SARS to Address Traders on Customs Control Proposals
19 September 2013
Posted by: Author: Linda Ensor
Author: Linda Enso (BDlive)
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has committed itself to further engagements with importers of all sizes in a bid to improve its proposals to transform the customs control regime.
Consultations have already taken place with organised business on the proposed Customs Duty Bill and the Customs Control Bill, and the process would now be taken to the level of traders to find out whether the proposals presented them with any problems. Amendments have also been proposed to the Customs and Excise Act to provide for the transition to the new system.
"We want to understand the situation at a micro level. We will sit around the table until we find a solution which will guarantee to us that we get the information we require but which will also facilitate trade.
"We do not want to clog up the ports," SARS chief officer of legal and policy Kosie Louw said in an informal briefing on the proposals to Parliament’s standing committee on finance on Wednesday.
The customs bills are mainly concerned with improving the information about imported and exported goods so that customs officials can exercise greater control.
Business has expressed concern that the requirement of the Customs Control Bill that they submit a national in-transit declaration of goods at the first port of entry before they are sent to internal terminals, or depots such as City Deep, would cause delays.
The new declaration — of the nature, value, origin and duty payable on the goods — would replace the limited manifest used to declare goods and would include information on the tariff, value and origin of goods.
Business has argued that the manifest allowed goods to move seamlessly from the exporting country to the inland port or depot, and would change the contractual relationships between exporter and importer in terms of when duty is paid.
However, Mr Louw did not believe the provision would cause delays and had obtained legal advice that the contractual relationships and method of payment of duties would not change. The problem with manifests, he said, was that they provided very limited information and did not allow SARS to prevent the inflow of unwanted goods. Nevertheless, he said that SARS would discuss the matter with traders.
Mr Louw said the proposed system would "improve SARS’s ability to perform risk assessment and intervene in respect of potentially high risk, prohibited and restricted consignments at the ports".
The bills have been in the pipeline for about four years and have been extensively canvassed with the Southern African Customs Union and business. They were needed, Mr Louw said, so that South Africa kept pace with global trends in trade, international conventions and advances in technology.
Anti-avoidance provisions have also been introduced into the bill which sets out the offences and associated penalties for noncompliance and attempts to avoid paying customs duties.
SARS group executive for legislative research and development Franz Tomasek said the Customs Control Bill would introduce a new advance cargo loading notice for containerised cargo to prevent the loading of prohibited or restricted goods on board vessels bound for South Africa. However, to reduce the administrative burden on carriers, information submitted in advance will no longer be required on arrival or prior to departure.