The Supreme Court of Appeal recently ruled on the correct customs duty classification for a vehicle known as a Kubota RTV Utility Vehicle. It held that its task in choosing between the two competing tariff headings was simplified by the fact that the South African Revenue Service classification must stand, unless it could have been persuaded that the other heading was applicable.
The Supreme Court of Appeal recently held that the classification of goods should not turn on their novelty and that goods should be classified after having been objectively analysed. The court rejected the contention that the novelty of goods should be considered in the interpretative process.
The finance minister has delivered the annual budget speech for the 2015 financial year. The speech included amendments to taxes on alcohol and tobacco products, excise duties on fruit fermented beverages and amendments to the Customs and Excise Act.
In response to questions raised over the termination of bilateral investment treaties with important foreign investor countries, the government recently published the draft Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill, redressing the balance between foreign investors' needs and the government's right to implement policy. The government appears to be attempting to recharacterise investor protections as a shield – not a sword.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance recently decided to postpone its deliberations on two draft custom bills until 2014 to allow importers, exporters and the freight-forwarding industry more time to comment. Comments should be provided to the South African Revenue Service by December 15.
The Customs and Excise Act is due to be replaced by the new Customs Control Act and the Customs Duty Act. A recent notification from Parliament in relation to the rewrite of the Customs and Excise Act listed three draft bills; however, the versions of the bills published in August 2013 differ from those previously published for public comment, and the public has been given no opportunity to comment on the new versions.
The government recently published an amendment to the Customs and Excise Act. The amendment concerns an increase to the threshold for importation and exportation in the absence of customs registration. General Registration Code 70707070 may be used by a party that is not registered as an importer or exporter with the South African Revenue Service, but wishes to import or export goods, provided that certain requirements are met.
The legality of export restrictions under the international trade law regime is highly contentious, especially in light of the recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) Appellate Body decision in the China export restrictions case. While South Africa's WTO commitments allow it to use export taxes, its bilateral and regional free trade agreement commitments must be heavily weighed before such taxes are imposed.
Budget 2013 proposed some major changes to customs and excise tax. The changes to alcohol and tobacco products include an increase in the excise duties on such products by an average of between 5% and 10%, and an increase in the tax of cigarettes. Green taxes have also been amended - for example, the general fuel levy will increase by R0.15 per litre.
Revenue Service Customs Division officials will soon have certain extended powers. A new Section 4A has been inserted into the Customs and Excise Act which allows the commissioner to confer the power to carry out arrests for the purposes of enforcing the act. In terms of a new Section 4B, the commissioner will also determine a category of officer that will be authorized to possess firearms.
A recent decision of the Cape High Court makes it clear that importers should be able to prove that the goods they import do not infringe any protected IP rights and they do not have a right to be present or to adduce any evidence at an ex parte application for a seizure warrant.
The Customs and Excise Act provides that the commissioner for customs and excise may require all persons or any class of persons that participate in any activities regulated by the act to register in terms of Section 59A or its rules. Rule 59A.03(1) specifies the persons that are obliged to register and the persons that may apply for registration.
The South African Revenue Service recently clarified its position in regard to the cargo of the An Yue Jiang, a foreign-going vessel that was anchored outside Durban harbour and laden with Chinese weapons destined for post-election Zimbabwe. The following day the High Court ordered that the cargo could be offloaded in Durban, but could not be transported across South Africa to Zimbabwe.
The Supreme Court of Appeal recently ruled that it is reasonable for a customs officer to accept that goods which bear a 'Made in China' tag and Chinese inscriptions are imported goods. The judgment was delivered in favour of the South African Revenue Service.
Increased trade is one of the main reasons that led to the Revenue Service establishing a customs border control unit in 2006 to provide more visible and effective enforcement at South African borders, airports and harbours. Measures to enhance customs administration were announced in a recent budget speech.