China ‘VAT’ Syndrome – Uncertainty for International Forwarders

VAT-TAXGreg Knowler, of reports, “Whenever there is uncertainty in a particular trade, the container lines resolutely stick with the “shipper pays” principle. That’s understandable considering the state of the industry, but not exactly fair on their customers”.

For the last couple of decades shippers have been complaining that the host of extras they are charged – more than 100, according to the HK Shippers’ Council – should be built into the freight rates that are negotiated between them and the lines.

From this month [August 2013] there will be another charge levied – a six percent VAT charge on top of all charges payable in China, according to Lloyd’s List. Many of the major carriers have informed their customers, but the news has not been received with much enthusiasm.

China is changing its tax system from a turnover tax on companies’ gross revenue to a VAT, which is levied on the difference between a commodity’s pre-tax price and its cost of production.

Beijing rolled out a VAT pilot programme to test the market and iron out the bumps, starting in Shanghai in January last year. In September Beijing was included followed by a gradual nationwide rollout before the new system kicks in tomorrow.

But there is still major uncertainty in this new tax regime, and that is providing great consternation for shippers and the carriers. International shipping is not liable for VAT, so why should carriers impose a six percent VAT levy on customers, asks Sunny Ho of the HK Shippers’ Council.

The problem is that international container lines are not sure whether they are exempt from VAT or not. All the carriers have China offices and as that is where the billing of mainland shippers originates, so they fear Beijing may treat them as agents instead of international shipping services, which means their business will be eligible for the tax.

Maersk Line has decided to wait until mid-August before levying the six percent VAT on mainland charges to see how the situation unfolds. That is a welcome gesture and one that should be followed by all the international shipping lines.

With so much uncertainty surrounding the nationwide rollout of the new tax regime, how can carriers justify slapping customers with a VAT levy before the actual impact of that VAT can be measured?

It is a grasping approach that the lines instinctively default to when faced with the possibility of rising costs. It may serve to protect the bottom line, but it continues to reinforce the traditional unhealthy and antagonistic relationship between them and their customers.

The lines should wait until the costs of China’s VAT have been established and those costs should then be built into the freight rates. Surely that is the only reasonable approach. Source:

Draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill, 2011 – Impact on Customs

As if the myriad of changes affecting the Customs industry are not enough, there’s some more important considerations for customs traders and practitioners, soon, posed by the Draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill [2011].

Goods Sold in Bond. For the purposes of the VAT Act, the Bill proposes that ‘the value to be placed on the importation of goods into the Republic which have been imported and entered for storage in a licensed Customs and Excise storage warehouse but have not been entered for home consumption shall be deemed to be the greater of the value determined in terms of subsection (2)(a) or the value of acquisition determined under section 10(3) if those goods while stored in that storage warehouse are supplied to any person before being entered for home consumption.’

Duty free goods imported on a temporary basis. Goods imported in terms of Rebate Item 470.03, which are duty free, will in future have to be declared under a specific rebate sub-item for duty free goods. In addition, provision is also to be made for the importer of duty free goods, where the importer is contractually entitled to keep a portion of the goods manufactured, processed, finished, equipped or packed in lieu of payment for the operations carried out, that importer must:
a) export those goods within the 12 month period, or
b) process a goods declaration for payment of the VAT on the goods retained and pass a voucher of correction amending the quantity and value of the original declaration.

New tax incentives for Industrial Development Zones. Government is seeking to renew its efforts to enhance the Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) regime to encourage industrial development within certain geographical areas. The main focus of the incentive is to promote capital expenditure. Greenfield projects receive an additional 55% allowance and brownfield projects receive a further 35% additional allowance. The additional allowance for greenfield projects located in IDZ’s will be increased to 100% (instead of the current 55%) and to 75% for brownfield projects (instead of the current 35%).This change will be welcomed by IDZ Operators that are constantly looking for ways to make IDZ’s more attractive. In terms of the Customs and Excise Act, it should be noted that duty rebate and VAT dispensations ONLY apply to entities establishing licensed premises within the customs controlled area of an IDZ.

For more information on the above please click here!

The Draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill, 2011 is available on the SARS website.