SARS requirements for declaring valuable goods travellers need to know about

2018-05-24 17:00 - Selene Brophy
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The South African Revenue Service (SARS) says there has been recent confusion about customs requirements for travellers when it comes to personal valuables - with no traveller required to declare personal effects when leaving or returning to the country.

In terms of Customs legislation, South African residents travelling abroad are not required to declare their personal effects when leaving the country, nor upon return. 'Personal effects' is defined in legislation as including items such as personal laptops, iPads, cellphones, golf clubs, cameras and/or other high value items forming part of the traveller’s possessions when leaving the country.

Based on these provisions, SARS says no traveller can be penalised for not declaring or registering their personal effects upon leaving the country. 

Only new goods are subject to duty and VAT implications.

SARS does however state that upon return to South Africa, the traveller may be challenged by a Customs officer to provide proof of local purchase or ownership.

"It is within the mandate of the Customs Officer to establish whether the goods fit the description of “New or Used goods acquired whilst abroad," says SARS.

Duty implication if acquired abroad

It is when goods are acquired abroad that there would be a duty implication, if not declared, also a penalty implication. 

Travellers are advised to follow the procedure outlined below in order to avoid the inconvenience of having to explain ownership upon returning from travel abroad. 

In order to avoid this the traveller needs to be able to provide proof of ownership, in the form of "an invoice, an insurance record, in the case of a laptop even the content on the laptop", says SARS.

It would be at the discretion of the customs officials to determine if the proof is sufficient or questionable, says SARS. 

What travellers who need to declare goods need to do: 

Incorrect reports have cited the need for a DA65 form, which was phased out for travellers many years in 2011. The DA65 only applies to "commercial cargo environment, for example where goods are temporarily exported for repair abroad". 

The process to comply with providing proof for all goods is seen the Registration for Re-importation: 
- To declare good complete a TC-01 (Traveller Card) notifying your intent to register goods for re-importation.
- Present this to the Customs Officer who will then capture this online on a Traveller declaration system (TRD1).
- You will need to authenticate the declaration by signing on a digital signature pad.
- You will be provided with a printed copy to retain as proof of registration.

Following this process saves the traveller the burden of having to be questioned on their personal effects when they return.

Where the officer is not satisfied that proof of local purchase or ownership can be established, the officer will advise the traveller that the item(s) will be detained until such proof can be presented.

Penalties could be imposed for non- or false declaration 

Penalties could be imposed for non- or false declaration in the event that the traveller has no proof. Travellers can also choose to pay a security amount to cover duty and VAT, in the event that he or she wants to retain the item, says SARS. 

This amount is refunded to the traveller once the proof of local purchase or ownership is presented to Customs.

SARS confirmed recent incidents has seen Customs reinforce its internal processes by providing these practice guidelines to front-line staff.  

Travellers who travel frequently would see their Registration for Re-importation process remain valid for six months.