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SARS Intent On Scrapping Inland Ports

01 November 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Linda Ensor
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Author: Linda Ensor (Business day)

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is sticking to its guns on the removal of Johannesburg’s City Deep’s status as an inland port.

This is despite warnings by freight forwarders and importers that this will cause "chaos and congestion in the ports". The four-year impasse on the issue has not been resolved and erupted again during public hearings on the draft Customs Control and Customs Duty Bills in Parliament on Wednesday.

The two bills will replace the Customs and Excise Act.

Industry has warned of port delays and trade disruption if the proposals are adopted. It asked Parliament’s standing committee on finance for more time to consider the bills, which were published in the Government Gazette last week.Industry representatives said they needed enough time to consider the published bills, which were very different to previous drafts.

Virusha Subban, a director at law firm Bowman Gilfillan, warned that legislation Parliament adopted without sufficient consultation was vulnerable to constitutional challenge. She was appearing for the South African Association of Freight Forwarders, with the support of a range of other business organisations.

Opposition parties supported a delay in processing the bill, but committee chairman Thaba Mufamadi said a decision would be taken only next week after hearing the response of SARS to submissions made.

The Customs Control Bill proposes that goods be cleared at the first port of entry into South Africa. This will mean that inland ports such as City Deep in Johannesburg would no longer be designated places of entry or exit for customs purposes.In the past, containerised cargo could move directly to inland ports upon arrival in the country under cover of a manifest.

A new declaration — of the nature, value, origin and duty payable on the goods — would replace the manifests. The revenue service says these do not provide sufficient information to undertake a risk assessment.

SARS chief officer of legal and policy Kosie Louw said it was necessary for importers or their agents to clear goods on arrival in South Africa. This would prevent the entry of illegal and risky goods into the country. Mr Louw insisted at the end of the hearings that he had not heard anything to change his view.

Another bone of contention for industry was the "extremely severe" penalties proposed in the draft Customs Duty Bill, Ms Subban said. South Africa was "running the risk of losing its competitiveness as the preferred place of entry for southern Africa and neighbouring states".

"Trade will be lost to other ports of entry such as (in) Mozambique, Tanzania and Namibia," she said.

Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry international director Patrick Corbin said the new system would also result in a switch from rail to road, in direct contradiction of South Africa’s transport policy.

Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union general secretary Andre Kriel said the union "heartily endorses" attempts to curtail customs fraud at inland ports.

This article was first published on businessdaylive.co.za


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