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Smith Mining Equipment (Pty) Ltd v The Commissioner: SARS (728/12) [2013] ZASCA 145

Tuesday, 08 October 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: SAIT Technical
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Author: SAIT Technical

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) heard the matter between Smith Mining  Equipment (Pty) Ltd (‘appellant’) and The Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service (‘respondent’) on 17 September 2013.

The judgment was delivered on 1 October 2013 by Bosielo JA (with Nugent, Lewis, Wallis JJA and Swain AJA concurring).

Background to the case

This matter is an appeal from the North Gauteng High Court and concerns a dispute relating to the classification of an imported Kubota RTV Utility Vehicle for Customs Duty purposes.

The respondent classified the vehicle under tariff heading (‘TH’) 8704.21.80 (comprising motor vehicles for the transport of goods), whilst the appellant argued that the vehicle falls within the ambit of TH 8709.19 (types of vehicles used in factories, warehouses, dock areas or airports).

The appellant submitted that the vehicle had the main distinguishing features summarised in the explanatory notes to heading 87.09 and therefore it was indicative of classification of the vehicle under that heading. However, the onus was on the appellant to convince the court of the latter.

Issue/matter to consider

The main issue was to determine the accurate approach in classifying goods for Customs Duty purposes. Reference to former case law indicated that the meaning of the relevant headings as well as section and chapter notes (in section XVII of Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Customs and Excise Act 91 of 1964) should be used to classify goods. In difficult or doubtful cases reference may be made to the Brussels Notes. However, the purpose of the before mentioned explanatory notes is not to override or contradict the tariff headings, but rather to explain such headings. 


The court determined that the primary question when classifying the appellant’s vehicle for Customs Duty purposes is whether the vehicle complies with the general meaning of tariff heading 87.09. The approach used by the appellant was incorrect since it relied mainly on the distinguishing features summarised in the explanatory notes. These notes only play a secondary role in the classification process. 

As a result of the appellant’s failure to provide sufficient evidence that the vehicles contained features similar to those used in factories, warehouses, dock areas and airports (as described in the tariff heading), the appeal was dismissed with costs including the costs of two counsel.



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