As South Africa slowly but surely becomes more internet savvy, we are discovering the joys of online shopping.
There’s plenty to be said for many of our local retailers, but we’re also fond of looking a little further afield for bargains, especially from giants like Amazon and Alibaba.
The biggest drawback has always been getting the goods to your front door, but now customs insiders say there’s another factor to consider.
According to Times LIVE, if you buy “more than three items from international retail sites such as Amazon in the space of a year and you’ll automatically become an official importer in the eyes of SARS”.
As you might have guessed, that spells headache:
Since 2013‚ the amended Customs and Excise Act has allowed South Africans to “import” no more than three “consignments” from overseas – with a value of less than R50‚000 – in a calendar year without registering with customs.
In other words‚ if you bring four or more overseas purchases into the country during the course of a year‚ you need to apply for what’s referred to as an “importer’s code”.
Customs insiders say SARS only began enforcing that requirement in April this year‚ so it’s only now starting to impact on those who’ve discovered the joys – and the bargains – of shopping on international sites.
Many South Africans are now feeling frustrated, with their packages “stuck” at customs, and there is no easy, quick solution.
Just look at what it takes to get that SARS importer’s code:
• A completed DA 185 form (from SARS);
• A certified copy of your ID card‚ front and back;
• Proof of address‚ such as a utility bill;
• A recent tax clearance certificate;
• A stamped letter of good standing or bank statement from your bank; and
• A consent letter or affidavit confirming that all the information is true.
Even those buying second-hand goods from the likes of e-Bay, or subscribing to an overseas magazine, have been affected:
Johnny Matthews of Plettenberg Bay is also having trouble getting his hands on goods that he’s paid an overseas company for‚ but for a different reason.
Six months ago‚ he took out a 12-month subscription to the weekly UK magazine My Week‚ paying more than R2‚700.
To date he’s only received one copy of it‚ despite his many queries with his local post office and distribution centre.
“The time has come for the SA Post Office to publicly warn South Africans not to expect delivery of goods posted from abroad‚” he said.
Yeah, sure, that will be the day. They can’t even handle delivering letters between local post offices.
A few readers asked us if we had any advice about how they might simplify this process. We reached out to Postbox Courier, the groundbreaking service that gives you a shipping address in the US, UK and Hong Kong, who are experts in this field.
Here is some of their response:
Whilst having individual orders shipped over will count towards those three purchases, those who buy regularly from overseas could make use of our GroupShip feature.
Users can buy multiple items online at the same time, from different sites or providers, and send them to one of our depots to be combined. We would then send those over as a single shipment, which means the consumer would only be using one of their three overseas purchases for the year.
You can build up a GroupShip over a period of up to 30 days before we have to ship to SA, so consumers can get a good few weeks shopping in before we pack their items all up and send them to SA.
That all sounds far simpler than the slog and grind of getting SARS to dish out an importer’s code.
Buy what you want from your favourite site, and have your purchases shipped to an address that Postbox Courier sets up for you for free.
There’s the added bonus that many purchases off Amazon etc will deliver to a US address for free. Then, when you’ve used the GroupShip feature and your goods are ready to be delivered to SA, let Postbox Courier know and they’ll get them delivered to your door within three to five working days.
When quoting for their services, Postbox Courier will find the best prices on all the red tape (clearance and import, for example), meaning that they won’t get tied up at customs.
To your door – it really is as simple as it sounds:
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