FILE PHOTO: A South African Airways aircraft arrives at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg

While SARS confirms that it is not obligatory for South African residents travelling abroad to declare their personal effects when leaving the country, Flight Centre Travel Group encourages frequent travellers to do so to avoid any inconvenience or confusion. 

Recent reports circulating in media and on social media suggest that the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has instituted a new requirement for South African residents to register such items as personal laptops, iPads, cellphones, golf clubs, cameras and other high-value items that travellers could take overseas on their travels. 

“This is actually not a new requirement. In fact, it was policy in the past for all goods to be registered before departure and a DA65 form issued. This was phased out many years ago and now only applies for commercial cargo,” explains Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) Middle East and Africa Managing Director, Andrew Stark.

“We have received confirmation from SARS that 'no traveller can be penalised for not declaring or registering their personal effects upon leaving the country', but SARS does state that the traveller could be challenged by a Customs officer to provide proof of local purchase or ownership. “To ensure there’s no confusion or inconvenience, Flight Centre would urge especially frequent travellers to register their personal possessions at customs.”

According to Stark, it is a fairly easy process which requires travellers to present themselves for Customs inspection before continuing through international security and passport control.

“In South African international airports, this customs desk is in international departures. It also takes just a few minutes to register. Travellers will need to hand their passports to the customs official, provide their flight number and then the item’s type, e.g. iPhone 7 and serial number. 

“The information is captured online and valid for a period of six months, so if you travel again within this time period with the same items, your TC-01 (Traveller Card) will cover you for the re-importation of your goods. You will receive a printed copy to retain as proof of your registration.”

According to SARS, if the traveller can furnish proof through an invoice, an insurance record or even content (in the case of a laptop), the customs officer can use his discretionary powers to satisfy that proof without having to secure a TC-01.

Failure to furnish proof will result in the item(s) being detained until proof of local purchase or ownership can be established. Alternatively, the traveller will have to pay duty and VAT, as well as possible penalties.

“For frequent travellers, a quick 10-minute registration can save you hours of time and inconvenience so it makes sense to get to the airport earlier and declare your items,” says Stark.

“Flight Centre will also endeavor to obtain further clarification on this matter from our tourism minister. It is our role to promote ease of travel for all South Africans,” concludes Stark.

Where to register?

Cape Town International Airport

Located on the Departures level, if facing the check-in desks and security, turn left at the top of the escalators and walk towards the airline ticketing counters. The customs desk is located around the corner from the VAT declaration desks.

OR Tambo International Airport

Customs is located in Terminal 2 Departures, about half-way along the hallway in which all the airline check-in desks are located.

King Shaka International Airport

At King Shaka International, customs is located just behind the check-in counters in the International Departures hall.
For more information about Flight Centre, visit www.flightcentre.co