects that a miss declaration has been made, it is up to the licensee / registrant to prove otherwise.  It is therefore very important to ensure that you have all your ducks in a row:

  • Ensure you are correctly registered / licensed with Customs and that you are fully aware of your rights and responsibilities in terms of the various revenue collections Acts.  Remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse!
  • Make it a point to regularly revise the amount of any customs guarantees in place to ensure you are adequately covered should things go awry.
  •  Obtain a tariff determination from SARS prior to importation.  If the tariff code assessed by SARS is used on the SAD500 SARS cannot state that the declared tariff code is incorrect.
  • If you engage the services of a buying agent, or make royalty payments etc. on which you do not currently pay duty, have reputable lawyers go through the related agreements to ensure you are not at risk.
  • Beware who you allow to use your remover or consignee bonds unless you control the clearances and the transport.

There is nothing more unpleasant then receiving a letter of demand from Customs subsequent to an audit.  If there is one thing we have learned from all the American football movies it is that the best defense is a good offense.

For more information on the above contact:

Taryn Hunkin

Customs Consultant

+27 31 575 7321