Includes information on average tariff rates and types that U.S. firms should be aware of when exporting to the market.
Last Published: 10/25/2018
South Africa applies Most Favored Nation (MFN) rates to imports from the rest of the world, as well as preferential rates applied to products originating from trade partners with which it has negotiated trade agreements.  South Africa has an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.  Tariff rates are detailed here and are part of the Southern African Customs Union arrangement (SACU).

SACU comprises South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia and administers a common external tariff for third parties. SACU member states also apply identical excise duties and ad valorem customs duties as reflected in the relevant schedules of the respective member States Customs and Excise Acts.  In support of this, member States also do not have rules of origin on trade among themselves.  This common external tariff and excise regime provides a cornerstone of the customs union and SACU’s relationship with third parties.  The SACU regime requires review, with the arrangement having often been described as complicated and haphazard.
The South African International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) is responsible for tariff investigations, amendments, and trade remedies in South Africa and on behalf of SACU.

As a result of the Uruguay Round in 1994, South Africa reformed and simplified its tariff structure.  Tariff rates have been reduced from a simple average of more than 20% to an average of 5.8%.  Notwithstanding these reforms, importers have complained that the tariff schedule remains unduly complex, with nearly forty different rates.  Tariff rates mostly fall within eight levels ranging from 0 to 30%, but some are higher (e.g. most apparel items). Nearly all of South Africa’s specific and composite duties were converted to ad valorem rates (a tax, duty, or fee which varies based on the value of the products, services, or property on which it is levied), with a few exceptions remaining in a limited number of sectors, including textile and apparel products.

In the Uruguay Round, South Africa agreed to a twelve-year phase-down process.  The end rate for apparel is 40%, yarns 15%; fabrics 22%; finished goods 30%; and fibers, 7.5%.  The effective rated duty rates on cars, light vehicles, and minibuses is still at the high level of 34%, while the rate of duty on original motor parts is 20%. The dutiable value of goods imported into South Africa is calculated on the f.o.b. (free on board) price in the country of export, in accordance with the WTO (ex-GATT) Customs Valuation Code.  The value for customs duty purposes is the transaction value, or the price actually paid or payable.

In cases where the transaction value cannot be determined, the price actually paid for similar goods, adjusted for differences in cost and charges based on distance and mode of transport, is regarded as the transaction value.  If more than one transaction value is determined, the lowest value applies.  Alternatively, a computed value may be used based on production costs of the imported goods.  In the case of related buyers and sellers, the transaction value will be accepted if, in the opinion of the Commissioner for Customs, the relationship does not influence the price, or if the importer shows that the transaction value approximates the value of identical or similar goods imported at or about the same time.

Dutiable weight for the assessment of specific duties is the legal weight of merchandise, plus the weight of the immediate container in which the product is sold, unless specified otherwise in the tariff. The value-added tax (VAT) is 14%.  VAT is payable on nearly all imports.  However, goods imported for use in manufacturing or resale by registered trades may be exempt from VAT. Specific excise duties are levied on tobacco, tobacco products, and petroleum products. Duties on alcoholic beverages are set at fixed %ages of the retail prices.

Ad valorem excise duties are levied on a range of “up market” consumer goods.  The statutory rate is currently 10% (except for most office machinery, as well as motorcycles, that attract duty of 5%).  Various provisions for rebate of duty exist for specific materials used in domestic manufacturing.

The importer must consult the relevant schedules to the Customs and Excise Act to determine whether the potential imports are eligible for rebate duty. Information can be found on the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa’s website.
 

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South Africa Tariff Rate Quotas Import Duties