Archives For Revenue Collection

Namibia flagOver 1 380 finance ministry officials will be required to reapply for their jobs when the proposed state-owned Namibia Revenue Agency is formed.

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein tabled the Namibia Revenue Agency Bill 2017 to pave the way for the creation of the independent agency which will assess and collect taxes.

The agency will not only extract the largest part of the finance ministry’s workforce, but a proposed law tabled last week suggests that the new parastatal should be allowed to attract experts by paying more than what other civil servants currently earn.

When he tabled the proposed bill in the National Assembly last week, Schlettwein said 730 officials from the Inland Revenue department and 650 from the directorate of customs will have to reapply for their jobs when the new agency opens next year.

According to Schlettwein, the two departments make up 79% of the total staff at the finance ministry.

Schlettwein told The Namibian yesterday that the finance ministry has a total workforce of 1 740, but the two departments have up to 1 380 workers.

“To further avoid compromising on the skills needed for the agency, there will be no automatic transfer of existing staff of the departments of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise to the new institution,” the minister stated.

However, finance officials will be offered the first opportunity to apply and compete for jobs offered at the new agency before the platform is opened up to the public, he said.

“As such, arrangements will be made to ensure that the selection process is transparent and adheres to best practices,” Schlettwein added.

According to the minister, officials at the finance ministry who fail to get jobs at the new tax agency will be offered positions elsewhere in government, as stipulated in the Public Service Act.

He said some officials at the agency will also be highly paid in order to attract the best talent.

“The agency will be exempted from the public service rules and public enterprises remuneration guidelines,” he noted.

The 2017/18 budget documents indicate that the finance ministry will spend N$28 million on salaries and other benefits. Schlettwein said the new parastatal will start working next year at a date yet to be announced, adding that there is a need to manage the transition process well to avoid making costly mistakes.

He said for now, a finance ministry and revenue agency task team will finalise the transitional aspects for the establishment of the agency.

“This entails further consultations on the operational modalities, the determination of the recruitment process, and proposals for the draft internal policies of the new institution in preparation for the recruitment of the board and senior management of the agency,” Schlettwein stated.

The minister said one of the functions of setting up a highly-paying tax body is to catch companies and individuals who are taking advantage of loopholes to avoid paying taxes.

“We are a resource-based economy, which comes with the potential for illicit financial flows, transfer pricing, profit shifting and other base-eroding tax planning activities,” he said.

Illicit financial flows involve money illegally earned, transferred or used which crosses national borders. Culprits are usually multinational companies and criminals.

The minister said tackling illicit financial flows will require specialised skills, which could not be optimised in the public service due to a lack of skills.

Tackling illicit financial flows will give President Hage Geingob’s administration plaudits for tackling corporate and financial cheating.

The real impact of illicit financial flows on Namibia is currently not known, as the government continues to rely on international statistics when commenting on the subject.

For instance, the United States-based think tank, Global Financial Integrity, said in its 2012 report that Namibia lost around N$5,6 billion per year to illegal activities between 2001 to 2010.

The Namibia Revenue Agency will be run by a seven-member board on a three-year term. The board members will be appointed by the minister from experts selected from state entities, such as the permanent secretary from the finance ministry, the commissioner, and five members who will be appointed based on areas of expertise such as taxation, law, auditing and human resources.

A commissioner will be appointed as the chief executive for five years. The chief executive can only serve for a maximum two terms (10 years), but his/her second-term appointment should be based on “excellence” in performance, and at the discretion of the finance minister. Source: The Namibia, 2017-06-27. Author: Shinovene Immanuel

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The Zimbabwe Herald suggests that Zimbabwe could be losing millions of dollars in unpaid taxes due to rampant smuggling of cigarettes into South Africa, investigations by this paper have revealed.Between 2014 and 2015, local customs officials seized nearly 2 500 cartons worth around $500 000 in taxes, according to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.

Figures from the South African side are staggering, showing a wide discrepancy in the value of confiscated contraband between the two neighbouring southern African countries.

The South African Revenue Service told The Herald Business that it had seized R87 million (US$6,2 million) worth of Zimbabwean cigarettes since 2014, or 95 million sticks.

This will likely be worth millions of dollars in evaded tax in Zimbabwe, but the ZIMRA director for legal and corporate services Ms Florence Jambwa said the figures were difficult to determine because smuggling was an underground trade.

South Africa, however, says it loses an estimated R40 million (US$2,9 million) to cigarette smuggling each year, on the average, more than half of it Zimbabwe-related.

And this is just from what is on public record. Customs officials from both countries admit the figures could be higher. Both are also greatly incapacitated to detect illegal trades quickly.

“It is difficult to measure the levels of smuggling as this is an underground activity mostly done through undesignated entry points,” said ZIMRA’s Jambwa, by email.

“The value of the potential loss cannot be easily ascertained,” she said, failing to provide an estimate.

Tax analyst Mr Tendai Mavhima said the figures from ZIMRA represent only a small portion of the actual amount of money Zimbabwe is losing to trafficking of cigarettes.

“The disparity in figures (ZIMRA and SARS figures) indicate there are problems in controls on either side, which may result in the revenue and tax losses from both countries being understated,” he said by telephone.

Zimbabwe is the world’s fifth largest producer of tobacco after China, the USA, Brazil and India.

The country produces flue-cured Virginia tobacco, considered to be of extremely high quality and flavour, according to a report on Zimbabwean tobacco companies by local stockbroking firm, IH Securities.

As such, Zimbabwean tobacco ends up in many top cigarette brands across the world, it says.

It is especially popular in China, the largest importer of Zimbabwean tobacco, and in South Africa, the country’s largest trading partner.

In South Africa, Zimbabwean cigarettes are on demand for two key reasons: high quality and affordability.

It costs just $1,50 for 20 sticks in Zimbabwe compared to $3,20 for the same number of sticks in South Africa, according to estimates by regional economic bloc, SADC.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) said: “Cigarette clientele opt for cheaper cigarettes. The high supply and demand for illicit cigarettes creates the market for it.”

South Africa imposes very high taxes on cigarette imports – about 80 percent meaning many Zimbabwean dealers choose to export illegally.

SADC says illegal dealers supply nearly two thirds of the number of cigarettes smoked by South Africans.

In 2011 alone, at least 4 billion cigarettes smuggled into South Africa originated from Zimbabwe, it says.

The undeclared cigarettes are usually concealed in trucks, buses and other vehicles destined for South Africa by organised cartels, said Florence Jambwa of ZIMRA.

Sometimes the cargo is shipped at undesignated points on the porous border between the two countries. Source: Zimbabwe Herald

China Customs EmblemAudit firm KPMG reports that the General Administration of Customs (GAC) will reform the existing customs clearance procedure for imported goods, according to a GAC Circular on Carrying out Pilot Reform of Tax Collection and Administration Procedure issued on 29 October 2016. Under the current procedure, review of the customs declaration is required before goods are released. This reform is designed to further guide import and export enterprises to be self-disciplined and law-abiding, with the principle stated as “honesty and observance of the law brings convenience; dishonesty and irregularity leads to punishment” to improve customs clearance efficiency.

Content of pilot reform  includes the following elements:

Independent customs declaration and tax payment – when importing goods, enterprises should submit customs declarations truthfully and accurately in advance, calculate tax payable and surcharges and handle payment-related procedures on their own.

Review of elements relating to tax calculation after release of goods  – generally, goods will be released after enterprises complete the customs declarations and tax payment procedures on their own. Afterwards, the customs authority will spot-check and review the valuation, classification and origin of the imported goods of the enterprises. In special cases, the authority will inspect the customs declaration in advance.

Proactive disclosure scheme After release of goods – enterprises are encouraged to report to the authorities in writing if they are aware of any of their own violations against customs regulations. Enterprises which the customs authority believes to be voluntary disclosers of their own irregularities will be less punished or free from punishment. For enterprises which have disclosed their irregularities and paid back taxes proactively, late fees can be reduced or eliminated.

For more details access the KPMG report here! Source: KPMG

Ivory Coast SEW2As Customs and Border regulatory authorities ramp up their commitment to international agreements, such as the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention, SAFE Framework of Standards and the more recent WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, more countries will offer a single point of entry through which traders, international carriers and logistics providers can access and comply with the resident customs and other government regulatory regimes.

The concept of a Single Window is borne out of the fact that traditional import/export and related regulatory requirements pose a barrier to market entry for international goods. There are many derivatives of Single Window in operation globally. Perhaps the best resource for this can be found on the UNECE’s interactive Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide webpage. One can navigate to the case studies page to read up on a country-by-country experience on various trade reforms including Single Window developments.

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is one of many African countries who have introduced Single Window as a facilitation measure whereby international trade can interface with Customs in a number of ways. It consists of a web-based trade portal (operated by Webb Fontaine) which interfaces with AsycudaWorld (AW), Côte d’Ivoire Customs’ management system. The portal allows traders to key-in advance import/export information within an electronic document called TVF (Trade Virtual Folder). Customs declarations are then subjected to tariff classification  and valuation, thereafter routed for commercial/risk assessment and revenue accounting on AsycudaWorld, or Sydam World as it is known in Côte d’Ivoire.

Commercial banks use the TVF within the Single Window to endorse the settlement of each import; the Ministry of Commerce subsequently authorizes the overall transaction through the system.

The Single Window provides an entry point for traders and supply chain operators to accomplish various Customs formalities such as –

  • Customs Declaration processing – allowing importers and exporters to electronically file clearances.
  • Manifest operations – used by all carriers to upload their XML manifests and register the same through the trade portal directly into AsycudaWorld. The facility also allows the amendments of waybills (e.g. excess and shortages) and automatically synchronizes the operations with the AW system. The Port Authority IT systems, including the Port of Abidjan and the Port of San Pedro, automatically receive and integrate the manifests submitted by carriers.
  • License module – allows traders to request import/export licenses (regulatory permits) that are later on approved online by the relevant ministries. Each license comprises a list of regulated products, quota allowable amount based on a predefined scheme (gross mass, net mass, FOB, Unit of measurement or unlimited quota). Further developments will include the automatic write-off of license quota by declarations using the Declaration module.

Source: Webb Fontaine

Namibia-coat-of-armsA financial analyst has expressed concern about Namibia’s reliance on revenue from the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), saying the government needs to diversify its source of revenue.

James Cumming, Head of Research at Simonis Storm Securities told a Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry post budget meeting that he is concerned about over reliance of budget revenue from the SACU pool, saying 35% to 40% of tax revenue is from the SACU.

He explained that government needs to diversify its revenue sources as future adjustments to the SACU revenue formula could lead to lower revenue from this agreement.

The Minister of Finance, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, told the meeting that sources of revenue have been increasing and are expected to grow over the next three years. She said new sources of revenue have been identified with preliminary studies already underway in order to secure a consistent revenue stream in the future.

Leonard Kamwi, head of advocacy and research at the Chamber, said he was disappointed that previous budgets had failed to reconcile expenditure on education with the resulting output, which has been below par. He said it is not enough for the government to target sectors in their wholesome but rather target the prospective beneficiaries. “The budget should target specific necessary skill sets as opposed to the whole sector,” said Kamwi.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila defended the proposed export tax on natural resources, indicating it was meant to minimise the disparities that arise from the exploitation of Namibia’s naturally endowed resources. Source: The Namibian

Mobile-scanner installed at Apapa Port as part of DI contract

Mobile-scanner installed at Apapa Port as part of DI contract

Destination Inspection takeover – it seems that all is not well. A stand-off between officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and members of the freight forwarding community is festering over trade facilitation issues. The  long association between officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and big time freight forwarders, including association leaders may have gone sour. THISDAY checks at the ports revealed that most leaders of freight forwarding associations are on the warpath with the Customs. The agents are aggrieved over what they described as high handedness on the implementation of trade policies by the Customs. They alleged that the Customs has in a bid to meet revenue targets embarked on measures that will force most traders who are mainly their clients out of business.

It is lead to believe that made some leaders of customs agents associations work against the Customs Service concerning the take-over of Destination Inspection from agencies handling the project. The Federal Government had extended the contracts of the Destination Inspection Agents (DIAs) by six months at a time that the Customs had prepared to take over the scheme. Customs had trained about 2000 officers for the scheme. The Service, it was gathered had also planned to inherit the scanning machines from the DIAs before the contract was extended. Indications are that the contracts may be further extended by more than one year at the expiration of six months. Since the extension was announced, many leaders of customs agents have not come out openly to condemn it.

Bone of Contention – When the NCS failed to introduce duty benchmark at the ports last year, the relationship between the it and freight forwarders has changed.Customs issues Debit Note (DN) to recover what is lost due in terms of under-valuation, this has often been abused as importers and their customs agents negotiate what to pay with some of the valuation officers responsible for this. So, the management of the Customs believed that the only way to address this problem was a duty benchmark which saves the importer. The idea of the benchmark was to check revenue losses as a result of under-valuation of goods coming into the country. However, the benchmark arrangement was dropped on the order of the Presidency. Since then, the Service has adopted other means to ensure that no revenue is lost, a development that has angered the clearing agents.

Duty Targets – With a revenue target of N1trillion last year, the Customs had worked hard to ensure that it meets its revenue target. The Service realised about N800bn. Freight forwarders are bitter that so many containers have been abandoned by their owners at the ports due to high-handedness by the Customs in terms of outrageous DNs on the goods. A member of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) told THISDAY that the amount being issued as DN is such that many importers have been unable to pay. A top official of NAGAFF who did not want to be quoted said that it appears there is a grand plan by some officials of customs to frustrate some importers out of business by issuing outrageous DNs. “In some cases, the DN is such that the importer will be at total loss after clearing the goods. We have appealed to the management of the customs about this thing, but their officers have failed to come down on the value placed on these goods. Source: This Day (Nigeria)

New research has found that tobacco plants can be genetically modified to produce antibodies against the rabies virus. (Source - Gizmag.com)

New research has found that tobacco plants can be genetically modified to produce antibodies against the rabies virus. (Source – Gizmag.com)

We are familiar with the tobacco plant being harvested to create products that damage our health, but a new study from the Hotung Molecular Immunology Unit at St George’s University in London has shown that tobacco plants can be genetically modified to produce rabies antibodies. It’s hoped that the research will deliver a safe, inexpensive way of treating rabies in developing countries.

If untreated, rabies can infect the central nervous system and lead to death. According to the World Health Organization, rabies occurs in more than 150 countries and territories around the world, killing 55,000 people every year, mostly in Asia and Africa. Treating it with human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG) is expensive, a factor which the St George’s researchers believe can be addressed using this new approach.

The new study involved “humanizing” the genetic sequences for the murine monoclonal antibody – an antibody found in rodents that has been found to immunize against rabies – so that it could be tolerated by people. The tobacco plant was then turned into a “production platform” to carry the antibody.

The antibody produced from the genetically altered (or transgenic) plants was then investigated for its impact on rabies. It was found to be effective in treating a broad range of rabies viruses by preventing the virus from attaching itself to nerve endings around the bite, which stops it from traveling to the brain through the nerves.

“An untreated rabies infection is nearly 100 per cent fatal and is usually seen as a death sentence,” says St George’s PhD researcher Leonard Both. “Producing an inexpensive antibody in transgenic plants opens the prospect of adequate rabies prevention for low-income families in developing countries.”

The findings could lead to further research involving other plants, although tobacco remains an attractive proposition as it is not a food crop. The study was recently published in The FASEB JournalSource: St George’s University

While health advocates and tree huggers will be delighted with this development, it will hardly generate sufficient opportunity for ‘real’ tobacco farmers. Secondly (and most importantly), those governments who are pushing for stringent tobacco legislation need to realise that their ‘cash crop’ and revenue income by-product is about to dry up…..how else are they going to extort much-needed tax revenues?

Anti-tobaccoAs countries around the world ramp up their campaigns against smoking with tough restrictions on tobacco advertising, the industry is fighting back by invoking international trade agreements to thwart the most stringent rules.

A key battlefront is Australia, which is trying to repel a legal assault on its groundbreaking law requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain packs without distinctive brand logos or colors. Contesting the law, which came into effect Dec.1, are the top multinational cigarette makers and three countries — Ukraine, Honduras and Dominican Republic — whose legal fees are being paid by the industry.

The dispute underlines broader concerns about trade provisions that enable foreign companies to challenge national health, labor and environmental standards. Once a country ratifies a trade agreement, its terms supersede domestic laws. If a country’s regulations are found to impose unreasonable restrictions on trade, it must amend the rules or compensate the nation or foreign corporation that brought the complaint. In the case of Australia’s plain packaging law, the tobacco industry and its allies are challenging the measure as a violation of intellectual property rights under trade agreements the nation signed years ago.

Public health advocates fear the legal attack will deter other countries from passing strong measures to combat the public health burdens of smoking. The “cost of defending this case, and the risk of being held liable, would intimidate all but the most wealthy, sophisticated countries into inaction,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for TobaccoFree Kids in Washington D.C.

The advocates also say countries should be free to decide how best to protect public health, without being second-guessed by unelected trade panels. Moreover, they argue, tobacco products, which kill when used as intended, should not be afforded the same trade protections as other goods and services. Worldwide, nearly 6 million people a year die of smoking-related causes, according to the World Health Organization, which says the toll could top 8 million by 2030. With fewer people lighting up in wealthy nations, nearly 80 percent of the world’s 1 billion smokers live in low and middle-income countries.

Marlboro, the world’s top-selling brand, packaged under labeling laws of (clockwise) the U.S., Egypt, Djibouti, Hungary/Photos of non-U.S. packs, Canadian Cancer Society

Marlboro, the world’s top-selling brand, packaged under labeling laws of (clockwise) the U.S., Egypt, Djibouti, Hungary/Photos of non-U.S. packs, Canadian Cancer Society

Countries have been emboldened to pass more stringent measures by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. In effect since 2005, the treaty has committed about 175 nations to pursue such measures as higher cigarette taxes, public smoking bans, prohibitions on tobacco advertising, and graphic warning labels with grisly images such as diseased lungs and rotting teeth (The U.S. has signed the treaty, but the Senate has not ratified it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered graphic warnings for cigarette packs, but an industry court challenge on 1st Amendment grounds has stalled the rule.)

Cigarette makers say they acknowledge the hazards and the need for regulations. “We actually support the vast majority of them,” said Peter Nixon, vice president of communications for Philip Morris International, which has its headquarters in New York, its operations center in Switzerland, and is the biggest multinational cigarette maker with 16 percent of global sales.

But the industry has watched with growing concern as more than 35 countries have adopted total or near-total bans on cigarette advertising. Its big profits depend on consumer recognition of its brands. Yet in many countries, the once-ubiquitous logos and imagery are receding, leaving the cigarette pack as a last refuge against invisibility.

Now the pack, too, is under attack. Along with plain packaging laws such as Australia’s, countries are weighing retail display bans that keep cigarette packs out of view of consumers, and laws requiring graphic health warnings so large that there is barely any room for trademarks. Tobacco companies contend that countries enforcing such rules are effectively confiscating their intellectual property and must pay damages.

The industry also claims that measures like plain packaging are counterproductive. “We see no evidence — none at all — that this will be effective in reducing smoking,” Nixon of Philip Morris International said in an interview. In fact, he said, generic packaging likely will increase sales of cheap, untaxed counterfeit smokes, thus increasing consumption (my emphasis added).

Comment: And for me this is the bottom line. Governments are happy to collect the ‘sin tax’ every year, most increasing it annually under the pretext of curbing the use of alcohol or tobacco products. Forcing draconian law will only increase the contraband ‘underground’ which these same governments have little control over. The worldwide push under the WHO banner appears to have more of a ‘social conditioning’ connotation than a health one.

The newly formed state of South Sudan, demonstrates a painful understanding of trade and customs. Evidently this is the product of political thinking, or poor journalism, or zero understanding of economics and administration. I wonder what Customs role really is?

The Director General of Trade in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Stephen Matatia said that his office is not for collecting tax revenue but only for imposing penalties on those who break the law and order. He said it is the Customs Service staff who have the responsibility of collection revenues. The ministry of Commerce staff are only there to collect the penalties from those traders who break the laws and orders of the land related to trade and commerce. He said their other function is the imposition of laws on prohibited goods.

Staff of ministry of Commerce stationed in Nimule border checkpoint report to headquarters in Juba every 15 days to present comprehensive report on their duties. He said the Ministry is preparing to open more offices in other parts of Greater equatorial and in Greater Upper Nile in the border with Ethiopia.In Western Equatoria, Greater Bahr Ghazal, Unity State, bordering with Sudan, Central Africa Republic, Congo, will need offices,” he declared. Matatia observed that in some countries of Africa a lot of ministries of commerce are being classified together with industry thus they have ministries for industry, commerce, supply and cooperatives. Source: AllAfrica.com

SARS has issued its inaugural SARS Compliance Programme, a high-level overview of its plans for the next five years to further grow compliance with tax and customs legislation. More so than perhaps any other time in history, the current global economic conditions have thrust domestic resource mobilisation into the spotlight, highlighting sustainability built on a foundation of tax compliance. Countries lacking this solid base have found their room for manoeuvre in these uncertain times severely curtailed and, in some cases, completely absent. The impact of self-reliance on self-determination is self-evident.

Many tax administrations publish similar compliance programmes (including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, USA, UK) and SARS has based it’s Compliance Programme on their ground-breaking work. To download and read the SARS Compliance Programme, click here! For Customs specialists and trade practitioners no less than 3 priority areas involve Customs –

Illicit cigarettes: the trade in and consumption of illicit cigarettes is detrimental to the fiscus and to the health of South Africans. SARS interventions will continue to focus on clamping down on cigarettes smuggled via warehouses as well the diversion of cigarettes destined for export back into the local market. SARS also plans to modernise it’s warehousing management and acquittal system.

Undervaluation of imports in the clothing and textile industry: Undervalued imports pose a significant risk not only to the fiscus but to local industry and job creation. SARS will continue to work together with other government agencies and industry stakeholders to clamp down on this practice including through the establishment and frequent revision of a reference pricing database to detect undervaluation, increasing inspections as well as supporting an integrated border management model.

Tax Practitioners and Trader Intermediaries: Regulation of this industry will be pursued to ensure that tax practitioners and trade intermediaries are all persons of good standing, are fully tax compliant in their personal capacity and provide a high quality service and advice to their clients. SARS will also develop a rigorous risk profiling system to identify high risk practitioners and trade intermediaries.

Saturday 11 February 2012 sees the implementation of new modernised customs procedures and formalities at South Africa’s first SACU land frontier office – Kopfontein – border between South Africa and Botswana.  While enhancements are slanted more in terms of internal SARS customs procedure, SACU traders will no doubt experience some anxiety with the transition. For the first time SARS Customs Modernisation impacts directly on traders and neighbouring Botswana Customs operational procedures in a significant way, which will fashion operations at all remaining inland border posts of the Customs Union. Over the last few months SARS has worked with trade, the Botswana customs authority as well as the business chamber in Botswana concerning the intended changes and their impact on stakeholders. The implementation ushers in cross-cutting changes for customs staff operationally, new technology as well as legal and policy changes. In the case of the latter, a further element of the draft Customs Control Bill is introduced whereby foreign business operators (importers, exporters and road carriers) must be registered with SARS to perform customs transactions in South Africa. This is perhaps the single issue which has had ramifications for parties who regularly cross the border between Botswana and South Africa. Hopefully recent iterations of notices and explanations have helped clarify the SARS requirements. (See the SARS Customs Modernisation webpage).

Other modifications and changes include –

Elimination of paper clearance documents – this is a significant departure from traditional SACU processing where all member countries have relied on the Single Administrative Document (SAD) to facilitate intra-SACU clearance. With the bulk of clearances expected to be electronic, SARS will now only print a customs notification (CN1) which will specify the status and outcome for each clearance. This the trader will use in support of customs clearance in Botswana. SARS will therefore no longer stamp and authorise hardcopy SAD500 clearance documents. Of course, there is nothing which stops a trader printing the SAD500 for cross border purposes, only SARS will no longer attest these. As concerns SARS VAT requirements, arrangements will be made for traders to submit the CN1 for purposes of VAT returns. Details on this to follow.

Electronic supporting documents – already tried and tested at sea and airports across South Africa, traders no longer need to carry on their person hard copy clearance supporting documentation , i.e. invoices, worksheets and packing lists. These are only required should SARS indicate via electronic message that a consignment requires further scrutiny. Customs brokers and traders using EDI will in most cases have the SARS e@syScan facility available on their computer systems which makes it relatively simple and easy to scan, package and submit to SARS. In the event a trader cannot perform this electronically, he may approach any of the 4 Customs Hubs (Alberton, Cape Town, Durban, and Doringkloof) across the country, to have these scanned and uploaded by SARS. Alternatively, these can of course be delivered to the border post for manual processing and finalisation of a customs intervention. Supporting documents are linked to a unique case number which SARS notifies to the trader in the event of a risk.

Clearance processing – SARS has centralised its backend processing of clearances where goods declarations are now processed off-site at one of the 4 Hubs. No longer are clearances processed at customs branch office. All goods declarations – whether electronically submitted or manually captured – are routed to a central pool for validation, verification and assessment if flagged by the risk engine. In the case of land borders all clearances once successfully processed will receive a ‘Proceed-to-border’ message implying that the road carrier may commence delivery to the border. A key feature of the new clearance process is the availability of Customs Status Codes. These codes are initiated by the customs system at specified points in the process to alert the declarant of the status of his/her transaction. These status’s also indicate the follow-up required of the declarant to bring the transaction to a state of finality.

Automated Cargo Management (ACM) – All road carriers are now required to submit their road manifests electronically, via EDI, to the Customs ACM system. For now, SARS will not electronically match the manifest against the declaration, but will monitor compliance and data quality of electronic manifest  for a period of time before initiating real-time matching and acquittal. This will invoke a significant responsibility on both trader and road remover to ensure that they both provide credible data to customs otherwise delays will occur. Upon arrival of the cargo at the border, the driver presents a printout of his electronic manifest. The manifest number is ‘checked in’ by a customs official which in seconds brings up all associated goods declarations linked to the manifest number on the system. The customs officer is able to determine the overall risk status of the vehicle. Where no risks are present a status notification (CN1) is printed for each goods declaration, and a gate pass (CN2) is handed to the driver permitting him to exit the customs controlled area. The future real-time matching will comprise a combined risk assessment of both manifest and declaration information that will result in a single risk outcome. Such risk assessment will include both fiscal and security compliance features thereby bringing SARS in line with international supply chain security standards. Going forward, risk assessment will accommodate ‘all-of-government’ requirements ensuring that all regulatory measures and associated risks are administered in a single instance obviating the need for successive, time-consuming inspections and costly delays.

Automated Customs Inspection – Following its recent introduction at the Beit Bridge border post, the new hand-held inspection tool, conveniently developed on an iPod, allows the customs border control official to electronically access, capture and upload an inspection outcome to the central customs system. This significantly improves the efficiency for this time-intensive activity where the officer can initiate a status up date electronically at the inspection site, where previously the declarant would have to wait for the outcome of the manual inspection report and release note. What’s more, the customs officer has access to the underlying clearance data and can even activate the camera function and capture visuals of suspect cargo which can be appended to an inspection case for verification by higher authority or historical reference value.

There are additional features and functionality to be introduced at Kopfontein and all remaining border posts over the next few months. These relate to improved revenue accounting, new trader registration and licensing system offering online application and approval, and a new traveller and temporary import/export processing. More about this in a future post.  For traders, the benefits of the new solution at SACU land borders aim to remove random and unwarranted intervention by customs. All activities are risk driven via a secure ‘get next’ selection function ensuring that internal integrity is maintained and only ‘risk-related’ consignments/transactions are dealt with. Please visit the SARS Modernisation webpage for all the latest updates and notices on modernisation releases.

The WCO developed the Revenue Package in response to Members’ concerns in regard to falling revenue returns in the light of the global financial crisis and declining duty rates.

Revenue PackageCollection of revenue has historically been the cornerstone of a Customs administration’s responsibilities. For a number of years, Customs has been actively involved in protection of society and trade facilitation initiatives. More recently, the role of Customs has expanded; issues such as the fight against counterfeiting, counter-terrorism activities and the protection of the environment have featured high on the agenda of international Customs work programmes. Alongside these important topics, revenue collection continues to be an area of concern for Customs administrations. The global financial crisis has led to a downturn in international trade which has inevitably hit government revenues. Additionally, the global trend in the reduction of Customs duty rates, through unilateral, regional, and multilateral trade liberalizations, can potentially have the same effect.

The Revenue Package currently consists of all available tools and instruments relevant to revenue collection. This includes, inter alia, formal instruments and Conventions, guidance notes and training material. Members are encouraged to consult the Package to ensure that necessary requirements have been met and that all relevant material has been obtained by the administration and is being utilized as appropriate.

The Revenue Package is divided into six topics :

  • Topic 1. Facilitation and Procedures
  • Topic 2. Customs Valuation
  • Topic 3. Harmonized System/Nomenclature
  • Topic 4. Origin
  • Topic 5. Compliance and Enforcement
  • Topic 6. Capacity Building and Training

Under each topic, the prime text is referenced, where appropriate. For example, for Topic 1 (Facilitation and Procedures), the Revised Kyoto Convention is the prime text. This is followed by a list of supporting instruments and tools for that topic, providing information on content and availability. Web links are included to provide convenient access to the relevant material, which is either freely available to download or available for purchase from the WCO’s Online Bookshop. Source: WCO.