WCO facilitates Data Model training for SARS

WCO Data Model Workshop, Pretoria, South Africa, Dec. 2015

SARS’ EDI and Customs Business Systems representatives with WCO Data Model facilitators Mr. Giandeo Mungroo (2nd from the left) and Ms. Sue Probert (2nd from the right) [Photo – SARS]

Officials of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) last week attended a WCO workshop on the Data Model facilitated by Ms. Sue Probert and Mr. Giandeo Mungroo. The event, held in Pretoria, South Africa was sponsored by the CCF of China as part of the WCO’s Capacity Building endeavours to promote the adoption and use of customs standards and best practice amongst it’s  member states.

The workshop was requested by SARS ahead of new technical and systems developments and requirements informed by SARS’ new Customs Control and Duty Acts. Moreover, there are also political ambition to institute a Border Management Agency for the Republic of South Africa. All of this requires that SARS Customs has a robust electronic tool to assist the organisation in mapping national data requirements according to specific needs.

Besides the use of a value added Data Model tool – GEFEG, it is imperative for the organisation to develop capacity in the knowledge and understanding of the WCO Data Model. SARS has successfully EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) for the last 15 years with various local supply chain trading partners and government agencies. Over the last few years SARS has been actively pursuing and promoting IT connectivity with regional trading partners with the express purpose to extend the benefits of eCommerce across borders.

GEFEG.FX software is used to model data formats and develop implementation guidelines for data interchange standards such as UN/EDIFACT. It is a software tool that brings together modelling, XML schema development, and editing of classic EDI standards under a unified user interface, and supports the development of multilingual implementation guidelines.

Version 3 of the WCO Data Model brought about a distinct shift towards an ‘all-of-government’ approach at international borders with the introduction of the GOVCBR (Government Cross Border Regulatory) message. The message and underlying data requirements facilitate the exchange of customs and other government regulatory information to support a Single Window environment.

WCO Data Model not only includes data sets for different customs procedures but also information needed by other Cross-border Regulatory Agencies for the cross-border release and clearance at the border. The WCO Data Model supports the implementation of a Single Window as it allows the reporting of information to all government agency through the unique way it organizes regulatory information. This instrument is already 10 years old and is seeing increased use by WCO members.

Amongst the benefits derived from the workshop, SARS staff acquired the following competencies that will not only aid their work but business user support as well –

  • Competence in operating the tool to build a source control collaborative environment to support national and regional harmonization;
  • Competence to build a base to conduct national/ regional data harmonization based on the WCO Data Model to support national Single Window implementation as well as Regional Integration;
  • Competence to build systems/ electronic interfaces between Customs and its partner government agencies including a Border Management Agency; and
  • Provide needed competence to develop, maintain and publish national and regional information packages based on the WCO Data Model.


  1. Can Revenue Authorities use the WCO system for exchange of tax information ( e.g. for BEPS) under mutual assistance agreements in addition to using it for customs data?


    1. Hi Liz, trust you are well. The WCO Data Model is designed to support customs and intergovernmental cross-border related information exchange as it pertains to goods, craft and people. As such it does not include support for tax information. Exchange of ‘electronic’ tax information between countries is relatively new as far as I’m aware.
      Recently the USA introduced the “Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act” (FATCA) [https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Corporations/Foreign-Account-Tax-Compliance-Act-FATCA]. For this purpose, participating countries with the US have entered into a specific data exchange programme which includes a specific ‘data model’ for exchange of tax data. South Africa, operates the WCO Data Model for customs information exchange and a separate FATCA model for the exchange of tax data with the US. I hope this answers your enquiry? Regards, Mike


      1. Thanks Mike. Good to hear from you. That is exactly what I needed to know. The difficult issue for many developing countries is that they do not have a tool for effective exchange of tax information in respect of the BEPS agreement and I was wondering if any of the customs tools could do the job especially as the firms who receive imports and make exports should all be registered for tax.
        Have a great 2016!

  2. Hi Liz, I am participating in the work of the WCO Data Modelling Project Team for about 12 years. I do not see that the Data Model is rocognizing this. However, the seems to be a kind of a trend to include more tax related Information and the AEO related work goes into the same direction. Apparently, profiles of the WCO DM such as the EU Customs Data model (http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/business/union-customs-code/ucc-guidance-documents_en#data_information_harmonisation ) do not foresee such information
    br Michael dill


    1. Hi Michael,

      I hope that there will be a trend to include more tax related information in the Customs Data models so that revenue authorities can more easily reconcile information about imports and exports and values declared with tax declarations and records and thus identify fraudsters. I am not involved in any sort of data model development just pressing for there to be more integration to benefit tax officials particularly those involved in excise controls and VAT.


      1. I thnk stuff is moving in that direction Liz. My next blog relates to an approach for grteater integration between Tax and Customs. It would seem so logical, yet there are not that many “Revenue Authorities” who have succeeded to that extent – VAT and Customs being a case in point. In fact íntegration should start of with legislation.

      2. Brilliant! I hope you are right. There’s a long way to go for very many customs and revenue authorities. By the way, I am leading an anti-illicit excise trade event in Cape Town on 15th November for the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC) and it would be good to have some SARS people present. Information is at iticnet.org .

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