Customs Duty/Taxes on imported goods: Is the cost of shipping taxable ?


AVForums Grandmaster
Mar 28, 2007
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If VAT registered you can claim all VAT as input VAT on your return.

The reserve bank can ask you to prove goods arrived for the outgoing forex pre payment for the import of goods that you made. 
The proof they accept is the SAD500 customs clearance form.  The declared value and related payment need to correlate.  ROE fluctuation is taken in to account. 
Probably not an issue for private imports but repeated outgoing foreign payments for commerce can be checked. 

One can end up in situation where your bank is told by the reserve bank that they may not do more swift transfers until documentary proof  of imports is submitted up to date.  Again, smaller businesses may never get there either. 

I believe SARS and reserve bank do run analysis on their bigger forex payers. 

You have to give your importer code when making payments and it?s trivial to run a report of declared values for a period against an importers code. 
If those 2 numbers drift far out of kilter problems loom. 



AVForums Grandmaster
Jan 11, 2016
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Snor City
I'm on holiday but:

If you're being charged VAT on the shipping charges into SA, this EXCLUDES FOB or delivery costs to forwarding depots, then they are clearing wrongly. I highly doubt this is happening though, remember you will be charged VAT on clearance charges etc.

Free shipping to a forwarding depot is absolutely fine.

Duties may have been charged on the shipping cost to depot if the clearance agent was lazy and didn't separate the subtotals. Really not worth the effort over $10 however to re clear.

Duties and customs VAT are different things. You will always be charged VAT, only duties on certain items and ad valorem on others.

R500 limit is hit and miss and shouldn't be relied on.

10% uplift is on total invoice value as it applies to VAT, not duties.


AVForums Super Veteran
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Dec 30, 2014
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Thank you for the support in this thread. I must say that despite a wait of more than a month for any movement (since my item arrived in SA), incorrect duty code and incorrect duty/tax calculation, the forwarder has come through with flying colours. After doing some research and working out the maths, along with your wisdom and precious contribution in this thread, I lodged an enquiry, the issue was resolved without any hassle and the item was delivered two days later.

In the new calculation, it seems that the foreign shipping charge from the item location to my chosen forwarding depot was/is regarded as part of the item cost for purposes of BOTH Duty and Customs VAT in SA. (This is not to be confused with the forwarders subsequent shipping charge to SA, of which tax is transparent /not applicable to the buyers pocket.

If any tax/duty was due in the country where the item arrived at my chosen forwarding depot, then only the item cost would be taxed there (the sellers shipping charge is excluded from taxation at the foreign destination).

To those in the know, please let me know if this sounds correct or not.

Going forward, it may be an idea (?) to get the sellers parcel labelling and commercial invoice to reflect the HS tariff / SA duty code of the item, hence "helping" the forwarding agent/SARS with clearing the item correctly.

Many Thanks