How to register as an importer in South Africa

SARS has reportedly taken a stricter approach to clauses in the Customs and Excise Act relating to personal imports in 2018.

While the regulations have been in place since 2013, SARS is now enforcing the maximum number of imported products for individuals living in South Africa.

This means South Africans will be unable to directly import more than three consignments per year unless they apply for an importer’s code.

Registering as an importer requires you to provide a number of personal and identifying documents, in addition to a copy of a company registration document.

Starting a business

You cannot register for an importer’s code in your personal capacity, so you will need to register a business with the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) before you can provide SARS with sufficient documentation.

As outlined on the CIPC website, registering a business first requires that the user signs up as a CIPC customer and then applies for registration.

While citizens can no longer register close corporations, they can register private companies, which are comparable to close corporations.

Registering a private company can be done through the CIPC website and will cost a once-off fee of R125 for registration. This will register the company without a name, referring to it using its trading number.

Users can also choose to reserve between one and four names for their company upon registration at an additional cost of R50 per name.

When the company has been registered with the CIPC, the registrant must then register with SARS to receive an income tax reference number within 60 days.

This can be done by completing an IT77 form on the SARS website or at a physical branch.

Once this has been processed and you have received your company’s tax information from SARS, you will be ready to register as an importer.

Registration process

Applying for an importer’s code is a relatively simple process, and requires that the applicant complete the DA185 and DA185.4A1 application forms listed on the SARS website.

Once completed, these forms must be sent to the user’s nearest customs or excise office along with various supporting documentation.

Applicants will need to submit the following documents along with the completed application forms to apply for an importer’s code:

  • Proof of address.
  • Certified copy of ID.
  • Certified copy of company registration.
  • Certified copies of VAT, IT, PAYE, SDL, and UIF letters from SARS.
  • Certified copy of cellphone or landline account.
  • Original or certified copy of bank statement confirming account holder’s name.
  • Original letter from bank on a letterhead or auto bank statement.

Additionally, applicants must be 21 years or older to apply for an importer’s code and must have a permanent address in South Africa.

The validity of an importer’s code is indefinite and while the SARS website states that users may have to pay security if applicable, there is no fee specified for an importer’s code application.

Now read: SARS limitations don’t apply to local ecommerce imports

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How to register as an importer in South Africa