Guide: Goods and Conveyance Reporting in South Africa

A companion guide in support of increased compliance in the reporting of goods and conveyances (RCG) to Customs, South Africa.

Necessary information for – Air, Sea and Road carriers, vessel’s agents, NVOCCs, freight forwarders, Air and Sea terminal operators, container depot operators, transit shed operators and de-grouping depots. Also, all private software service providers to the trade.

The guide offers easy navigation through –

  • registration and electronic trading with SARS Customs
  • the various electronic messages mandated by law, covering import and export movements, across all modes of permissible international transportation
  • message types for each transaction type
  • scenarios to facilitate easier understanding across operators in the supply chain on how the various electronic reports are sequenced, ensuring that Customs formulates a comprehensive end-2-end view of a international trade transaction
  • reference webpages, official notifications, Customs rules and other pertinent information concerning cargo reporting.

All information is hyperlinked to SARS documentation, found on the official SARS website

You may download the Guide below (File size: 3MB)

Getting to Grips with the Future Customs Control Act

Having recently introduced a whole new integrated customs business solution last year the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has spent the last six months stabilising its system. At the heart of the system is the Interfront Customs and Border management (iCBS) engine which takes care of all customs declaration processing.


Click on the image to download the Infogram

A new ‘state-of-the-art’ EDI Gateway infrastructure is at an advanced stage of development and configuration, and will be subjected to a series of rigorous testing both internally and with industry service providers over the next few weeks. The gateway is an important component of the organisation’s future aspirations in C-2-C, C-2-B and C-2-G information exchange with it’s stakeholders.

Over the last 2 years, SARS has been a key participant in the WCO’s Globally Networked Customs (GNC) initiative which seeks to develop standardised electronic information exchanges of commercial customs data and common border procedures between customs administrations. This is ‘greenfield development’ and requires innovative thinking between potential customs partners. In this specific area SARS has engaged both Mozambique and Swaziland Customs as willing partners in such an initiative. Developments with Mozambique are at an advanced stage and will shortly become a reality with the conclusion of the bilateral One Stop Border Post (OSBP) agreement that includes provision for electronic data exchange between the two administrations. More on this in a future post.

Technology aside, perhaps the most daunting task on the horizon is the introduction of the new Customs Duty and Control Acts which are currently in the parliamentary process. Much publicity and robust argument was aired in the printed media over the last year, all of which culminated in the parliamentary hearings overseen by parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance (SCoF) during November and December 2013. While an agreement was reached with the freight forwarding sector of the local supply chain and logistics industry on certain aspects of the Control Bill, there still lies much work and clarification to be addressed in these and other areas.

Notwithstanding the signing into law of the Customs Bills, operational enactment thereof can only occur once the ‘rules’ to execute this legislation are circulated for comment, finalised and gazetted. Even considering the legal and approvals process in a simplistic form, the implementation of this new legislation is just too complex to introduce in a once-off, big-bang approach.  Due consideration must be given to a transitional approach taking into account the practicalities thereof as well as economic and logistical consequences of such approach.   It is no understatement that the impact of the new legislation, its incorporation into current automated systems, policies and procedures as well as the necessary re-adjustments to be made by every entity engaged in business with SARS Customs is no small feat.

Furthermore, the implications of the recently concluded WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation for South African Customs and Trade also needs to be determined and understood. While a large proportion of its content is encapsulated within the Revised Kyoto Convention, it is the first time ever that such requirements are subject to the conditions of a trade agreement.

It’s been some time since I last penned thoughts on the Customs Modernisation initiative. In retrospect and thinking ahead, the underlying bottom line to its longer term success lies in increased ‘communication’ with stakeholders – ironically, the World Customs Organisation’s adopted theme for 2014!

Please feel free to download the infogram on the future Customs Control Act by clicking on the picture above. Official links to the Customs Control and Duty Bills are included below. It would also be wise for parties involved in Excise to consider the contemplated changes contained in the Excise Duty Bill (Customs and Excise Amendment Bill).

Related documents

China Customs – New Valuation Regulations

China Customs EmblemImportant information regarding customs valuation in respect of imports and exports in the People’s Republic of China.

The General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (“GAC”) issued two new regulations on customs valuation, both effective from 1 February 2014. GAC Order No. 213 (“Order 213”), entitled Measures of Customs of the People’s Republic of China for the Determination of Dutiable Value of Imports and Exports, will replace the existing regulation with the same title issued under GAC Order No. 148 on 28 March 2006 (“Order 148”). In addition, GAC Order No. 211 (“Order 211”), entitled Measures of Customs of the People’s Republic of China for the Determination of Dutiable Value of Domestic Sales of Bonded Goods, is an entirely new regulation specifically providing for the valuation of bonded goods sold within the territory of China.

Briefly, the abovementioned Orders cover the following issues –

  • Customs may consider the circumstances of a sale in determining the acceptability of transaction value between related parties.
  • Calculation of international freight for imported goods.
  • Commissions in the valuation of exported goods.
  • Bonded materials or finished goods (including defective and substandard goods) sold by a contract manufacturer located within the territory of China.
  • Bonded waste and scrap materials, by-products and residue after accidents sold by a contract manufacturer located within the territory of China.
  • Bonded goods transferred under deep processing and sold by the transferee.
  • Bonded materials or finished goods sold by a manufacturer located within a customs bonded area.
  • Bonded scrap, defective or substandard products and by-products sold by a manufacturer located within a customs bonded area.
  • Bonded goods imported into a customs bonded area for logistics, inspection and exhibition purposes and sold within the territory of China.
  • Bonded goods for Research and Development (“R&D”) in a customs bonded area and sold within the territory of China.

 For more details, read the full analysis at Baker & MacKenzie’s website.

Border Management in Southern Africa: Lessons with respect to Policy and Institutional Reforms

The folk at Tralac have provided some welcomed insight to the challenges and the pains in regard to ‘regionalisation’. No doubt readers in Member States will be familiar with these issues but powerless within themselves to do anything due to conflict with national imperatives or agendas. Much of this is obvious, especially the ‘buzzwords’ – globally networked customs, one stop border post, single window, cloud computing, and the plethora of WCO standards, guidelines and principles – yet, the devil always lies in the details. While the academics have walked-the-talk, it remains to be seen if the continent’s governments have the commitment to talk-the-walk!

Regional integration is a key element of the African strategy to deal with problems of underdevelopment, small markets, a fragmented continent and the absence of economies of scale. The agreements concluded to anchor such inter-state arrangements cover mainly trade in goods; meaning that trade administration focuses primarily on the physical movement of merchandise across borders. The services aspects of cross-border trade are neglected. And there are specific local needs such as the wide-spread extent of informal trading across borders.

Defragmenting Africa WBThis state of affairs calls for specific governance and policy reforms. Effective border procedures and the identification of non-tariff barriers will bring major cost benefits and unlock huge opportunities for cross-border trade in Africa. The costs of trading remain high, which prevents potential exporters from competing in global and regional markets. The cross-border production networks which are a salient feature of development in especially East Asia have yet to materialise in Africa.

Policy makers have started paying more attention to trade-discouraging non-tariff barriers, but why does the overall picture still show little progress? The 2012 World Bank publication De-Fragmenting Africa – Deepening Regional Trade Integration in Goods and Services shows that one aspect needs to be singled out in particular:  that trade facilitation measures have become a key instrument to create a better trading environment.

The main messages of this WB study are:

  • Effective regional integration is more than simply removing tariffs – it is about addressing on-the-ground constraints that paralyze the daily operations of ordinary producers and traders.
  • This calls for regulatory reform and, equally important, for capacity building among the institutions that are charged with enforcing the regulations.
  • The integration agenda must cover services as well as goods……services are critical, job-creating inputs into the competitive edge of almost all other activities.
  • Simultaneous action is required at both the supra-national and national levels. Regional communities can provide the framework for reform, for example, by bringing together regulators to define harmonised standards or to agree on mutual      recognition of the qualification of professionals……. but responsibility for implementation lies with each member country.

African governments are still reluctant to implement the reforms needed to address these issues. They are sensitive about loss of ‘sovereign policy space’ and are not keen to establish supra-national institutions. They are also opposed to relaxing immigration controls. The result is that border control functions have been exercised along traditional lines and not with sufficient emphasis on trade facilitation benefits. This is changing but specific technical and governance issues remain unresolved, despite the fact that the improved border management entails various technical aspects which are not politically sensitive.

The required reforms involve domestic as well as regional dimensions. Regional integration is a continental priority but implementation is compounded by legal and institutional uncertainties and burdens caused by overlapping membership of Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The monitoring of compliance remains a specific challenge. Continue reading →

Serbia – History of Customs Law & Customs Tariffs

The following comes from the Serbian Customs website – darn interesting! I would indeed like to learn of any other Customs administrations who have preserved “with diginity” their relics of the past.

The Customs profession, one of the oldest trades (emerging immediately after the clerical, ruling and military professions – lets not forget prostitution) withstood many turbulences and assaults, but it persevered, survived and developed. The number of customs officers and customs houses reflects the greatness of a state. And there lies also the greatness of the customs profession.”  These words end a text written on his profession by Veljko Velikić, a customs officer from Vršac, published in the magazine “Carinik” (Customs Officer) in November 1926.

The oldest preserved customs law related to our region was the Dubrovnik customs statute – Liber Statutorum Doane – from 1277 A.D. in Serbia, in addition to case law and national written legal sources, as early back as 13th century the first written legal source of Byzantine origin was applied. Sava Nemanjić, Saint Sava, on declaration of autocephaly of Serbian Orthodox Church in 1219, issued the Nomokanon, a collection of ecclesiastical and civil law regulations.

The oldest preserved customs law related to our region was the Dubrovnik customs statute – Liber Statutorum Doane – from 1277 A.D. in Serbia, in addition to case law and national written legal sources, as early back as 13th century the first written legal source of Byzantine origin was applied. Sava Nemanjić, Saint Sava, on declaration of autocephaly of Serbian Orthodox Church in 1219, issued the Nomokanon, a collection of ecclesiastical and civil law regulations.

This view of our colleague from early XX century was based on historical facts, since customs duties, in the form of tolls or taxes, were known back in the Old Ages.  They were levied by the state or individual cities.  The Old Greeks in Athens imposed a duty of 2% on imports and exports over the Pierian Mountains. The Romans also used to levy such duties as state and provincial or city taxes.  As early back as the Roman times customs duties made up a significant part of public revenues for the state treasury. At certain communication points in the provinces there were customs stations (stationes) where the duties were charged for the goods passing such points. The amount of duties was 2.5% (quadrogesimo) of the value of imported goods. The collection of customs duties was also farmed out, at the beginning granted even to farmers from the ranks of domiciled population, and later on, from mid-2nd century on, duties were collected by officials that in our territory were called publicum portarii Illyrici et ripae Thraciae. In the Middle Ages, in addition to import and export duties, the so-called transit duties were also levied. 

It was the basis for Dušan’s Code, drawn up at the times of developed feudal state in 1349, and amended in 1354, and this Code provided rules for the largest number of social relations.  Medieval Serbian rulers usually farmed out the collection of customs duties, most often to Dubrovnik citizens. After the arrival of Ottoman Turks in the Balkans the structure of revenues was changed entirely. The most important tax was the one paid in money, the so-called desetak (tithe), and also in “fruit of the land” and in labour; also levied were a district surcharge (nahijski prirez), fines, and revenues were also collected from customs duties, transportation and fishing taxes. On liberation from Ottoman Turks, the revenues from customs duties and charges on ferry transportation started to be collected for the first time in May of 1804, when Karadjordje established a customs house with a ferry at Ostružnica. Similar to the rate during the Ottoman rule, the customs duties stood at 3%. The vassal Serbia had to establish its customs tariffs in line with the then applicable provisions of agreements with the Holy See, and Prince Miloš fully complied with the Holy See’s instructions in that area.

Continue reading →