Media reports have been in circulation stating that South African residents travelling abroad are required to complete a DA65 form – first introduced in the 1980s, but subsequently phased out – to register their valuables when travelling abroad in order for them to be allowed for re-importation upon returning to the country. On 24 May, however, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) released a media statement clarifying that this was not the case.

In the statement entitled Customs Requirements for South African Travellers, Sars says that “in terms of customs legislation, South African residents travelling abroad are not required to declare their personal effects when leaving the country, nor upon return,” describing the “personal effects” as items such as “personal laptops, iPads, cellphones, golf clubs, cameras and/or other high-value items forming part of the traveller’s possessions when leaving the country”.

In light of the above,  travellers would not be “penalised for not declaring or registering their personal effects upon leaving the country”. It is important to note, however, that the traveller may, upon re-entry into the country, be requested by customs personnel to provide “proof of local purchase or ownership”. This would be in the form of an invoice or an insurance record, while laptops can even be verified through content on the device, and any other means customs officers can use through their discretionary powers.

Failure to provide such proof to allow the officer to ascertain whether the item(s) fall under “New or Used goods acquired whilst abroad” will result in the item(s) being detained until satisfactory proof can be provided, or duty, Vat charges and penalties may be imposed on the traveller for false or non-declaration.

“The traveller can also choose to pay a security amount to cover duty and Vat, in the event that he or she wants to retain the item. This amount is refunded to the traveller once the proof of local purchase or ownership is presented to customs,” states Sars.

To prove that you travelled from the country with your valuable items and to avoid the hassle and risk of being questioned by customs without proof, your item(s) being confiscated or such penalties being imposed on you, complete a traveller card beforehand to present to customs, which remains valid for six months. Here is the process below:

Acquiring a TC-01 (traveller card):

  • Complete a TC-01 (Traveller Card) notifying your intent to register goods for re-importation
  • Present the form to the Customs Officer who will then capture this online on a Traveller declaration system (TRD1)
  • You’ll be required to authenticate the declaration by signing a digital signature pad
  • A copy will be printed for you to retain as proof of registration.

Important things to note:

  • Visit the customs office in the international departures area prior to checking in your belongings to register your valuable items for re-importation before departure
  • If your valuables are not identifiable by a serial number or identification mark, it is important to make arrangements prior to your departure from South Africa with customs for suitable identification, such as photographs and seals, for example
  • When connecting flights to a international airport for your regional or international destination,  register your valuable for re-importation before handing in your baggage at your initial point of departure.

For more information on leaving South Africa with valuable items, visit Sars.

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