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Advice on import duties

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 2:25 pm
by Sam
Hi guys,

This is a little off-topic but would appreciate some advice since quite a few of you seem to have experience importing stuff...

I'd like to import some gear from Germany. The supplier uses FedEx. The gear weighs around 12-13kgs and costs around R6-8k. What kind of import duties am I likely to pay? Are there any loopholes I could legally exploit?



Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 2:45 pm
by Chris
Hi Sam

Depends what you are looking to import. Many climbing hardwear items will not carry import duty, but for shoes, tents, backpacks you will look at 30% and clothing 45%.

On everything you will have to pay VAT. Also it is not a straight calculation on the value you bringing in, I cannot remember what the exact method is, but they will take the total value, increase it by 10% and then charge 14% VAT on that amount.

No specific loopholes that I know of unless the value you bring in is below certain benchmarks, I think the limit is R3k or so, but again i'm not sure. If you have a company it might be worth bringing it in there and working VAT through the company.


Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 2:56 pm
by Oakley
Sounds just about right - Import value x 15.4%(This is taking the 10% Chrismentioned into acount) equals to the amount payable to SARS when collecting your goods if no duty was levied.

Certain items items are exempted from duties which include- Sporting goods, electronic goods etc. but be aware of clothing- its from 45% to 100% duty.

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 3:01 pm
by MarkM
If there are any textiles in you order, SARS are going to bend you over and have their way with you (40-45% duty) & you'll pay VAT (the 15.4%) on top of that.

Loopholes :lol:

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 3:10 pm
by Justin
Tricky this... a chalk bag is considered 'a bag' and therefore taxed the same (30% / 45%) amount as a backpack.
Quickdraws are also in a completely different tax bracket to single biners (they charge more duty on the one, I forget which!)

I'd be interested to hear how you get on.

Oakley: The sporting goods category can be quite grey - e.g. a rope will have duties levied as it can be used for non sporting activities.

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 3:27 pm
by Sam
Okay, so if I understand,

I'm looking at paying approx. 15.4% duty on the value of the goods (its (very) hardware), and then 14% VAT on the total value (including the 15.4%).

That's not even considering the cost to FedEx for the shipping and baby-sitting it through customs.


No wonder we cave and go buy the stuff locally.
Or: No wonder imported stuff costs an arm and a leg.

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 3:53 pm
by MarkM

Lets assume you buy climbing helmet for R300 (landed cost at the appropriate Rate of Exchange) from an overseas retailer.
When the helmet arrives at customs they will assess your package :wink:
They either going to open it physically and take a look or just accept that the invoice (which is stuck on the outside of the box OR there will be more issues). The kind official goes, "Oh a helmet for R300 how nice." Helmets get 30% duty.
Mr Official then gets his calculator and the duties he takes R300 x 30% = Duties = R90
Mr official then remembers he needs to add VAT to the item, so he plugs in R300 adds 10% (cos the governent like to add a little markup) and applies the 14% VAT. So R300 x 10% = R330 x 14% = VAT on goods = R46.2
He then remembers to add VAT to the duties too!!! So, R90 x 10% = R99 x 14% = VAT on duties = R13.86
You'll also have to pay R30 for the clearance fee (that is per parcel & not per item).

Total cost = Landed cost + duties + VAT = R300 + R90 + R46.2 + R13.86 = R450.06
*I've ignored the clearance fee as it is normally negligible on larger orders.

Now if it were a cam for R300 you could skip all the duties part and landed cost would be R346.20
Although I'm not sure what Mr Offical would do if he saw the shiney can with a piece of material hanging off the back :shock:

Duties make a BIG difference.

Also customs officials don't always get their sums right. Sometimes it works for you, sometimes you need to fight hard to only pay what is due. When they present you with the Manifest print, have an idea of how much you should be paying in Duties & VAT. If it is way out DO NOT ACCEPT the parcel. Send it back for reevaluation. If you simply pay up and expect to claim back, don't hold your breath in the hope of ever seeing that cash again.

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 5:06 pm
by Warren G
MarkM: am I being a stupid here or did you forget about the actual courier fee? Funny, just this morning I recieved an email from a RSA online outdoor store who showed the true costs of couriering a $50 Helmet from the USA using DHL from an American website: The helmet here retails for about R500 and therefore is cheaper in the states, however after all the above mentioned bureaurocracy and DHL's cut the actual cost was about R1000.

Again, if you have a contact that is coming out here then it works, but it is a lus, and takes time

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 6:09 pm
by ant
A punt in favour of the local retailers:
If you know exactly what you want and have a mule, then fine, order from the States.

The hidden advantage of using a local retailer is that you can pick from a selection, try sizes and buy the unit in your hand. If the unit is faulty or you need support, it's just down the road.
If something arrives from abroad and it's not the right size, or you need support, or customs don't charge you what you thought they would, you have no-one to cry to.

By ordering a ton at a time, wholesalers are making their money off the economic shipping costs, and not neccesarily off the customer, compared to the private shipping costs. They then hold stock of shipped goods for people to buy when they want, rather than ordering air-freight to achieve the same or often worse time-lags.


Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 8:44 pm
by Franz
buy local and support our own industry,
and then (hopefully) they will also support us :jocolor:
in the form of investing in the sport and growing it.

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 11:38 pm
by Chris
there you have it, being a importer myself I did not want to be the first make the doom and gloom warnings, but I think many of the examples above illustrate the potential pitfalls well. Make sure you do your sums correctly, the 20% you counted on saving might end up becoming a 25% premium, on R6k that can add up to a nice little sum.

However if you have a mule who can bring the stuff back for you then it might just be worth it. Just remember you are according to the law still required to declare the goods, but not many people do, just be willing to pay the fine on behalf of your helpful mate if they do get caught out!

BTW I think most importers do a pretty good job of ploughing money back into the local climbing scene. I think a good example of this will be the great sponsorship Simon Larson and his team at RAM Mountaineering provided for the tradathon, and the many other events he and the other importers sponsor. Luckily most importers are blinded by passion and spend more on sponsorship than their accountants would generally like.

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Wed May 09, 2012 7:18 am
by Justin
This website exists due to support from local importers, stores and services.

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 7:51 am
by MarkM
Yes I left out the courier costs. A lot of online dealers ship for free once you reach a certain threshold. In terms of the guys I use (for MTB stuff mostly) it's about R3k & shipping is free.

No one has suggested that people shouldn't buy local, but people do have the choice. Truth is the world has become a very small place and often buying from abroad is the cheaper option and if our local guys can't compete then so be it.

That said, buying from online sites not located in SA has it's risks, returns, warranty claims, sizing etc. are all a mission so you have to take that into consideration. There is also the ever unpredictable local post office & customs folk. Chances are if you do buy enough kit from overseas, you will pay some school fees along the way and have to undertake some time consuming admin to sort out some bugger up. You just have to make sure that you still come out on top in the end by being properly informed.

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 9:11 am
by Sam
Turns out the local guys put a 2.5x markup on the items they sell. So in this specific case, it is worth my while to go the importation route, notwithstanding possible issues arising from wrong stuff being sent or shafting by customs.

I guess I will find out soon enough if it was worth it. But buying from the local guys certainly has its advantages in terms of peace of mind and reduced hassle-factor.

Thanks for the advice.


Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 11:03 am
by Chris
Sounds like you got a good deal Sam. I don't know from who and what you bought but it is worth remembering that a large portion of the stock in online sites (in particular in Europe and North America) are stock clearance. I once had to defend myself against an understandably upset customer, who ordered one of our items from an online retailer in North America at a really good price, which made it seem like we were profiteering. When I investigated further and got the product code, I found that this was an item that was 6 years old and already had 2 model upgrades in the meantime (but the product still had the same name), so clearly product on it's last legs of clearance.

I do not think there is anyone who mark ups 2.5 times, if there is I would love to know how they do it! Also there is always two mark-ups on product, the distributor and the retail store, this is the same regardless of whether you buy a pair of Nike's or some shiny new cams.

All in all I do not think any reasonable distributor will upset if you buy gear overseas, in particular if you get a good deal. I do it all the time myself, but partly since I need to travel lots and have direct access to many suppliers. Just be reasonable in return when you need help with that same product if there are problems (i.e. Warranty etc.).

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 11:13 am
by Warren G
wow-2.5 times! would love to know what industry this is, as climbing gear doesn't allow for such bullish markups

Re: Advice on import duties

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 3:18 pm
by Tristan
Etolling and Cell networks probably have 10-times that 2.5-time margin...