Big change for Amazon imports in South Africa

The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has announced increases to the maximum value of personal goods imports, including allowing unlimited transactions instead of three per year.

Local shoppers who use international e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon or Shein, sought clarity on whether they need to register as importers to import personal goods.

Sars responded to the following frequently asked question on its website: “Do I need to register as an importer if I buy personal goods from abroad, e.g. from Amazon?”

The taxman said South Africans don’t need to register as importers for personal goods purchases.

It also said citizens can now import personal goods worth R150,000 per year across an unlimited amount of transactions. Previously, personal imports were limited to three transaction per year.

In addition, purchasers of personal goods must the following conditions:

  • No goods may be imported for resale or any other business. They must be used for home or personal use.
  • Importers of personal goods must be located in South Africa.
  • The importer’s identity number / Passport number or taxpayer reference number must be entered in the field provided in the declaration form.

If these conditions aren’t met, buyers must obtain an importers code.

SARS notes that the above conditions have been in place for several years and that only the amount increasing to R150,000 has changed.

“This ruling is not related to the possibility of adding a tax or duty on parcels of low value e.g. buying clothing from overseas companies as it is merely a discussion at this point and not official,” it said.

SARS is referring to the 45% import duty that will reportedly be placed on low-value and small-volume clothing imports from Shein and Temu.

Although the revenue service has not yet confirmed the taxation of fast fashion retailers, The Foschini Group CEO Anthony Thunström told the Business Times that SARS has committed to doing so from 1 July.

This comes after local clothing retailers and stakeholders in the textile industry accused the Chinese companies of exploiting a tax loophole that kept their import prices low.

The so-called de minimis rule allowed Shein and Temu to get clothing parcels under R500 through customs with a 20% import duty and 0% VAT.

Clothing retailers complained that they always had to pay the 45% plus VAT rate for imported clothes, putting them at a disadvantage to direct-from-China importers like Tem and Shein.

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Big change for Amazon imports in South Africa