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Sars to launch voluntary declaration portal pilot project at King Shaka

20th October 2022

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The South African Revenue Service (Sars) will, in November, launch a pilot project to test the implementation of an electronic portal for travellers to make declarations on a voluntary basis, well ahead of their arrival or departure to/from South Africa.

The pilot project will initially be implemented at the King Shaka International Airport and progressive implementation across all South African ports of entry will start from April 1, 2023.

The new system will allow travelers to pre-declare goods bought, received or otherwise acquired. For travelers who choose not to use the online portal on their mobile devices, Sars will make available a paper form, as well as self-service counters at airport terminals.

Some customs officers will also have hand-held devices to assist travellers and facilitate passage. Travellers will be permitted to continue to use the travellers card, if they so choose, Sars said on October 20.

"Sars is of the view that the process of pre-declaration will enable travellers to have a swift and seamless movement when they arrive, and when departing, will experience a smooth boarding process."

The new online traveller declaration system will, during the pilot phase, be fine-tuned based on insights gained, as well as further engagement and feedback with various government departments and other stakeholders, the revenue service said.

"This new system, which is an improvement on the current manual completion of traveller declaration forms, will make it easy and simple for travellers to comply with their legal obligations. In line with Sars’ strategic objectives, the new systems provide a number of benefits in providing clarity to travellers on their obligations and making it easy to comply."

When fully implemented, the system will leverage pre-arrival data to enhance an effective risk management approach, introduce automated arrival processes to provide a green lane experience for compliant travellers. It will also enable, at a later stage, the online payment of appropriate duties seamlessly. The automation of the process has an added benefit of dealing with traveller information in a more secure manner, Sars said.

Further, the South African Traveller Management System is part of the broader Customs Modernisation Programme that seeks to provide pre-clearance as far as possible to travellers and facilitate passage through South African ports.

"Sars aims to create smart borders by leveraging data and technology to create a seamless experience for legitimate traders and travellers at our ports of entry, while enhancing its detection capabilities to respond to any risks," the revenue authority said.

"Sars understands the importance of facilitating the movement of legitimate travellers in supporting tourism and contributing to our economy while also putting necessary controls to detect any illicit movement of goods and currency."

South Africa, like other countries around the world, has a responsibility to facilitate legitimate trade and travel in line with international standards by using risk management to manage the increasing number of trade and travel.

CUSTOMS INTERVENTIONS
Sars is undertaking several interventions to realise its vision, including by collaborating with stakeholders, such as airlines, to have access to additional sources of passenger data in order to enhance its risk profiling, and deploying technological tools such as modern scanning equipment to automate the management and monitoring of trade and travel through South Africa's borders.

Further, the revenue service will implement tools, such as "single window" interfaces, that can be used by government departments to simplify the submission of required declarations on the one hand, while also enhancing information exchange amongst government agencies to reduce trade and travel costs.

Sars will also enhance cooperation with other countries to enable automatic exchange of information to support integrity of disclosures, which in turn results in faster legitimate movement.

"Sars will continue to work with and through stakeholders to improve the tax and customs ecosystem. Sars has started and will continue engagements with relevant stakeholders to address any challenges or concerns.

"We value these engagements as an opportunity to partner with our stakeholders in creating a seamless border experience for all legitimate travellers in and out of South Africa. Further consultations and engagements with all stakeholders will continue even as implementation is underway," it said.

Meanwhile, Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter expressed confidence that this approach, like in other countries where it has been implemented, such as the US, New Zealand and Australia, where travellers are expected to make declarations on entry, will assist to maintain the integrity of the domestic economy as well as contribute towards the integrity of the country’s financial system.

“All goods that are brought to the country or taken out of the country, must comply with our laws and be properly accounted for. This remains the responsibility of the traveller or business entity,” he said.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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